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Making Clarity about Amoris Laetitia

Image courtesy of Edward Pentin.

At the Congress of April 22ro, at the Hotel Columbus, Rome, just one block from Vatican City, six lay scholars gathered in order to “make clarity one year after Amoris Laetitia” (“fare chiarezza a un anno da AL”), the papal apostolic exhortation about love and marriage, with particular reference to its indirectly stated permission for access to sacramental Communion for divorced and civilly  remarried couples, as well as for couples living in other irregular situations. The Congress was organized by two Italian Catholic apologetics publications, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and Il Timone.

Clarity is especially needed, as it is widely known, because of confusion arising from different interpretations of the text of Amoris Laetitia. A number of lay academics, since the document was issued in April 2016, have published articles and letters and given critical interviews, such as Roberto de Mattei, Christian Brugger, Josef Seifert, Robert Spaemann, John Finnis, Germain Grisez, and the group of the “45 theologians,” among many others. Together with them, only one bishop, Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, has dared to express open criticism and a strong demand for clarification. Some other prelates, like the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Card. Müller, have preferred indirect resistance, somehow in accordance with the indirectness of the disciplinary and doctrinal changes put forward in the document. While these changes are left indirect in Amoris Laetitia itself, they have since been sustained and made perfectly clear by a series of declarations issued and actions taken by the pope and his closest counselors, like Card. Kasper, Card. Schönborn, Card. Coccopalmerio, Card. Maradiaga, and Fr. Spadaro, among others.

In the light of this grave situation, last September, a group of four cardinals (Burke, Caffarra, Brandmüller, and Meisner) presented the CDF with five dubia, asking essentially whether previous magisterial teaching about marriage and adultery and more in general about the absolute binding force of negative commandments is still in vigor. These dubia went unanswered, so the cardinals made them public, opening them to general debate, and so encouraging a discussion among the laity as well. And the debate has been growing, although only a few bishops and a group of 23 scholars have openly supported these dubia.

Since then, three ways of action have been taken by the world episcopacy. In one camp sit those faithful to traditional teaching who have issued “lines of interpretation” in accordance with Amoris Laetitia and have not been censored by the pope. In the second camp, those who favor the change have made more explicit the permission to sacramental Communion and have openly been approved and thanked by the pope. Finally, in the third camp, the vast majority of bishops have chosen silence, in this way not contradicting traditional teaching and at the same time avoiding a possible clash with the pope. It is not an exaggeration to say that so confused a situation has never been recorded inside the Catholic Church in 2,000 years.

Among the six contributions given on April 22, we focus on four – namely, those who present the main doctrinal points, in relation to the plea of clarity being urgently presented to the pope. In order to have a synthetic view and avoid repetition, I will take Prof. Farrow’s conference as a guideline, because it seems to me that it contains the most complete overview of the doctrinal problems posed by Amoris Laetitia, put into a historical perspective and in relation to previous heresies in the history of Christianity. Then I shall add relevant contributions to particular aspects, taken from the other conferences.

Prof. Douglas Farrow: A Divided God

Douglas Farrow, in fact, went directly to the main doctrinal problems posed by Amoris Laetitia, tracing their remote origin as far as the Marcionite heresy in the second century A.D.

Marcion, an original thinker among the wider stream of Gnostic interpretations of Christianity, directly opposed the God of the Old Testament, just but not good, inferior to the God of the New Testament, the Father of Jesus, good and merciful, but not just. To coherently achieve such an ambitious goal, Marcion had to put “Scripture against Scripture,” and he didn’t refrain from cutting away as “spurious” large parts of the New Testament, because, of course, many passages from the N.T. bear testimony to the identity of the supposed “two Gods.” In a similar vein, many passages of the O.T. had to be arbitrarily set aside in order to make this proposal coherent – namely, all those that speak of God’s goodness and mercy.

Now, as St. Irenaeus correctly noted, this way of thinking introduces a contradiction in the very notion of God, because it sees in opposition two perfections that are really interdependent and that cannot be rationally thought of as separate from each other.

Quoting directly St. Irenaeus:

That they might remove the rebuking and judicial power from the Father, reckoning that as unworthy of God, and thinking that they had found out a God without anger and merely kind or good, they have alleged that one God judges but that another saves. (Adversus Haereses III.25)

By thus dividing God, the Marcionites unwittingly deny “the intelligence and justice of both deities,” putting an end to deity altogether:

For, if the judicial one is not also good enough to bestow favors upon the deserving and to direct reproofs against those requiring them, he will appear neither a just nor a wise judge. On the other hand, the good God, if he is merely good and not one who tests those upon whom he shall send his goodness, will be beyond both goodness and justice; his goodness will seem imperfect, as not saving all who deserve it, if it be not accompanied with judgment.

