Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Cardinal Schönborn’s Interview: How Credible is a “Hearsay Magisterium”?

schonborn2Last week saw the release of an important interview (PDF link) given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and one of Pope Francis’ most trusted theological advisers and spokesmen, to the Roman Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica. The topic was the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL):

This interview has already made waves round the world, mainly because of His Eminence’s insistence on three points: first, that an apostolic exhortation such as AL is indeed an authoritative magisterial document, containing teaching that Catholics must assent to; secondly, that all previous teachings on marriage and the family must now be interpreted in the light of AL; and finally, that AL is indeed to be understood as allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist in some cases, even without a commitment to live ‘as brother and sister’.

I actually have no quarrel in principle with Cardinal Schönborn’s first point, about the status of apostolic exhortations. Though relatively recent in origin, they are fairly high in the ‘pecking order’ of magisterial documents – probably just a tad beneath encyclicals. To a large extent they are indeed hortatory and pastoral in tone and content, rather than strictly doctrinal. But Schönborn is correct in  pointing out that when certain passages are worded in such a way as to manifest the Pontiff’s intention to inculcate some doctrinal truth, that certainly counts as magisterial teaching. I also agree with the principle of theological method that underlies Cardinal Schönborn’s second controversial statement – that all previous magisterial statements on marriage and the family must now be interpreted in the light of AL. However, what His Eminence says is not the whole truth.

Let me explain. It has often happened in the historical development of Catholic doctrine that certain teachings which at an earlier stage were not fully explicated were subsequently clarified by new interventions of the magisterium. For instance, the ancient faith of the Church that the Blessed Virgin was without sin did not make entirely clear whether her perfect sinlessness began at the very moment of her conception. Hence, as is well known, some distinguished theologians over the centuries disputed her Immaculate Conception until Bl. Pius IX finally settled the question dogmatically in 1854. So when a later magisterial teaching adds precision or clarity to an earlier one, or draws out its logical implications, then of course we’re going to interpret the earlier statement(s) in the light of the later one.

But what happens when the reverse is the case – when a more recent magisterial statement is less clearly expressed than an earlier one? This has been a problem with certain documents of Vatican Council II. Since the sometimes deep theological cracks between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Fathers had to be papered over so as to get a consensus vote, the final texts on some topics – e.g., religious freedom, biblical inerrancy, ecumenism, the definition of Christ’s Church, his social kingship, and whether those dying as non-believers can be saved – are less clear than earlier relevant statements of the magisterium. In this new situation, correct theological methodology requires us to interpret the new teaching in the light of the old one. Unfortunately, Cardinal Schönborn’s one-sided presentation says nothing about this complementary norm.

In both situations, the basic interpretative principle is the same:  we should interpret less clear magisterial statements in the light of those that are expressed more clearly, regardless of which happened to come first. That common-sense norm derives from a still more basic principle, namely, the revealed promise of Jesus that his Holy Spirit will always be present in the Church to guide and keep her in the path of truth (cf. John 14: 16-17, 26). So when two apparently contrasting magisterial statements can reasonably be harmonized, they should be.

However, that raises another question: What if it seems impossible to reconcile two papal affirmations dealing with faith and morals?  This brings us to the third and most contentious of the controversial positions now espoused by Cardinal Schönborn. Some have sought to reconcile with previous papal teaching Pope Francis’ statements in AL #305 and its notorious footnote 351, which says that “in certain cases” Catholics living “in an objective situation of sin” (notably the divorced and civilly remarried) can receive “the help of the sacraments” – sacraments which the same footnote identifies as Penance and Eucharist. According to would-be reconcilers, the Holy Father should here be understood as implicitly restricting this sacramental “help” to those who commit to live ‘as brother and sister’.

Given the context, this bland reading of note 351 never struck me as very plausible. In any case, it has now been rejected decisively – almost scornfully! – by the learned prelate whom Francis himself has repeatedly designated as the most trustworthy commentator on the new apostolic exhortation. Moreover, this occurs in an interview that the Pope would almost certainly have read beforehand. (Every issue of this top-drawer Jesuit journal is vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication.) When editor Spadaro asks Schönborn if he agrees that it’s “obvious” Pope Francis is not limiting this sacramental “help” to couples living as brother and sister, His Eminence immediately responds, “Yes, certainly!” He then spells it right out: the present Holy Father “does not stop short at the kinds of cases that are specified [by John Paul II] in no. 84 of Familiaris consortio.” (That is, those cases where the couple abstain from sexual intimacy.)

