Beyond Blurred Phrases-Paragraph 303

This article is the second part on the controversial paragraphs in the latest Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.

The aim of such a writing is to further clarify the matter and to ensure that the faithful understand that such a paragraph seems not to square with what Catholicism has always thought on conscience and thus seeks to invent the so called “creative conscience”, which is a heresy all together.

Paragraph 303 of Amoris Laetitia states (1): Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors, we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage. Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.

In St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56 does not sees the role of conscience as being an interpreter and emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object.

(2) A separation, or even an opposition, is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid in general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called “pastoral” solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a “creative” hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept.

No one can fail to realize that these approaches pose a challenge to the very identity of the moral conscience in relation to human freedom and God’s law.

The issues raised with regards to paragraph 303 have been put into perspective in the closing statement on the 5th doubt written by the Dubia (which seeks clarification on such matters):

(3)“Do not commit adultery” is seen as just a general norm. In the here and now, and given my good intentions, committing adultery is what God really requires of me. Under these terms, cases of virtuous adultery, lawful murder and obligatory perjury are at least conceivable.

This would mean to conceive of conscience as a faculty for autonomously deciding about good and evil and of God’s law as a burden that is arbitrarily imposed and that could at times be opposed to our true happiness.

However, conscience does not decide about good and evil. The whole idea of a “decision of conscience” is misleading. The proper act of conscience is to judge and not to decide. It says, “This is good,” “This is bad.” This goodness or badness does not depend on it. It acknowledges and recognizes the goodness or badness of an action, and for doing so, that is, for judging, conscience needs criteria; it is inherently dependent on truth.

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Beyond Blurred Phrases-Paragraph 302

Since its publication Amoris Laetitia has split the Church, unlike any other document which has been published for the last 50 years. It has caused quite a reaction on both sides of the aisle, an outpour of joy for those who seek to further their liberal agenda and an outrage for those who seek to affirm the special place that marriage and the Eucharist have in our Faith. The reason why there has been such a reaction was due to the claims made in paragraphs 302 all the way to paragraph 305.

Than why is there so much reactions when it is only about these four paragraphs? Well, because these four paragraphs when accepted diminish the role of the Eucharist when given to the cases mentioned. This is a classic in liberal thinking, whereby errors are introduced in sound doctrine. Such errors destroy the foundation of our Faith, the way the Church sees marriage and the crucial role of the Eucharist in the Catholic life.

  1. Paragraph 302 of Amoris Laetitia states (1): The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors”. In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”. For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved. On the basis of these convictions, I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases”.

    In the last part when it comes to what the Synod Fathers discussed during the Synod in 2015, one finds: “Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.” To this the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith, in the 1994 letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful said:

(2) At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, “founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion”(9). The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.

The Exhortation mentioned above is Familiaris Consortio which was written in 1981 by St John Pawl 2, here is the quote on the above mentioned matter:

(3)However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

Note on objectivity as mentioned above: There can be no division between the objective and subjective realms. Both pertain to the one act and must be taken in consideration in judging an act. Hence, there claiming some kind of supremacy for the subjective realm, at the expense of the objective realm is somewhat unbalanced, i.e. to say the objective realm is not an ideal to be admired, but the goal for which every Christian should strive. The objective realm should inform all our actions, because it is such a realm that gives the moral character of an action.

Thus, the subjective should always be guided by the objective, for the subjective is more prone to err. And let us be honest we all find ways how to “subjectively” quite our conscience for our wrong acts. Thus, sin is one reality, it is called a sin because it objectively contradicts some good for the human being. It is not a sin because I feel bad about it, or because the situations around me show me that, but because it is contrary to human good, namely irrational.

Secondly, even if moral culpability is lessened because of some genuine subjective disposition, however that does not mean that the person is not missing out on some human good. Hence, the subjective state of sin is called so because it contradicts the objective Divine Law, otherwise you cannot identify any sins at all.