Prof. Farrow comments:

Today, our neo-Marcionites are more subtle. They do not speak of two gods, but they do speak of the one God, as if he lacked judgment or could be known only by way of his mercy. They say they are serving this one God when they accompany non-judgmentally all who desire their accompaniment. “Judge not, that you be not judged” – here is a Scripture – indeed, a dominical saying – of which they are quite certain. Very good. But they forget to speak to those whom they accompany of the judgment of God, which is a very different matter than the judgment of mere men. They forget to speak to them of the holiness without which no one will see God. They think that to speak thus is intrusive, insensitive, rigid, or at all events unrealistic. Who would willingly listen to such a thing? Who wants to hear of the judgment of God?

So, in reality, this strange and contradictory doctrine is due to “a persistent moral problem, for it is a feature of fallen man that he projects his own disorder into the heavens, imagining strife in God as the real source of his own strife.”

Fallen man, left to his own forces, we may add, doesn’t really want sanctification, but nevertheless, he fears the consequences of his sin, so he turns to a doctrine that says that “justification is possible without sanctification” – that is, mercy without justice. So, Prof. Farrow concludes, connecting Marcion with Luther, “[the Council of] Trent has been undone.”

Prof. Farrow goes on to emphasize that, in order to attack such a central doctrine as the Catholic doctrine of sanctification and justification, the whole Tradition must be put on the bench of the accused:

Now, to divide God, it is necessary to divide his Revelation: not just Scripture from Scripture, but Scripture from Tradition. Tradition itself is regarded with suspicion as that which confines us in error rather than that which maintains us in the truth. So they do it violence. And their violence extends, as Cardinal Sarah (The Catholic World Report, 31 March 2017) recently observed, as far as the Gospel itself. In his remarks to a colloquium on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, he speaks of “a horrible, outrageous thing that seems like the desire for … a complete break with the Church’s past” – as if “the apostolic Church and the Christian communities in the early centuries of Christianity understood nothing of the Gospel,” as if the Gospel has remained all but unrecognized until our own time, as if it were “only in our era that the plan of salvation brought by Jesus has been understood”!

To better understand the historical connection that links the Lutheran tenet of the destruction of Tradition with the present situation, Prof. Farrow briefly mentions the Modernist doctrine defended by Fr. Ernesto Buonaiuti at the beginning of the twentieth century, “whose handling of Scripture and Tradition is thoroughly Protestant in spirit even where it is Catholic in form. The outright rejection of [Pope St. Pius X’s landmark anti-Modernist encyclical] Pascendi dominici gregis marks a turning point of sorts in Catholicism,” which explains how “we should eventually be presented with a puzzle like Amoris Laetitia.”

Although the Second Vatican Council made a strong mention of Tradition (Prof. Farrow quotes Dei Verbum 7-10), it’s not difficult to see that a Protestant view of Scripture thoroughly penetrated Catholic theology and exegesis. “The function of the Magisterium,” Prof. Farrow explains, “is therefore in doubt. The new voice of authority is that of the conscience.”

Finally, the destruction of Tradition leads to the misconstruction of conscience itself:

Our present problem – and a major component of the current crisis – is that conscience is being misconstrued as a source of moral authority alongside natural and divine law: a source capable of overriding not merely the ius canonicum and sacramental discipline, but dominical teaching and the lex credendi, on which such discipline is based.

In reference to the dubia, Prof. Farrow rightly points out that the heart of the doctrinal problem we face can be synthesized in the fifth dubium:

After asking for clarification, in the first dubium, regarding a single type of situation – sexual relations that, because of Jesus’s own words, have always been regarded as adulterous: are they adulterous or are they not? – the burden of the others comes to rest in the fifth, regarding the role of conscience in relation to Scripture and Tradition:

After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, which excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience 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?

Finally, Prof. Farrow expounds on the practical consequences of this change:

Where the conscience is excused from reckoning with the intrinsic nature of an act, and set directly to wrestling with the subjective and circumstantial and consequential dimensions of the act, the requisite contrition, penance, and absolution will be quite different. And this will have implications for the external forum also. What was once regarded as adultery, and hence as a disqualification for Communion, will now be regarded as a new form of fidelity, and hence as a qualification – in which case, the Eucharist itself will be made witness to this fidelity that was once an infidelity.