Hopefully Schönborn’s authority will at least settle the debate as to what Pope Francis means and intends on this point. But let’s look again at this key article of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation on the family. In the troubled wake of AL, most appeals to the authority of FC #84 have cited its exclusion of (sexually active) remarried divorcees from the Eucharist. But still more basic is what this article says about the sacrament of Penance. For if you can’t be absolved, you can’t go to Communion anywhere – not even in a church where this would cause no scandal.  And John Paul affirms, “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, . . . take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”

Now, this is where the rubber hits the road, folks. Pope John Paul, in continuity with all his predecessors from time immemorial, has reaffirmed that only those divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who commit to live in complete continence may be given sacramental absolution. But Pope Francis now says that those who make that commitment are not the only such Catholics who can be absolved.

“Only” vs. “Not only”.  No ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ can mask that stark contradiction. But that hasn’t stopped some from trying. We have seen two principal attempts to square the circle.

First, some admit the incompatibility, but argue that the Church’s previous exclusion from the sacraments of all non-continent divorced-and-remarried couples was a matter of merely human discipline – ecclesiastical law. So Pope Francis, in giving greater recognition now to certain cases where confessors can discern diminished imputability for this objectively adulterous behavior, has, we are told, merely mitigated that discipline, and has not compromised any existing doctrine or divine law.

However, in Familiaris Consortio #84 itself, Pope John Paul presents a manifestly doctrinal consideration – one that by its very nature applies in all times and places – as the main reason why these folks are prohibited from receiving Communion (and, therefore, from the sacramental absolution that would lift that prohibition). He asserts, “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” (emphasis added). Since it’s that “objective” state of adulterous contradiction with the revealed sacramental meaning of Christian marriage that is the main barrier to their receiving Communion (John Paul adds causing scandal as a separate, secondary reason), and since that objective state remains constant under the Law of Christ regardless of how subjectively culpable or inculpable those concerned may be, the claim of mutable church discipline is unsustainable. The pre-Amoris Church has understood and taught this prohibition as a truly doctrinal matter – an immutable exigency of divine law under the New Covenant sealed with the Blood of Christ.

This is amply confirmed in subsequent magisterial documents from the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI:  for instance, the 1984 Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, #34; the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1994 Letter to Bishops, in which the exclusion from the sacraments of those under discussion is called “doctrine” no less than three times (cf. articles 3, 4 and 6); and Pope Benedict’s 2007 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, in which he affirms in art. 29 that this practice of the Church is “based on Sacred Scripture”, i.e., it has divine, not merely human, authority.

The second line of argument that tries to reconcile John Paul’s “only” with Francis’ “not only” is one being advanced by some noted prelates and theologians. Nevertheless, I find it so outlandish that it leaves me wondering whether to laugh or cry. It seriously claims that Popes John Paul and Benedict  didn’t really mean it when they affirmed, in formal magisterial documents, that “only” those divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who live as brother and sister may receive the sacraments. We are asked to believe that the real, authentic Catholic position on this point has never been the clear-cut, exceptionless norm asserted in the pre-Amoris magisterial documents I’ve cited above, but rather, has all along been the fuzzy, mitigation-rich, “soiled-by-the-mud-of-the-street” approach that Pope Francis advocates in Chapter 8 of AL. According to this second view, Francis is now doing nothing more than going public with a norm which previous popes had already approved, but had kept under wraps – and even publicly and officially denied!  It was supposedly a closely guarded clerical secret, long deemed fit for the ears of confessors only, and so passed on confidentially by word of mouth in seminary classrooms and rectories. In this scenario, the only laity under previous pontificates who would ever get to learn this secret would be some living in illicit sexual unions who managed to persuade a priest confessor that they are sincere in their dissent from the teaching of Christ and the Church about marriage and divorce, and/or sincere in feeling they can’t possibly comply with it. In such cases, we are told, the Church, long before the present pontificate, already quietly authorized the priest: (a) to consider the “sincerity” of such penitents as constituting lack of full knowledge or of full consent of the will; (b) to conclude on that basis that their continuing commission of objectively adulterous acts will not place them in mortal sin; and therefore (c) to grant them absolution on the condition that they avoid scandal by keeping this a secret and going to Communion only where they won’t be recognized.

