Last Friday, Steve Skojec reported on the eloquent and piercing response written by the German-speaking professor, Josef Seifert, as published by Professor de Mattei’s website Corrispondenza Romana. It seems that more and more conservative Catholics are taking heart and seeing it necessary to raise their own voices in opposition to the direction in which Pope Francis is now trying to take the Catholic Church.
Now we have learned that another well-known U.S. philosopher and former dean of the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America, Jude P. Dougherty, published a similar critique on 1 June in the Catholic newspaper The Wanderer. In the context of the pontificate of Pope Francis, Dougherty chose as the title of his article – “Deliberate Ambiguities” – which already sums up a whole strategic method — namely that of deceit — but by means of intentional equivocations that are much more difficult to criticize. As Dougherty puts it:
Authors and telecasters use it when they are not sure of the facts. Politicians often employ it in creating legislation that subsequently permits freedom of contradictory interpretation by courts, regulators, and prosecutors. Pope Francis, who never speaks clearly, uses it to such an extent that in doctrinal matters what was certain before has become problematic.
With reference to the recent truly piercing revelations by Archbishop Bruno Forte, Dougherty says: “Forte offered the opinion that with the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia, in effect, the reformers in the camp of Walter Cardinal Kasper got what they wanted.”
Encouraged by the courageous and clear statement of the German philosopher, Robert Spaemann, the U.S. philosopher makes clear his own critical view of Pope Francis. He first quotes Spaemann:
Every single cardinal, but also every bishop and priest is called upon to preserve uprightly the Catholic discipline of the sacraments within the realm of his responsibility and to confess it publicly in case the Pope is not ready to make corrections….In the years to come it may take a later Pope to officially make things right.
Dougherty then adds his own critique of Amoris Laetitia, as follows:
Examining the text of Amoris Laetitia we find that footnote 315 calls attention to the fact that in an objective situation of sin it is possible for the miscreant to be subjectively innocent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“In order to commit a mortal sin, grave matter is not enough; full knowledge and deliberate consent are also required.”
Here is the dilemma. A confessor may become aware that a penitent has not confessed a sin because he has no idea that it is a sin. If this be the case, the penitent can validly receive absolution. But the confessor is obliged to set matters straight by correcting the malformed conscience and by guiding the penitent through the process of forming a correct conscience. The key question then becomes: “Can this doctrinally well-founded practice be extended to the divorced and remarried?” The answer is “No.” The penitent, once made aware that his conduct is at odds with the teaching of the Church, must refrain from Holy Communion. [emphasis added]
Professor Dougherty here makes clear where the ambiguities of Pope Francis seems to start. He calls it “Pope Francis’ ambiguous teaching on marriage and the family as well as on other matters”; and he stresses that such conduct “has the effect of undermining confidence in the moral authority of the Church.” In defense of Robert Spaemann’s own critique, Dougherty points out that Spaemann speaks in the tradition of the natural law “which he represents and to which the Church herself is accountable.” He continues by clearly explaining the high value of the traditional Church’s moral teaching:
The Church did not invent morality, but over the centuries it has promulgated the highest moral principles known to mankind. Clearly, discipline related to the divinely instituted sacraments is her province. Through the sacraments she has taught and promoted personal moral behavior. That achievement has contributed beyond measure to the creation of Western culture.
With a poignant tone, Dougherty also points out that now, in a time of turmoil, we are even more than ever in need of clear moral teaching: “At a time when Europe is under siege by a militant Islam, the West needs the moral voice of the Church more than ever. Regrettably, at her highest level she seems disengaged, uncertain in the exercise of her traditional authority.” [emphasis added]
The American philosopher then concludes his own terse and trenchant Catholic witness with his objections to a pope who seems to undermine the Church’s core teachings on marriage and the family, and he does it with a forceful call to the laity for their further resistance:
The stakes have never been so high. With mainline Protestants capitulating to the liberal Zeitgeist, the Church alone can teach authoritatively. Proper diagnosis is the first step in the cure of any illness. Perhaps that is subtly underway as lay voices are raised against an uncertain leadership. [emphasis added]
We might be reminded here of our much-cherished Bishop Athanasius Schneider who repeatedly has said in the recent past that “this is the hour for the laity.” Catholic journalist Edward Pentin as also recently published on his Twitter account recently another critique of Amoris Laetitia, including the following words: “The Church’s hierarchy ‘seems to have entered a strange paralysis’; where are the ‘true prophets’?”
In the face of so much reticence or “paralysis among the Church’s hierarchy,” it indeed appears that more and more courageous and well-informed lay voices are now coming forth from thoughtful men such as Professor Jude Dougherty.