I said earlier that the dubia, having been deemed necessary, are necessarily in need of an answer. But it is not so simple as that. Considered substantively, and not merely procedurally, the dubia are indeed necessary, but the fifth, at least, cannot be answered – or rather, the only possible answer would be to withdraw the offending section of Amoris Laetitia and to correct or clarify the premises, appearing elsewhere, which support that section.

This last remark is especially important: many voices, in the last months, have expressed the desire that the dubia be answered, of course in a way coherent with traditional teaching. But here Prof. Farrow correctly points out that this would not be enough, because, if one regards VS 56 as still valid, based as it is in Scripture and Tradition, then a positive answer to the fifth dubium cannot coherently coexist with Amoris Laetitia’s Chapter 8 and also with the premises to it that appear elsewhere in the document. On reflection, the same reasoning must be applied to the other four dubia as well, for the very reason that they ultimately depend on the fifth. So, really, the presentation of the dubia logically amounts to a petition of withdrawing AL’s Chapter 8 and supporting passages (which should be precisely identified). Until this is done, a lethal contradiction will remain between the present Magisterium and Tradition and continue to be a source of persistent infection and schism within the Church.

Prof. Claudio Pierantoni: Heretical Popes and the Four Levels of Danger

Prof. Pierantoni’s conference also puts the present controversy into a historical perspective, but from a different point of view: he tries to compare the examples of “heretical popes” of the ancient Church – namely, Liberius and Honorius I – with the present case. The case of Honorius is especially interesting for our purpose, because he was formally condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople (A.D. 681), the sixth ecumenical council in Church history, for his affirmation of the doctrine of the “one will” in Christ, whereas the Council solemnly proclaimed the doctrine of the “two wills,” divine and human, which follows logically from the doctrine, previously established in the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), of the “two natures” united in the one Person of Christ. Then Pope Leo II confirmed Honorius’s condemnation by the Council, adding a formal censure to the negligence of Honorius, which permitted the spreading of the heresy. So we can here observe that the condemnation of a pope may be based not only on a formal heresy, but also on practical conduct on a pope’s part that tolerates heresy or, in the present case of Francis, even favors it openly.

Synthesizing the comparison between the ancient popes and the present case, Prof. Pierantoni states:

However, despite their differences, taken in a general way, the two cases of Liberius and Honorius have an important point in common, and that is the fact that both their interventions took place while the process of formulating the respective dogmas was still in progress, the Trinitarian one in the case of Liberius and the Christological one in the case of Honorius. … Now, this point that unites the doctrinal deviation of the two popes of antiquity is undoubtedly their extenuating circumstance, but unfortunately this same thing is the point that contrasts them to the doctrinal deviation that is occurring during the current pontificate, which instead has a strong aggravating factor in [Pope Francis’s] setting himself [not] against doctrines not yet [clear], or in the process of being formulated, but against doctrines that, in addition to being firmly anchored in Tradition, have also already been exhaustively debated in recent decades and clarified in detail by the recent Magisterium. So this is not only a deviation of the Magisterium from Tradition taken in general, but also a direct contradiction of the pronouncements of the very recent Magisterium.

After that, analyzing in more detail the case of Francis, Prof. Pierantoni highlights four levels of doctrinal error contained in Amoris Laetitia, showing how the accumulation of arguments, supposedly in favor of his proposal, leads the pope to put in grave danger fundamental elements of Christian doctrine.

On the first level, the indissolubility of marriage, although verbally stated, is put in doubt practically if someone cohabiting is admitted to Communion.

Since that appears to be highly problematic, on a second level, an emphasis is made in the document about the subjective situation of ignorance or unconsciousness that may exculpate what, objectively speaking, is adultery – but this, Prof. Pierantoni observes, contrasts sharply with the emphasis the document puts on discernment and accompaniment. In fact, what appears to be directly contradictory is how a person in the process of accurate discernment may still be supposed to be “ignorant” or  “unconscious.”