This amounts to a kind of magisterial conspiracy theory, or perhaps, that of a hearsay magisterium which can trump the authority of public magisterial documents. Frankly, I find it preposterous. For a start, I have long been in the clerical club – a priest and theology professor for over 30 years – but had never until very recently heard so much as a whisper about this “approved confessional practice”. Neither had most of my priest friends, young and old alike, heard of such a theory until reading certain commentaries on Amoris Laetitia.

Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that in the permissive climate that has metastatized throughout Church institutions since Vatican II, steps (a), (b) and (c) above have often been recommended to future priests by certain moral theology professors. However, even on the dubious supposition that steps (a) and (b) might sometimes be justifiable (I say “dubious”, because dissent from what one knows to be Catholic doctrine is itself gravely sinful – an aggravating, not a mitigating, circumstance), I find quite incredible the claim that a priest would be in compliance with the “real” (though under-the-counter) magisterium of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI if he proceeded from (b) to (c). For step (c) flatly contradicts the public and official words of John Paul, cited above, which do not even hint at any exceptions: he affirms that only those civilly remarried divorcees who commit to practice continence may be absolved. And the 1994 CDF Letter to Bishops on this topic asserts that, without that commitment, such Catholics are in “an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion”.  Since it’s their “objective situation” that “of itself” has this effect, it follows logically that the priest must deny them absolution even in those (presumably rare) cases where they seem to be subjectively free of mortal sin. He must tell them kindly but firmly that they can’t be absolved yet, because that would constitute permission to receive the Eucharist; and that the reason they can’t be given that permission is that their present life-style is in grave conflict with the teaching of Christ and the Church, whether they recognize that or not.

Fr. Thomas Michelet, O.P., is one of the theologians trying to reconcile Amoris Laetitia with Familiaris Consortio by this bizarre theory that John Paul’s real teaching was the same as that of Francis, and that his contrary, ‘no-exceptions’  teaching in public was just a façade to prevent confusion among the untutored laity.

Michelet writes, “The innovation of the document [AL] is above all here: in the fact of presenting in full light a practice that previously remained in the shadows, in the secrecy of the confessional.”  In other words (although Michelet of course does not admit this), the recently canonized Pope John Paul, teaching as Christ’s Vicar on earth, actually lied in a key teaching of a major magisterial document affecting the lives of millions of Catholics!

Moreover, Fr. Michelet seems quite oblivious to the deep irony of his position. In his account of the pre-Amoris Church, this “approved” confessional secret was kept “in the shadows” in order to avoid scandalizing the laity – i.e., leading them into sin, confusion, or even loss of faith. Well, that certainly makes sense. For if lay people were told that the Church actually makes exceptions to her own ‘no-sacraments’ rule for non-continent remarried divorcees, they might well “be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage” (to quote John Paul II in FC #84). And of course, such error would not remain at the theoretical level. The centuries-long history of our separated Christian brethren shows that it would soon be followed by ever-increasing divorce and remarriage (to say nothing of concubinage, fornication, same-sex partnerships, etc.) The irony is, of course, that since public knowledge of these (alleged) exceptions to the norm would have caused scandal before Pope Francis trumpeted them round the world on April 8, 2016, then – since our fallen human nature remains the same – it’s still going to cause scandal after that date. But instead of deploring the fact that this highly dangerous cat has now been let out of the bag, Fr. Michelet expects us to heave sighs of relief on learning that it really was inside the bag previously, i.e., that in AL the Holy Father is (supposedly) teaching in continuity with his predecessors.

In fact, Francis has not let any cat out of its bag; rather, he has pulled a rabbit out of his hat. There was no previous secret papal approval of the exceptions he grants in AL, note 351. He has ‘created’ them out of nothing, thereby creating a double scandal: a rupture with previous Catholic teaching and a further opening to marital instability, sexual license, and desecration of Christ’s Eucharistic Body.