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Responding to a False Claim on the CDF

In today’s issue of the Sunday Times Fr Joe Inguanez wrote an article asking whether the Veri Catholici article (against the Eucharistic Communion to divorced and remarried) which appeared previously on the Times, was in fact aimed at Archbishop Scicluna/ Bishop Grech or at Pope Francis. The response to such a question I will give on next Thursday’s, Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s articles where I will be showing how previous Church documents disapprove of Amoris Laetitia’s paragraphs 302 all the way to 305. In this article I would like to show that what Fr Joe said at one point in time in his article is utterly false.

Fr Joe Inguanez writes: For diverse reasons, these guidelines took many (both clergy and laity) by surprise: some were elated that our bishops had taken a step which by several standards may be considered both pastoral and courageous; others felt that our bishops had betrayed the Church’s official teaching. A proof that the latter position is untenable is that if it were so, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) would have publicly come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

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My response: Yes our bishops have betrayed Church teaching and here is why:

In 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote a letter on divorced and remarried. Here is a piece which addressed the situation at hand, namely whether Communion can be given based on different situations.

(1)At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, “founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion”(9). The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.

The Exhortation mentioned above is Familiaris Consortio which was written in 1981 by St John Paul II, here is the quote on the above mentioned matter:

(2)However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

Secondly the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has responded, in an interview to Il Timone (on Eucharistic Communion for divorced and remarried):

“For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”

In addition to this he also said (with indirect reference to the Maltese Bishops and others who followed suit):

“Amoris Laetitia” must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church. […] I don’t like it, it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting “Amoris Laetitia” according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching. This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine. The magisterium of the pope is interpreted only by him or through the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. The pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the pope, this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church. To all these who are talking too much, I urge them to study first the doctrine [of the councils] on the papacy and the episcopate.

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A Profound Meeting with the Lord

In life we rarely have a profound experience but when we do it is life-changing and brings about a total revolution in the way we see things, in the way we view the world.

On Wednesday the Catholic Church celebrated the conversion of St Paul, a truly awe-inspiring moment, as if it leaps from a Hollywood movie, a man who was going to persecute Christians becomes a Christian himself. My meeting with the Lord wasn’t so awe-inspiring or movie-like, on the contrary I would rather call it a profound discovery of what I believe in, what I ought to defend. Perhaps my conversion wasn’t so dramatic due to the fact the I already was a Catholic who believed in everything the Church defended and what it stood for. So what did traditionalism change?

The first change that occurred was that I grew in my zeal to defend the Faith, what is known as apologetics. In my website there is no apologetics section, or one apologetics article in fact the defense of the Faith runs in all that is published, be it the latest Amoris Laetitia post or the Quran vs the Old Testament article or the Morning After Pill article (here I followed the example set by Pope Paul VI in  Humane Vitae). Defending the Faith, I learned also entails one to defend it at the right moment, for example the Quran vs the Old Testament article was published after a popular Maltese TV show tried to humiliate Catholicism by disguising the Bible in a Quran cover and broadcast the people’s reactions, it was nothing more than a liberal attack on our Faith.

The second change I noticed was that as soon as I started following the Traditions of the Church I suddenly became more convinced that what I was doing made more sense and was more worth it than anything else. As an inspiration on such a reality I would like to refer you to the example set by G.K Chesterton whose literature is both amazing and empowering to read. Chesterton was a Protestant, who became an atheist who then crossed the Tiber as they say and became Catholic. In his literature one could very easily sense that as soon as he touched with tradition as soon as he felt the power of defending what has always been defended by the Church, he could suddenly say: “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong.” Thus  from merely defending the Faith, I went to passionately defending the Faith. Defending without passion is boring, defending with passion makes you a formidable enemy to all who hate the Truth.