Trying (more or less consciously) to escape this contradiction, AL sinks into a third level of doctrinal deformation, supposing that through discernment, one may discover that one’s situation, which objectively contradicts the Commandments, and therefore the Natural Law, may be something that is not only permitted, but actually asked by God in that situation. That, Prof. Pierantoni stresses, is contradictory with the very essence of Natural Law, which is not an extrinsic or merely positive law, but reflects the very nature of the human being:

To serve as a simple comparison for us: the positive law that governs the movement of a car in a certain country is one thing; the instruction booklet written by the vehicle manufacturer is another thing. If I exceed a speed limit for a vital emergency, let us suppose, I can also be morally justified, because the rule, while just in itself, however, is not absolute, because it is not intrinsically linked to the essence of the vehicle. If, on the other hand, I contravene the directive of the manufacturer, who tells me that the car was designed to run on gasoline, no emergency or exception, certainly no discernment, will serve to ensure that the car could run with diesel. To use diesel is therefore a bad thing not because it is “forbidden” by some external law, but because it is intrinsically irrational, because it contradicts the very nature of the vehicle.

Therefore, to suppose that the Natural Law may admit exceptions is a true and proper contradiction. It is a supposition that does not understand its true essence and therefore confuses it with positive law.

This confusion between Natural Law and positive law clearly accounts for AL’s violent (and justly resented) attacks on “legalists.” In fact, in Jesus’s idea, the Pharisees are often wrong because they rigidly stick to “precepts of men” (positive laws), putting aside fundamental divine laws, whereas there certainly is no hint in the Gospel that Jesus criticizes someone for sticking to the Ten Commandments!

And now we get to the fourth level of doctrinal deformation, because Natural Law is of course the very Law that the Author of Nature has given. The Divine Person of Christ, namely the Logos, the Word who was in the beginning (John 1:1), is precisely He through whom all things came to exist (John 1:3). In short, to speak of the Natural Law as if it were a mere positive and fallible law, a humanly conceived general rule that may have exceptions, is to misconstrue the divine nature of the Person of Christ, God’s Word – so it is tantamount to doing away with the very essence of the Gospel and the whole of Revelation, which is of course the direct expression of God’s personal Word and the manifestation of the Father Himself: “the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

In conclusion:

What … leaps to the attention in the current situation is precisely the underlying doctrinal deformation that, as skillful as it may be in evading directly heterodox formulations, still maneuvers, in a coherent way, to carry forward an attack not only against particular dogmas like the indissolubility of marriage and the objectivity of the moral law, but even against the very concept of right doctrine, and with it, of the very person of Christ as Logos. The first victim of this doctrinal deformation is precisely the pope, who I hazard to conjecture is hardly aware of this, a victim of a generalized epochal alienation from Tradition in large segments of theological teaching. After him, there are innumerable victims who fall into deception. …

In the light of all this, it therefore becomes more necessary than ever, as initially provided for at least by Cardinal Burke, to make a further act of courage, truth, and charity, on the part of the cardinals, but also of the bishops and then of all the qualified laity who would like to adhere to it. In such a serious situation of danger for the faith and of generalized scandal, it is not only licit, but even obligatory for an inferior to fraternally correct his superior, always done in charity. Even the hierarchical or religious obedience must not be used, in this case of general danger, as an excuse to silence the truth.

So Prof. Pierantoni stresses the importance and urgency of fraternal correction, which would neither be “an act of hostility nor a lack of respect nor an act of disobedience.” Much less would it provoke a schism, since “there is no record … that any of the cardinals would want to hold that Francis is not the pope, and even less that someone wants to get himself elected anti-pope. The true schism, which is increasing every day, is rather a de facto one that only a fraternal correction may restrain.”

A fraternal correction would be “nothing other than a declaration of truth: caritas in veritate. The pope, even before being pope, is our brother, and this is therefore a primordial duty of charity toward him. We will be called to account for his destiny, as well as that of all those who rely on his guidance.”

Now, complementing Douglas Farrow’s proposal with my own, I add that a correction, to be really decisive, should ask that AL, Chapter 8 be withdrawn, along with passages that are meant to prepare it.

Prof. Thibaud Collin: Conscience above Christ

Thirdly, we shall take into account Prof. Thibaud Collin, who focused on the problem of conscience and its misconstruction in Amoris Laetitia. Prof. Collin too puts AL into a historical perspective, this time reminding us of the resistance against Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, which restated the Church’s complete opposition to contraception.