Cardinal Schönborn, in his new interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, also hints at Michelet’s artificial ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ in his own attempt to smooth out the irreconcilable differences we have seen between the respective teachings of Popes John Paul and Francis. Assuring us that Amoris Laetitia represents “a homogeneous evolution in the understanding and in the expression of the doctrine”, His Eminence claims that both Pope John Paul, implicitly, and the future Pope Benedict, in private conversation, already taught in its essentials the same permissive doctrine of AL, Chapter 8, that has so deeply perturbed millions of faithful Catholics, from devout lay people to Princes of the Church. According to Schönborn,

Francis has taken an important step by obliging us to clarify something that had remained implicit in Familiaris consortio, about the link between the objectivity of a situation of sin and the life of grace in relation to God and to his Church, and — as a logical consequence — about the concrete imputability of sin. Cardinal Ratzinger had explained in the 1990s that we no longer speak automatically of a situation of mortal sin in the case of new marital unions. I remember asking Cardinal Ratzinger in 1994, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had published its document about divorced and remarried persons: ‘Is it possible that the old praxis that was taken for granted, and that I knew before the Council, is still valid? This envisaged the possibility, in the internal forum with one’s confessor, of receiving the sacraments, provided that no scandal was given.’ His reply was very clear, just like what Pope Francis affirms: there is no general norm that can cover all the particular cases. The general norm is very clear; and it is equally clear that it cannot cover all the cases exhaustively.

With due respect to Cardinal Schönborn, an alleged “homogeneous evolution” of doctrine based on such flimsy argumentation and evidence simply won’t stand up to scrutiny. We must not let a spurious “hearsay magisterium” consisting of supposedly approved secret confessional practices, reports of off-the-record and off-the-cuff conversations, and alleged “implicit” teachings of popes who explicitly and officially said the exact opposite, turn our hearts and minds away from the true Catholic magisterium. The magisterium we have always known about. The magisterium consisting of official, public, and duly promulgated papal and conciliar pronouncements which can only mean what they plainly say.

And when a constant stream of previous documents of this true magisterium are united in teaching a certain clear doctrine about who can and cannot receive the sacraments, we must respectfully but firmly resist and reject any claim that the latest papal document can overturn and replace that doctrine by means of mere hints, insinuations, and footnotes.

99 thoughts on “Cardinal Schönborn’s Interview: How Credible is a “Hearsay Magisterium”?”

  1. I don’t care who “presented” the piece. Traditionally speaking, an Apostolic Exhortation by a Pope is part of the universal ordinary magisterium. Binding.

    • The universal ordinary magisterium is binding because it is universal; it represents what has been always and everywhere believed by Catholics. If something contradicts this, even an Apostolic Exhortation, then it is not universal, it is merely ordinary, and therefore can’t be binding. Catholics *are* free to reject the ordinary magisterium when it contradicts what has been previously taught.

  2. Well said, Fr Harrison. Although it goes against the “Catholic grain”, resistance to error is the only faithful option when we are faced with such an egregious abuse of Papal power that the BoR would seek to overturn the clear teaching of Our Lord, the Apostles and all his predecessors.

  3. Amen.Amen.Amen.

    Thank you so very much, Fr.Harrison. Father Gerald Murray and Father Mark Pilon wrote their respective essays on the Amoris Laetitia – also pointing out its flaws – on The Catholic Thing website on July 16, just a few days ago.

    Faithful Catholics absolutely need reasoned essays like these to help on in the sorrowful task of educating those in our circle of influence who are embracing what is coming out of the Vatican during this disgraceful pontificate
    l will print these essays and distribute them to Catholics who think what the Church has always thought and taught has changed.

    God bless you!

  4. Fr. Harrison – I think you are misrepresenting Fr. Michelet’s position. I am not sure I agree with Fr. Michelet, but his position is NOT that someone can be absolved if they are “sincere in their dissent from the teaching of Christ and the Church about marriage and divorce.” That is horribly tendentious.

    He makes two points that seem to me straightforwardly true. First, that there are possibilities where someone commits a materially objective grave act but which is not formally sinful. Everyone admits that these exist in certain obvious cases (e.g., material adultery, but the person thought it was their spouse). Second, that there can be ignorance of fact that creates these situations. Michelet then argues that AL points out that there is widespread ignorance about the objective culpability of divorce and nature of marriage, so that this might vitiate intention in many cases and create situations of subjectively invincible ignorance. JP II did not think these cases could exist, but AL responds to a change in society that makes these cases possible and, in fact, widespread. Thus, people actually are in a state of ignorance of fact in regard to their divorce and remarriage. They do not “dissent” from any teaching whatsoever. The central thesis is that widespread ignorance of what constitutes marriage can vitiate the will; people do not think they are living in concubinage, etc. Does that make the situation a good one that pastors can ignore? No. But it might make it non-culpable if their ignorance is of the right kind.

