Like a Bomb in Slow Motion: More Insights from the Coccopalmerio Book

Yesterday, we told you about the new book from Cardinal Coccopalmerio, entitled, The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Today was the Vatican press conference for the release of the book, but the author didn’t come. 1P5 contributor Oakes Spalding comments:

Cardinal Coccopalmerio failed to show up, pleading a “diary clash.” This was later explained as a conflict with a meeting at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In his short work, published by the official Vatican publishing house on February 8, Coccopalmerio had argued that all the sacraments including communion should be open to those “living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons” including the divorced and remarried and even cohabiting couples.

And the press conference had been anticipated by many as another move in the escalating cold war between the Pope and his opponents.

A short question and answer session occurred anyway in which Don Giuseppe Costa, the director of the publishing house, explained that the Cardinal’s book was not an official response from the Vatican and that on Amoris Laetitia, “the debate is still open, we encourage it.”

The theologian Maurizio Gronchi then made a joke about the “confusing” passages in the Gospels that homilists attempt to explain every Sunday.

It is virtually certain that Cardinal Coccopalmerio did not cancel because of an appointment clash. But it is a completely open question as to why he cancelled or indeed, why the quasi-official press conference was organized in the first place.

According to a CNS story on the event, one of the spokesmen for the book personally emphasized the commonalities between Coccopalmerio’s text and the most liberal interpretations of Amoris Laetitia already in the wild:

Father Maurizio Gronchi, a theologian and consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 14 Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s reading of “Amoris Laetitia” is the same as the bishops of Malta, Germany and the church region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those bishops have issued guidelines that include the possibility of eventually allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics access to the sacraments without first requiring an annulment of their sacramental marriage or a firm commitment to abstaining from sexual relations. [emphasis added]

In another excerpt from the book presented in the Italian journal FarodiRoma*, we are treated to the most blatantly compromised interpretation yet of AL Paragraph 301:

Gaudium et Spes in fact, affirms: “… where conjugal intimacy is interrupted (Latin text “abrumpitur ” [“is broken off”]) “, so the completion of conjugal acts is interrupted, “it is not uncommon that fidelity is imperiled and the good of the children may be endangered… their upbringing… the courage to accept new ones.”

Now the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts explains, “if the commitment to live as brother and sister proves possible without difficulty for the couple’s relationship, then the two cohabiting may accept it willingly; if, however, the commitment creates difficulties, the two partners seem to not be obligated in and of themselves, because they will meet the case of the subject spoken of in n. 301 with this clear expression: ‘[a subject] can be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin ‘. In his apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis also gives a reference to this passage of the Council: ” The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.”

Who, given the option of living in a sexual union or in continence with the person that they’ve chosen to “marry” would choose continence if there were no sin involved in the sexual union? The entire human race’s continued existence lo these thousands of years after Adam and Eve is living proof of our innate, instinctual preference for the former situation. If you tell people they can go ahead and share intimacy with their “new spouse” if it “creates difficulties” for them not to, who is going to choose to “live as brother and sister”?

Yesterday, I also said that this is the Church’s unofficial “official” response to the dubia. But little could I have known that the presenters would say virtually the same thing:

Father Costa told reporters the cardinal’s book is not “the Vatican response” to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of “Amoris Laetitia.” Rather, he said, it is an “authoritative” reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion.

Which is it? Is it “authoritative” or an invitation to discuss the issue? Because a settled matter invites no such debate. It is imperative here, I think, to return to Hilary White’s essay on positivism and the purposeful violation of the laws of rational thought as the policy of the present pontificate:

This is the pope who sees no difficulty proposing wildly divergent and logically opposed ideas from one day to the next. Who has no qualms about simply changing 2000 years of Catholic teaching and practice, of re-writing Scripture to suit this or that homiletic point (No, your holiness, the miracle of the loaves and fishes wasn’t about “sharing,” nor was it a “parable.”)

What people who have decried these incomprehensible contradictions have failed to understand is that “meaning” is irrelevant. The purpose of these communications has not been to inform the Catholic faithful of the pope’s thought or reflections on Scripture. Content is irrelevant; only submission counts, only power. This means the more ambiguous, the more contradictory, the more vapid, the more illogical, the better.


Positivism, the denial of an objective reality, must lead ultimately to authoritarianism. If there is no objective reality, there is no need for any rules that regard it; any notion of a Rule of Law is meaningless. What have we seen happen throughout history when the Rule of Law breaks down? There can only be Rule of the Strongest, Rule of Power. This is why, now that the make-reality-up-as-you-go-along principle is firmly in place in the papal office, the pope must clamp down so furiously on “dissent,” even the softly diplomatic “dissent” of asking politely for a clarification.

What does Amoris Laetitia mean?

“It means what I say it means. It means shut up.”

“What is clear,” writes Oakes Spalding, “is that this growing crisis is in part now a farce.”

It most certainly is a farce – but a deadly and humorless one.

* Translated by Andrew Guernsey


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