Compared to Humanae Vitae, the situation with Amoris Laetitia involves an inversion of roles: Prof. Collin sees a striking similarity between HV’s critics and the present papal document. In fact, both propose to treat the objective requirements of the moral law as an ideal, an “optional choice” that may fit some privileged people in ideal situations but is not binding for all Catholics. He mentions the “pastoral note on HV of French Bishops of November 1968, §16,” which practically left the observance of HV to subjective and situational judgment, with a reference to “conflict of duties,” an argument very similar to the one proposed in AL.

Collin observes:

This reception was practically a liquidation. Moral normativity was transformed into a mere suggestion, reserved to the most zealous among the faithful, to those who live in optimal conditions to live it.

In short, Prof. Collin concludes, “it was a pastoral fiasco.”

In practice, out of fear of proposing true change of a sinful situation, many shepherds preferred a kind of indefinite “accompaniment.” “Toward what?” Prof. Collin asks.

A pastoral “bougisme” [movement for the sake of movement] can exist, a kind of ”infinite progress,” of which the finality is hidden, because it is identified with the end of an almost endless path, in any case a distant one, and lost in a mist. But the finality of Christian life is not in the future; it’s in the present: the loving union with God, who offers with generosity the grace for us to consent freely to it. That never goes without the Cross, but Jesus waits there for us.

Complementing Profs. Farrow’s and Pierantoni’s remarks, Prof. Collin rightly points out that what we observe in AL’s proposal is a “shifting from erroneous conscience to an objectivation of error”: “The Law of God is here nothing more than an element that must be weighed among other elements, concrete and particular.” The Divine Law is perceived as “abstract,” and “the concrete possibilities of the faithful are invoked as criteria in order to determine God’s will.” In this way, the author asks, “How can we avoid that divine mercy is turned into worldly tolerance?”

In fact, this perception of Divine Law as “abstract” is much “more Kantian than Christian”; it is “a legalist and worldly conception of [Divine] Law.”

On the contrary, the author stresses:

God’s Law is also eminently personal and concrete, because it is a Law written in every person’s heart. God, for example, tells me: “If you want to adore me and be happy, love your spouse and be faithful to her.”

AL’s “sociologism” and “pedagogism” are “contrary to God’s design, revealed and entrusted to the Church. It’s contrary to the good that everybody can realize with God’s omnipotent grace.” Because “nothing is impossible to God.”

Prof. Collin aptly concludes with words from the Council of Trent:

But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should make use of that rash statement forbidden under an anathema by the Fathers, that the commandments of God are impossible to observe for a man who is justified. For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you both to do what you can do, and to pray for what you cannot do, and assists you that you may be able” (St. Augustine, De Natura et Gratia 43), “whose commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3), “whose yoke is sweet and whose burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). (Council of Trent, Sess. VI, Cum hoc tempore, cap. 11, Denzinger 1536)

Prof. Anna Silvas: No Orthodox Interpretation

Finally, we shall now turn to Prof. Anna Silvas’s contribution, which, in a sharp synthesis, relentlessly unmasks our Church’s tragic situation. She starts with a brief mention of the “spirit of modernity” and the critical situation the Church lived in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II. After that, she says:

Under St. John Paul II, we seemed to have something of a “push-back” for a while, at least in some areas, especially his intense explication of the nuptial mystery of our first creation, in support of Humanae Vitae. This continued under Benedict XVI, with some attempt to address liturgical decay and the moral “filth” of clerical sexual abuse. We had hoped that some remediation at least was in train. Now, in the few short years of Pope Francis’s pontificate, the stale and musty spirit of the seventies has resurged, bringing with it seven other demons. And if we were in any doubt about this before, Amoris Laetitia and its aftermath in the past year make it perfectly clear that this is our crisis. That this alien spirit appears to have finally swallowed up the See of Peter, dragging ever widening cohorts of compliant higher Church leadership into its net, is its most dismaying, and indeed shocking, aspect to many of us, the Catholic lay faithful.

Prof. Silvas goes on to confront the issue of different interpretations, and particularly of the attempt to interpret the text in an orthodox way. This she finds “very strange”:

There is one group, however, whose approach I find very strange: the intentionally orthodox among higher prelates and theologians who treat the turmoil arising from Amoris Laetitia as a matter of “misinterpretations.” They will focus on the text alone, abstracted from any of the known antecedents in the words and acts of Pope Francis himself or its wider historical context. It is as if they interpose a chasm that cannot be crossed between the person of the pope on the one hand, over whose signature this document was published, and the “text” of the document on the other hand. With the Holy Father safely quarantined out of all consideration, they are free to address the problem, which they identify as “misuse” of the text. They then express the pious plea that the Holy Father “correct” these errors.