    This, then, leads to Michelet’s final proposal in reading AL: looking to solidly classical principles of moral theology, the confessor can leave a penitent in a state of invincible ignorance while giving absolution, with the intent to form their consciences later on. I would point out that this principle is affirmed in the Vademecum for confessors, no. 8: “that it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity” ( The two principles enunciated earlier and this last are, it seems to me, obviously true. The question is whether there can be the right kind of ignorance of the nature of marriage on such a wide scale. I think it is a plausible position. But regardless of whether you think that is possible, you need to attack THAT thesis, not some imagined question of sincerity in “dissent” from Church teaching.

    • AL says that people can faithfully dissent by not appreciating the value even though they know the teaching. Ludicrous. It simply confirms people in their disordered lust.

      Here is the paragraph you refer to: 8. The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin. Nonetheless, in these cases, the confessor must try to bring such penitents ever closer to accepting God’s plan in their own lives, even in these demands, by means of prayer, admonition and exhorting them to form their consciences, and by the teaching of the Church.
      It looks like the seed of AL was planted by a non-magisterial document some decades ago, with the same excuse – I will not change. Just like the devil’s I will not serve. it also has the smell of the gradualness of the law approach even though that is denied. Leaving stubborn people in objective mortal sin is a really stupid thing to do. Ignorance is bliss in this case. Can you quote any saints who approve of this approach?

      • Alphonsus Ligouri. I could find you the reference, but it is in his manual of moral theology. My impression, not however being a moral theologian, is that such an opinion was the “common opinion of theologians” prior to Vatican II. That is why the approach is approved in official magisterial documents – it is classical moral teaching. It is not one anyone in moral theology would think is suspect. Again, my point being that the only way you can attack Michelet’s interpretation is really in terms of the position that people are in ignorance over the matter of fact as to what a valid marriage requires. The three principles I listed (including this principle) are pretty clearly held by classical authors.

    • If they were ignorant at one point, they would have been relieved of their ignorance the minute they attempted to remarry in the Church and were told that they could not. Why do you think so-called Cathholics get civil marriages in the first place? Is it not that they were unable to remarry in the Church?

      • Sometimes people remarry because they don’t care about having been baptized at all; you only need to think of one case where the appropriate conditions are met for the principle to be true. But, also, these are the cases Pope Benedict was interested in, because we might ask to what extent faith is necessary for validity of the marriage. Traditionally, faith has not been a condition, but there have been questions recently about cases like the aforementioned because of the widespread loss of faith today.

        • If faith, or lack of it, is brought into the equation for validity of marriage, then in one fell swoop you would junk the validity of every natural marriage on the planet. You would be saying that only Catholics who had achieved a certain level of faith were capable of marrying validly. Every marriage consisting of one or two non-Catholics would henceforward be declarable as invalid or be of doubtful validity.

          It would also be an impossible task to measure the degree of faith necessary for validity and how to accurately assess a couple’s level of faith on the day on which they got married. What would you do – present them with a list of questions based on the Catechism and ask them: “On the day you got married, how many of these questions could you have answered?”

          The Commandments are not, in any case, binding on Catholics only. The Commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” is just as universally binding as “Thou shalt not kill.” If “lack of faith” were to be viewed as evincing a lack of culpability in instances of divorce and remarriage, then why not extend that to murder, theft, racism, wife-beating, defrauding, tax evasion etc.?

          As for “the widespread loss of faith” and modern culture which treats divorce and remarriage as an acceptable norm, it is no different from the culture in which Our Lord gave His doctrine on marriage. Divorce and remarriage was widespread among the pagans and even the religious authorities of the day approved of divorce and remarriage as belonging to the Mosaic Law. This modernist special pleading for the moral exceptionalism of our times has no basis in fact – human nature is the same now as it was back then and the sins we want to commit now are the same as they were back then.