Reverence for all that is holy and heavenly inspired a complete U-turn in the way I looked at the Mass and the Eucharist. Recently I have been reading Scott Hahn’s “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”. In this deeply moving, spiritually enriching book there are many quotes which stand out but the one which hit me perfectly was this: “We go to Heaven-not only when we die, or when we go to Rome, or when we make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We go to heaven when we go to Mass.” This change was so significant that I went from attending Novos Ordo to attending Traditional Latin Mass. The revolutionary call for reverence could only be satisfied and answered by the most reverent, the most beautiful, the most heavenly of Masses, one which for centuries was silently heard and passionately celebrated by saints, blessed and martyrs alike.

Having read this testimony may you too be inspired to go at the very heart of Catholicism. I invite you to explore these beautiful and ancient means of communion with the Lord. Your life would not go unchanged!

The Maltese Disaster

This article is being published with the permission of Dr. Edward N. Peters JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap. 

The bishops of Malta, in a document that can only be called disastrous, repeatedly invoking Pope Francis’ Amoris laetitia, have directly approved divorced and remarried Catholics taking holy Communion provided they feel “at peace with God”. Unlike, say, the Argentine document on Amoris which, one could argue, left just enough room for an orthodox reading, however widely it also left the doors open for abuse by others, the Maltese bishops in their document come straight out and say it: holy Communion is for any Catholic who feels “at peace with God” and the Church’s ministers may not say No to such requests. In my view the Maltese bishops have effectively invited the Catholics entrusted to them (lay faithful and clergy alike!) to commit a number of objectively gravely evil acts. That their document was, moreover, published in L’Osservatore Romano, exacerbates matters for it deprives Vatican representatives of the ‘plausible deniability’ that they could have claimed (and might soon enough wish they could claim), as it becomes known that the Maltese bishops went beyond what even Amoris, if interpreted narrowly, seemed to permit.

For now, I make just a few points.

1. The Maltese bishops have fallen completely for the canonically and ecclesiologically false view that an individual’s assessment of his or her own readiness to receive holy Communion (see c. 916) controls a minister’s decision to administer the sacrament (see c. 915). In Malta now, anyone who approaches for the sacraments should be recognized as being “at peace with God”. Objective evidence to the contrary is simply no longer relevant. Canon 916 is thus eviscerated, Canon 915 is effectively repudiated.

2. The Maltese bishops do not seem to know what the word “conjugal” means. They think that non-married people can practice “conjugal” virtues and that they can decide about whether to engage in “conjugal” acts. Nonsense and, coming from bishops, inexcusable nonsense at that. Non-married people can have sex, of course, but Catholic pastoral integrity does not hold such sexual acts on par with the physically identical, but truly conjugal, acts as performed by married persons.

3. The Maltese bishops, by extending their document to the sacrament of Reconciliation, have basically instructed their priests not to withhold absolution from divorced-and-remarried Catholics who refuse to repent of their “public and permanent adultery” (CCC 2384) even to the point of abstaining from sexual (nb: sexual not “conjugal”) relations. Incredibly, such a directive raises the specter of green-lighting sacrilegious confessions and the commission of solicitation in confession. No priest should want either on his conscience, let alone both.

4. The Maltese bishops even managed to take swipes at Baptism and Confirmation by opening the door to divorced-and-remarried Catholics serving as godparents contrary to the expectations of Canon 874 § 1, 3º. See CLSA New Comm (2001) 1062-1063. There are other serious problems with the Maltese document but the above should suffice to show why it is, quite simply, a disaster.

Asserting the Value of Life-I

This article was written by Kylie Decelis. Kylie is a Maltese blogger. Her writings centre around pro-life issues and conservative politics, with the occasional post about Church tradition.

Any fan of the Doctor Who saga knows that Listen, the fourth episode of the eighth series, delves into one of childhood’s infamous worries. Many people understand the feeling of when as you put your feet out from under the bed sheets in the morning to search for your slippers, you always doubt whether something with the ability of snatching your feet is hiding under your bed. Most of us have even taken a quick look to see the narrow world that lies below.