No doubt the perceived constraints of piety to the successor of Peter account for these contorted maneuvers. I know, I know! We have been facing down that conundrum for a year or longer. But to any sane and thoughtful reader, who, in the words of the 45 Theologians’ Censures, is “not trying to twist the words of the document in any direction, but … take the natural or the immediate impression of the meaning of the words to be correct,” this smacks of a highly wrought artificiality.

Pope Francis’s “intent” in this text is perfectly recoverable from the text itself, reading normally and naturally and without filters.

It clearly appears, we may add, that even isolating the text, without analyzing the general context, is not sufficient to exculpate AL; the intention behind it is very clear. Prof. Silvas’s analysis, and the examples that follow, complement here what we saw in Prof. Pierantoni’s conference about doctrines that are clearly implied, although not directly and formally stated. Just one example among the various she gives:

The first of the cardinals’ five dubia concludes: “Can the expression ‘in certain cases’ found in Note 351 of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio [as husband and wife]?” Without doubt, a papal clarification of the intent in this footnote is of urgent importance to the Church. Nevertheless, what the pope intended is clear from the beginning of this current section, number 301. His topic is “those living in ‘irregular situations.’” All that is said a few lines later about those in situations of objective sin growing in grace and charity and sanctification, maybe with the help of the sacraments … is posted under this heading of “irregular situations.”

So what the dubium asks is not really so dubious; it is unambiguously conveyed by the text of AL, Chapter 8, although not directly formulated.

Prof. Silvas concludes this section as follows:

And there are many other instances like this. As early as the preface, he alerts us that “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight” and then late in that chapter (308) admits obliquely that his approach may leave room for confusion. Let us believe him: this is his intent, which is not all that difficult to grasp.

Then Prof. Silvas cites a few well known episodes that confirm the pope’s intentions – whereupon she stunningly concludes:

Pope Francis, I am sure, is very well aware of the doctrine of papal infallibility, knows how high are its provisos – and is astute enough never to trigger its mechanism. The unique prestige of the papacy in the Catholic Church, together with the practical affective papalism of many Catholics, however, is a useful asset, and all of these he will exploit to the full. For to Francis, and we have to grasp this, infallibility doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all, if he can continue to be the sort of change agent in the Church he wants to be. That this is his spirit we learn in AL 3, where he says: “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. John 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.”

But I think “the spirit” to which Francis so soothingly alludes has more to do with Hegel’s Geist than with the Holy Spirit of whom our blessed Lord speaks, the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him (cf. John 14:17). The Hegelian Geist, on the other hand, manifests itself in the midst of contradictions and oppositions, surmounting them in a new synthesis, without eliminating the polarities or reducing one to the other. This is the Gnostic spirit of the cult of modernity.

So Francis will pursue his agenda without papal infallibility, and without fussing about magisterial pronouncements. He tells us so in the third paragraph of AL: “since ‘time is greater than space,’ I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.” We are in a world of dynamic fluidity here, of starting open-ended processes, of sowing seeds of desired change that will triumph over time. Other theorists – you have here, in Italy, Gramsci and his manifesto of cultural Marxism – teach how to achieve revolution by stealth. So within the Church, Francis and his collaborators deal with the matter of doctrine, not by confronting theory head on, because if they did so, they would be defeated, but by an incremental change of praxis, played to the siren song of plausible persuasions, until the praxis is sufficiently built up over time[.]

So, Prof. Silvas concludes, it is unjust to blame supposedly bad interpretations of this text:

I think it an injustice to blame these bishops for “misuse” of AL. No, they have drawn the conclusions patent to any thoughtful, unblinkered reader of this papal document. The blame, however, and the tragedy for the Church, lies in the intent embedded and articulated well enough in Amoris Laetitia itself, and in the naïve papalism on the part of bishops, that has so poor a purchase on the Church’s imperishable obedience of faith, that it cannot perceive when it is under most dangerous attack, even from that most lofty quarter.