          Lastly, if “lack of faith” were to be admitted as a cause of invalidity of the Sacrament of Marriage, then this would undermine the whole sacramental system because ultimately every minister of a sacrament would come under scrutiny as to whether his faith was sufficient to administer a valid sacrament. So, assuming you are a priest, the rest of us could rightly demand to know that if you do not adhere to the Church’s teaching on marriage, have you really got sufficient faith to offer a valid Mass or hear a valid Confession? If you really believe that a Pope can teach contrary to Our Lord and all his predecessors, have you even got sufficient faith to administer a valid baptism?

          The reason why Pope Benedict backed off from pursuing this question of faith being a factor in sacramental validity, is that he realized it had the potential to destroy confidence in the whole sacramental system. His successor either doesn’t get this, or he does and he is more serious about agreeing with Martin Luther than we had dared to imagine.

          If we abandon the principle of “ex opere operato” in the sacramental economy then the Catholic church is doomed to become just another gnostic, protestant sect. The only silver lining in the cloud would be that we could all legitimately challenge the lack of faith of the so-called Pope and have him deposed for never having been validly ordained in the first place.

          • You are misunderstanding that position on the role lack of faith would have in undermining validity of sacramental marriages. However, it’s really not my concern, because I’m not defending the idea – I was just suggesting a different line of thought. But the point still stands that people remarry without any concern for the Church – they may have been baptized but then never practice. Then it becomes obvious that some people CAN be in invincible ignorance about those kinds of demands of marriage – permanence, exclusivity, etc. And, if those beliefs vitiate the consent, then it WOULD be invalid in how it was contracted. Further, even IF contracted validly because of minimum consent being present, someone might in choosing to divorce and remarry in fact be invincibly ignorant that one cannot “divorce and remarry” because of the permanence of marriage. THAT situation exists in at least some cases – what is contentious, in my mind, is whether that case can be widespread in society. But it seems realistic that someone COULD be in that situation – and, if possible, the principles could be soundly applied the way Michelet says.

          • Assuming that you do realise that one makes solemn vows when one gets married, how can somebody vow to be married to their spouse “until death do us part” and be invincibly ignorant about the permanence of marriage? How can somebody vow their fidelity – “foresaking all others” – and be invincibly ignorant about the exclusivity of marriage?

            It does not matter whether they practice their faith or not, only the mentally subnormal would not understand the words “until death…” and they probably shouldn’t be getting married anyway. Your whole concept of “invincible ignorance” is really quite dodgy.

  5. So… is the million dollar question,

    With the recent letters being distributed to cardinals and sent to PF regarding all of this mumbo jumbo mischief, which will lead souls to hell, and ultimately fracture our Church, when should the laity expect a response from the Pope himself?

    A week, a month, a year, two years??

    I would suggest, that no reply within one month is the answer to that question.

    And I would then say, there will not be many bishops, or priests who will be trustworthy to carry on the faith, as so many are in love with their power, their status and their money and perks.

    And then I would say…….I shall go and seek what is holy and True, whether it be a priest in the catacombs, or a far away parish that houses such a holy man of God.

    The clock is ticking. We had best get on with it.

  6. Fr Harrison, a million thanks and thumbs up for your clarity.
    And yet it seems a Cardinal (and even the Pope) is incapable of this kind of thinking.

  7. The argument presented by the enemies of the Church: we can no longer consider people in adultery to be adulterers—sounds very similar to the Vatican II argument that we can no longer consider people in heresy (e.g. Protestants) to be heretics, as if Protestants are incapable of ever reaching a time when they come into reason.

    Subjectivism is the mother of all heresies and it is slowly chipping away at the objective truths of our Catholic faith.

    • That was his way of saying that it’s wrong. Too soft for my taste. Look for “‘Amoris Laetitia’ and the Constant Teaching and Practice of the Church” on April 12 at National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin’s blog.

  8. Per the Eponymous Flower blog, Cardinal Schonborn is to be named as Prefect of the CDF, with Cardinal Muller moved to Mainz as bishop.

  9. It’s a bit of a relief, in a way, reading about these outlandish attempts to square AL with previous doctrine. If actual theologians are resorting to these laugh-out-loud attempts, then it means it’s the best they’ve got, and it ain’t much. Secret confessional practices? For real?

    • And really, isn’t that pretty much what standing for the truth does? It destroys the appearance of a firm foundation that they boastfully stand upon. It really is time to keep pointing things out until the circus tent closes. Truth is so powerful, which is why the enemies of God have tried to muzzle and murder it since time began.