This scenario rightly captures in my opinion the way unfounded questions related to the sanctity of human life pop up from time to time in Maltese politics. We feel that they’re lurking in the mind of a small minority, yet we can’t really address the issue once and for all and reaffirm Malta’s pro-life character. Mind you, the obsession some members of this minority have regarding the ruining of Malta’s clear pro-life laws has blasted the fantasy of the creature under the bed into a fully-fledged paranoia. As always, you can count on Lovin Malta (Maltese liberal site) to pitch in and sound their pro-abortion, and overall liberal, fetish with the rest of us.

Any respectable person would simply distance themselves from the recent comments of a well-known electoral candidate regarding abortion and euthanasia. These serious failures of our society are never a matter of personal choice since they involve people making decisions which they are not entitled to make. In the case of abortion, it’s a mother deciding whether the other person in her womb should be allowed to live or should be given the death penalty. In the case of euthanasia, it’s a person deciding the time when s/he can leave this world. I wouldn’t spend much time debating him given his obvious flawed arguments. However, I find utterly disgusting the failure of his respective party to simply state its values and the comments of Lovin Malta on this issue.

First of all, political parties in Malta should clearly define their value system. It seems that the two major political parties are harbouring individuals who define themselves as pro-abortion. As a voter, I need to know where each party stands on this issue. As life is the first and most important human right, a pro-abortion party can never expect the vote of a woman like me. As a woman, I feel utterly insulted by any person saying that the decision whether to kill my children in my own body is a very personal one. Evil is never personal! I want to make sure that in any circumstance, I, and any woman regardless of her beliefs, shall have the opportunity to choose life, and life only. Women deserve better than abortion. So no, it’s not a matter of personal choice as the candidate said. It’s a matter of protecting women and babies from murder. If anyone champions women’s rights, it’s definitely the pro-life movement. Only within a fully pro-life mindset can we fully understand the value of any life regardless of its stage.

To be continued….

Doing what is Right vs doing what is Popular

For Shakespeare the question was to be or not to be, for us us the question is to be popular or to be right. I start this article by giving you an example: Last Sunday Meryl Streep gave a speech at the Golden Globes award, which has been called extraordinary and inspirational by some, elitist and typical Hollywood by others. I prefer to be diplomatic and call it controversial. What did such a speech gain? Fame and praise for Streep, division and anger to others. Thus we come to the key question once more to be popular or to be right? Honestly I can tell you that as a Catholic the answer is obvious what is right, as a teenager who is tempted by fame like many others, the answer sometimes becomes what is popular.

So how can I arrive to the clear conclusion? As always is the case for me as Catholic, I ponder on Christ’s truly remarkable example. From the Gospels we find this episode whereby Christ is tempted by the devil to jump from the Temple so that the angels would keep him from hurting His feet. Christ would have become instantly famous, everyone would believed him straightaway, He could have taken such a short route, a film-like rag to riches success story. Christ’s response is a clear no. “Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”. But what would I do? Would I do something for the sake of fame say do like most celebrities, who have become the false gods of our time, do. Such as post certain risqué attention seeking images of myself. The temptation is real after all we are living in an age where we are expected to like, follow and share.

Let us examine clearly the example of posting certain risqué attention seeking images of oneself. Say I decide that I post such an image, what do I gain a more liked (if not the most liked) image of myself on my profile. What have I lost: first my true appreciation for my own body and image, I used my image, I have treated myself as an object for the consumption by others either for mere jealousy or worse for fake love. Thus as one can see very clearly the loss is already greater than the gain.

We have not directly mentioned God but we did refer to Him indirectly for it was He who created us in His own image. What does this mean?

“The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a “child in the Son” and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for the eternal life of blessed communion with God. For this reason every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the Creator of the individual.” (From Christifideles Laici, n 37) 

Amazed by such love and warmth I can only say that as a teenager, although tempted by fame, I can only respond in the only reasonable way possible. Choosing what is right is the answer to the trickiest question facing mankind today: to do what is popular or what is right?