In this game of subterfuge and incremental intent, the elaborate talk of painstaking “discernment” and “accompaniment” of difficult moral situations has a definite function – as a temporary blind for the ultimate goal. Have we not seen how the dark arts of the “hard case” work in secular politicking, used to pivot the next tranche of social re-engineering? So now in the politics of the Church. The final result will be precisely in accord with Archbishop Bergoglio’s tacit practice for years in Buenos Aires. Make no mistake: the endgame is a more or less indifferent permission for any who presents for Holy Communion. And so we attain the longed for haven of all-inclusiveness and “mercy”: the terminal trivialization of the Eucharist, of sin and repentance, of the sacrament of Matrimony, of any belief in objective and transcendent truth, the evisceration of language, and of any stance of compunction before the living God, the God of Holiness and Truth. If I may adapt here a saying of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Mercy without truth is the mother of dissolution” (Super Matthaeum, V, l.2). [The original statement is “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.”]

In this gloomy situation, Prof. Silvas, too, reminds our cardinals of the promised correction:

Is it still a possibility – the cardinals’ proposed fraternal correction of the pope? We heard of this last November, and it surely lifted our beleaguered spirits. But now it is the end of April, and nothing has come of it. I cannot help but think of that passage from Shakespeare – There is a tide in the affairs of men… – and wonder if the tide has come and gone, and we the lay faithful are left stranded again.

Although striking here a note of skepticism regarding what result could really come out of it, still Prof. Silvas pleads:

Well, I hope so, dear cardinals, I hope so. We, the faithful, beg you: forget about calculating prudent outcomes. Real prudence should tell you when it is the right time for courageous witness, whose other name is martyrdom.

In the final part of her conference, Anna Silvas also struck a contemplative note of hope, talking especially to laity and the ability we have to resist the false spirit even without enjoying institutional power, either in the Church or in the world. She made reference to Rod Dreher’s recent book, The Benedict Option, that indicates the necessity of concentrating in our families or small communities, where silent work, profound prayer, and the practice of virtues in a hidden, apparently insignificant existence (like that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings) can be the most “politically effective” action, just like the silent work and prayer of medieval monks during the fall of the Roman Empire and the chaos that followed.

This final exhortation to a contemplative and hidden action makes even more profound sense if we put it in relation with the previous remark Prof. Silvas made about Card. Newman’s famous “notes” that distinguish true doctrinal development from corruption:

The seventh note is “chronic vigor.” Over time, a corruption shows itself to be exceedingly vigorous – but only at the beginning of the “infection,” since it does not possess the life to sustain itself in the long term. It will run its course and die out. The Life of Grace, however, possesses in itself the Divine Life and will therefore throw off in the course of time all that militates against it. Truth perdures. There will be moments of high drama, but, eventually, it must necessarily prevail.

But certainly, it may be noted, this exhortation to contemplation does not exclude the exhortation to martyrdom. On the contrary, we may correctly say that it prepares martyrdom and makes it possible.

* * *

So, in a final summary and conclusion of these four conferences, we can say the following.

  1. A deep doctrinal crisis is showing itself in the Catholic Church, of which the access to Communion is only the tip of the iceberg, a sample of a profound doctrinal deformation that reaches to the most fundamental truths about God and Christ.
  2. This crisis is now infecting the highest ranking people in the Church, including the papacy itself, although a strong resistance is manifested by a minority of the clergy and the laity, showing the sane reaction of a vital body to an infection.
  3. In this spiritual fight, we must certainly rediscover the coherence and depth of our doctrine, but also deepen our prayer and contemplative dimension, which can nourish our charity and our faith in the ultimate triumph of Truth.
  4. In light of all this, a clear and definite testimony – martyrdom – is now urgently needed, on the part of all cardinals, bishops, clergy, and laity who are aware of this tragedy – a fraternal correction that speaks frankly to the pope and his counselors, that states the truth beyond all human calculation and false prudence.
  5. This correction must necessarily include not only the plea for a clarification, but also the plea for an outright withdrawal (or at least a thorough rewording) of AL, Chapter 8 and all passages that prepare the heretical doctrines that are clearly there implied.

94 thoughts on “Making Clarity about Amoris Laetitia”

  1. Does anyone know whether this piece of trash posing as magisterial teaching has been uploaded to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis?
    On the Vatican website it only goes to 2015, though that is hardly to be trusted.