  10. The only way you can have those married invalidly by the SSPX in a “state of grace” and therefore able to receive communion is if you accept this crucial paragraph of Fr. Harrison, “First, some admit the incompatibility, but argue that the Church’s previous exclusion from the sacraments of all non-continent divorced-and-remarried couples was a matter of merely human discipline – ecclesiastical law. So Pope Francis, in giving greater recognition now to certain cases where confessors can discern diminished imputability for this objectively adulterous behavior, has, we are told, merely mitigated that discipline, and has not compromised any existing doctrine or divine law.”

    It is a FACT that those married invalidly by the SSPX are objectively living in a state of sin due to their failure to be “married” according to canonical form. We can safely assume, though, that most if not all are not culpable for that failure.

      • Nope. Catholics are required to get married before a priest with faculties. If they fail to do so, the marriage is invalid and the couple are objectively living in a state of co-habitation and are therefore “living in sin”. This is Catholic marriage 101.

  11. It is sad that we have to engage in such in depth explanations of what every pope before this one built upon and knew. How clever the devil is in his use of susceptible men.

  12. is reporting that Jorge Bergoglio intends to remove Cardinal Muller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and replace him with this, Modernist: Kardinal Christoph Schönborn.

    Amoris Laetitia still not binding? Right…

    • Look, it could be Tucho Fernandez…Archbishop of nepotism and author of “Heal Me With Your Mouth.”
      I’ve always thought of Cardinal Schonborn as the “Lawrence Welk” of the College — if Tucho gets it he’ll certainly be elevated to Cardinal. He could be the Xavier Cugat of the Cardinals.
      Yes, I’ve devolved into hysteria.
      The one good thing about either of these moves is it unmasks them. Living through this is difficult to say the least, but Jesus Christ will be their Judge.

  13. “Papered over” is the operative phrase, and that has been at the heart of the discord now for over fifty years. It bespeaks the problem clearly — our Church, for one reason and then another has been working out of a disingenuous bag of tricks. Appealing to our assent to the Deposit of the Faith, loyalty to the Holy See and the authority which by Grace it holds, we have been led to the precipice.
    Some of the motivation for the course we have taken is, plain and simple, heterodoxy – mild to virulently heretical. Some of the fuel was a desire to keep it all together until the conflict between modernity and orthodoxy resolved itself.
    We are presently in the throes of a frighteningly dysfunctional family, now in the hands of its most dysfunctional component. Papering things over will no longer do. Putting a happy face on the terror our Church is enduring will not do. Striking the pose of piety and devotion will not do. It doesn’t make anything better. It does not serve the truth. It is undermining the salvation of souls. Unfortunately the most unsettled members of the family don’t even believe in the soul – whether they are able to admit that or not.
    This has become an endurance contest. It is masochistic. It is unproductive. It must cease, and we need to recommit to Jesus Christ, His Holy Gospel, all of Holy Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium as it has been understood for two thousand years. The development of doctrine does not involve its metamorphosis into something that it is not. It is the deepening of understanding of the Mystery which comprehends us.
    From the Dogmatic Constitution “Pastor aeternus” of Vatican I (1869-70) – “The Holy Spirit was not given to the Roman Pontiffs so that they might disclose new doctrine, but so that they might guard and set forth the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles.”
    The fraudulence presently on display throughout the Church – Rome, Chicago, London, Munich, Brussels, Brasilia, Madrid . . . and on, and on … must be eliminated, either voluntarily or by edict. Souls are perishing while clerical careers and their narcissistic defense mechanisms flourish.

    • Seems to be unreliable info. It was only reported in one place, a Malaysian newspaper, and this was repeated in a couple of places. But with Bergoglio you can always expect the worst.

  14. I’m not surprised by none of what’s been going on in our holy mother church for the past three year’s . Sad, very sad…..

  15. No real surprise here. When nearly 100% of the folks seeking annulments receive one and when 99% of the folks attending Sunday Mass receive communion the implication that mortal sin is not a hindrance to receiving Holy Communion is clear to most people. Pope Francis is merely making de jure was heretofore de facto. Let’s face it. Vatican II was a huge success. The Catholic Church is now Protestant. Will Christ recognize these “new” Protestants when they knock on the door of heaven? Wouldn’t he be more likely to say, “I don’t know you”.

