I mentioned Amoris Laetitia to someone yesterday, and they fired back, “Ugh! Are people still talking about that?”
The answer is yes, and will be for many years to come.
The fallout from the post-synodal apostolic exhortation began almost immediately upon its release, with groups like the Philippines Bishops Conference raring and ready to go on communion for the divorced and remarried because, they asserted, “Mercy cannot wait. Mercy should not wait…”
When it comes to the most controversial passages in chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, Sandro Magister has discovered a template, a secret decoder ring, if you will, that shows us that the devil (in this case, one Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, papal ghostwriter extraordinaire) is certainly in the details. In a brilliant bit of sleuthing, Magister compares several paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia with sections of two articles written a decade ago by Fernández — articles so controversial, Magister tells us, that they actually gave cause to the Congregation for Catholic Education to block his candidacy for the position of rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina.
The man who fought to eventually give that job just five years later was “then-archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who fought tooth and nail to clear the way for the promotion of his protege.” The same Bergoglio who, according to Magister, “was already doing it [allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion] when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.”
Magister goes on:
In 2013, just after he was elected pope, Bergoglio even bestowed episcopal ordination upon Fernández, with the title of the extinct metropolitan see of Teurnia. While he confined to the Vatican Apostolic Library the chief culprit of the rejection, Dominican theologian Jean-Louis Bruguès, without making him a cardinal, as instead is the tradition for all the librarians of the Holy Roman Church.
And since then Fernández has almost spent more time in Rome than in Buenos Aires, swamped as he is with acting as ghostwriter to his friend the pope, without any growth in the meantime of his credentials as a theologian, already anything but brilliant at the outset.
The first book, in fact, that revealed the genius of Fernández to the world, was: “Heal me with your mouth. The art of kissing,” published in 1995 in Argentina with this presentation to the reader, written by the author himself:
“Let me explain to you that I write this book not so much on the basis of my personal experience as on that of the life of people who kiss. In these pages I would like to summarize the popular sentiment, that which people feel when they think of a kiss, that which mortals feel when they kiss. This is why I spoke for a long time with many persons who have a great deal of experience in this matter, and also with many young people who are learning to kiss in their way. Moreover, I have consulted many books and I wanted to show how the poets speak of the kiss. In this way, with the intention of summarizing the immense richness of life have come these pages on behalf of the kiss, which I hope may help you to kiss better, urge you to liberate in a kiss the best of your being.”
Try not to think about that last paragraph too much if you’re planning on eating or sleeping anytime soon.
We’ve told you before about Fernández’ views on the Francis papacy; about how he believes Francis is aiming at irreversible reform, which is why he is moving “slowly” in his pursuit of pet issues, so the effect will be deep and lasting. How Fernández also believes that if Francis perceives he is running out of time, we’ll see him suddenly speed up — which certainly seems to me to have happened. But Magister cites another opinion of Fernández, taken from the same period of time, in which he gives yet more evidence of the program:
“I have read that some say that the Roman curia is an essential part of the Church’s mission, or that a prefect of the Vatican is the sure compass that keeps the Church from falling into ‘light’ thinking; or that the prefect ensures the unity of the faith and guarantees for the pope a serious theology. But Catholics, reading the Gospel, know that Christ has assured special guidance and illumination for the pope and at the same time for the bishops as a whole, but not for a prefect or for another structure. When one hears such things it almost seems as if the pope would be one of their representatives, or someone who has come to shake things up and must be controlled. [. . .] The pope is convinced that what he has already written or said cannot be punished as a mistake. Therefore, in the future all will be able to repeat those things without the fear of receiving sanctions.”
So this is the figure that Francis keeps close as his thinker of reference, the man who put down in writing large parts of “Evangelii Gaudium,” the program of the pontificate, of “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical on the environment, and finally of “Amoris Laetitia,” the post-synodal exhortation on the family.
And then, Magister shows his work, in citations like this one, comparing the language of the exhortation — language attempting to redefine objective sin in a way that might normalize “irregular unions — directly to Fernández’ own published work:
“AMORIS LAETITIA” 305
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin –which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits.
[Footnote 351: In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. . .].
(Fernández 2006: 156)
This Trinitarian dynamism that reflects the intimate life of the divine persons can also be realized within an objective situation of sin (p. 157) as long as, because of the burden of influences, one is not subjectively culpable.
(Fernández 2006: 159)
A “realization of the value within the limits of the moral capacities of the subject” [Footnote 46]. So there are “possible goals” for this influenced subject, or “intermediate steps” [Footnote 47] in the realization of a value, even if they are always aimed at the complete fulfillment of the norm.
[Footnote 46: G. Irrazabal, “La ley de la gradualidad como cambio de paradigma,” in “Moralia” 102/103 (2004), p. 173].
[Footnote 47: Cf. G. Gatti, “Educación moral,” in AA.VV., “Nuevo Diccionario de Teología moral,” Madrid, 1992, p. 514].
(Fernández 2006: 158)
“There is no doubt that the Catholic magisterium has clearly admitted that an objectively evil act, as is the case with a premarital relationship or the use of a condom in a sexual relationship, does not necessarily lead to losing the life of sanctifying grace, from which the dynamism of charity draws its origin.
(Fernández 2005: 42)
On the other hand, given that we cannot judge the subjective situation of persons and taking into account the influences that attenuate or eliminate imputability (cf. CCC 1735), there always exists the possibility that an objective situation of sin may coexist with the life of sanctifying grace.
(Fernández 2005: 42)
Does this not justify the administration of baptism and confirmation to adults who may find themselves in an objective situation of sin, on the subjectively culpability of whom no judgment can be made?
This is — or should be — a huge story. The parallels are unbelievably overt, and they span paragraphs 300-305 of AL.
Look at it again: where AL is somewhat vague, talking about how “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin –which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end,” Fernandez’ own writing is far more direct, saying “There is no doubt that the Catholic magisterium has clearly admitted that an objectively evil act, as is the case with a premarital relationship or the use of a condom in a sexual relationship, does not necessarily lead to losing the life of sanctifying grace, from which the dynamism of charity draws its origin,” and “there always exists the possibility that an objective situation of sin may coexist with the life of sanctifying grace.”
Go to Magister’s piece and read the whole thing. It’s eye-opening, brilliant journalism, and he is to be commended for it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.