  16. The Pope (i.e. Vicar of Christ) exists for the Faith– not the Faith for the Pope.

    If an ostensible Pope is seriously trying to bind the Church to/by antichristian teaching, then it would be better to think that he is not really the Pope (especially if there is some evidence that such is the case).

  17. The ongoing travesty in the “development of doctrine” that Amoris Lætitia (AL) announces is the promiscuous and careless use of the word grace by Cdl. Schönborn and the like.

    Now admittedly, I was educated for eight years by Jesuits, so allowances must be made; but the principal and abiding notion that I gleaned from the doctrine of grace that I was instructed in is grace’s utter ineffability; namely, that even to attempt an analysis of grace is to miss the point in a grievously culpable manner.

    Grace is not a tool. Grace is the practical intersection of God with a human life, and for that reason alone grace carries with it necessarily the attributes of a mystery not subject to explanation that is His essence. Grace is God’s royal and unimpeachable prerogative. There is no appeal from or to its workings in a particular life for this, that, or the other articulable reason, else it is not grace.

    Simple humility demands that faithful sojourners here on earth confess the truth of the adage “God works in mysterious ways.” The instrumentality of grace, if there were such a thing, would be a concern of the Deity alone, sheltered from reason and not to be bandied about polemically as and when it seems handy to do so. Yet underwriting a great deal of “progressive theology” since Vatican II, it seems, in Francis’ teaching in general, and in AL in particular, is the scandalously exploitative invocation of grace, to put the problem rather mildly.

    The workings of grace (and divine mercy) in AL are introduced opportunistically, often in aid of navigating theological rough spots, as it were, in much the same the way that a clever car mechanic uses duct tape and baling wire to solve novel problems encountered under the hood (though the problems are not really solved thereby, merely postponed, as an honest mechanic will admit). Plato called such tactics “saving the phenomena.” I think of them as the telltale sign of a lazy pseudo-Pastoralism. In sum, I’m fairly certain that the intrusion of grace and mercy so routinely in AL is spurious.

    Grace is not like an adjustable wrench. Its instrumentality in any actual case, if, without skirting incoherence, grace even may be said to possess such a virtue, is known to God and God alone. The continual, almost predictable appeal to grace of Francis’ exhortation is rooted in a sort of evasive ignorance—which is not the same thing as a mystery at all—in which the essential inscrutability of God’s saving grace is used perversely to distract attention from outright doctrinal incoherence, even from self-contradiction. Such attempts, it should be obvious, actually tend towards making grace into what it is not, a plaything of argument and disputation.

    The traditional doctrines of the Church are routinely disparaged by this Pope and his acolytes, almost categorically it seems, as being unresponsive and oppressive burdens on the faithful, even where it is plain that the Magisterium primarily reflects the good order and simplicity of God’s reign. Because they incline men to disorder and chaos more often than not, spontaneity and disruption are not admirable per se. As with the rest of creation, from physics to mathematics to biology, God appears, manifestly, to value rather highly our adherence to the plain meaning of His laws, mistaken beliefs as to which are regularly and often harshly punished. Step into the path of a bus if you wish, but do not expect grace to preserve your life. Providence will not be mocked for expediency’s sake, and I believe He is very annoyed to witness the mechanical use of grace as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card to evade the clarity of His dispensations.

    In every attempt to routinize grace and mercy, the grave sin of presumption also lurks close by. As was said of the two thieves on Calvary, one was saved, therefore do not despair; only one was saved, therefore do not presume.

    • Yes! And the whole mercy schtick, too. The cheapening of grace and mercy by this pontificate is ghastly.

      • I really got the point in the (mis) use of the notion of mercy as sentimentalism totally separate from justice (with justice implicitly rendered in-justice as in “Merciful God can’t damn for eternity.”)

  18. Great kudos to Fr. Brian Harrison. Next he should oppose the death penalty abolition movement of the last three Popes in concert and in cahoots.

  19. “The magisterium consisting of official, public, and duly promulgated
    papal and conciliar pronouncements which can only mean what they plainly
    say”. If AL said things “plainly” then there would not be all this trouble.If clariti is a criteria to consider something magisterial, then we could know what parts of it are not, very easily.

  20. There we have it. Big thanks to Fr. Harrison, whose razor sharp mind has been bringing much needed clarity to muddy waters for a long time.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...