  2. The Reformers of the 16th century were NOT modernists, but religious conservatives albeit rallying around the error of “sola scriptura.” Even so, to be a basic conservative rallying around the Scriptures was not to agree with modernism. Modernism invaded the seminaries and theology departments of the academy and wreaked havoc in the Protestant denominational institutions of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it did not do so without the most vicious fight and spiritual battle: men lost their careers over it. Many a Catholic convert, like myself, spent years fighting it even when Anglican and Protestant. The fight was enjoined as early as the Tubingen heresies of scriptural interpretation invaded England in the 1830s. Pusey was just one who took up this battle when he published his defense of the Book of Daniel and its prophecies, and Newman along with them. These men of the first founding wave of the Oxford Movement experienced warfare with the founders of theological modernism and prophesied the coming harm to the Church. There were then revealed Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists too who experienced Modernism’s disastrous intrusions and fought against it: one need only look at the scholarly career of Rev John Gresham Machen and how the first modernists at Princeton kicked him out of the seminary and he had to, reluctantly, found a new one in Philadelphia: – Suffice to say that orthodox Protestants and Anglicans deplore modernism, fought and bled against it, and would today stand with those Catholics who are resisting the continued invasion of modernism into the Catholic and Orthodox churches. They too would roll over in their grave at the modernist assault on Christianity and so would Luther, Calvin, Hooker, Pusey, Newman (even the pre-Catholic one!) Knox, Chalmers, & M’Cheyne, Warfield, Hodge and Gresham Machen. For philosophical and theological modernism is NOT only schismatical as Protestantism was. It has a more evil pedigree that neither respects Scripture, Pope, nor Tradition. Its the Great and Last Apostasy which will bring in Antichrist and the Lord’s Return in Judgement upon it, when he will throw modernism in to the Lake of Fire and all those who were its Baal-like cultists.

  3. 1P5 does all Catholics a very serious service in bringing us this article. The crisis we face could not be more profound: the very existence of the Catholic religion is threatened.

  4. Those who are aware and informed are struggling. Those who are not are living in the “peace” of blissful ignorance. (Or Maybe Not. Or Perhaps For A Time.)

  5. One can only wonder if the proponents and defenders of AL will hear and listen. And if they do, will they persist in this hardening of their hearts?

  6. From the beginning, I have failed to understand how anyone could not understand the heresy of this document from its plain wording. At its basic core it attacks the doctrine of Sanctifing Grace. It’s now “just can’t help it”. Accompany, discern. No more mortal sin. Modernism full blown on a core doctrine of the faith.

  7. “It is not an exaggeration to say that so confused a situation has never been recorded inside the Catholic Church in 2,000 years.” Indeed, this is the reality that we face. There is no credible excuse for the Pope to remain silent regarding the dubia submitted via the four courageous cardinals, all within accord with the age old tradition of the Church and in perfect harmony with well established Doctrines and Disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church . In fact, the dubia submitted are all essential well defined elements of the Catholic Faith, so much so that every Catholic News outlet should be reporting daily on the Holy Father’s failure to address them. The fact that the majority have not is in and of itself a scandal of great proportion.

    We are in a place and time in the Church unprecedented by History and the fact that the vast majority of Bishops and Cardinals have remained silent about it is a testimony against them that will resonate throughout eternity.

    May God deliver us from these wolves and hirelings. Amen.

    • Wasn’t St John Fisher the only martyr amongst the Bishops of his time whilst the rest stayed silent. Yes, dear Bishops, Christ is calling you out of your ‘comfort zone’; who will you follow, the sheep or the goats and we all know where that will end!!!

      • There was another Bishop, an old man, who would have gone to the block with Fisher but died before Henry could have him arrested. Can’t remember his name but think it was the Bishop of Lincoln.

        But yes, two out of thirty-odd. Not good.

        Numbers mean nothing. When Bergoglio’s Chavez-Maduro style acolytes go on about the vast majority being on their side, they merely display their departure from the Faith into the thinking of secular politics.

        • Forsooth, O Tireless Protector of the Revolting Peasant, twas not the Bishop of Lincoln, one John Longland. This varlet was Henry’s confessor and is reputed to have been instrumental in stirring up doubts in the king’s mind about the ‘validity’ of his marriage. Thou mayest be thinking of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham (died 1532) whose conduct during the King’s Affair was decidedly equivocal at times but who, despite being subjected to various threats, nevertheless steadfastly refused to consider the marriage question in his court without the consent of Pope Clement VII.

          Poor Henry! Now if only he’d lived during the reign of a more ‘accommodating’ pontiff…

    • The true Catholic Church does not teach that which is confusing or ambiguous. It teaches with clarity and precision. Only the Devil causes confusion and chaos.

  8. Francis would blithely dismiss these scholars as “rigid” “Doctors of the law” and probably add a few other pejoratives as well. He was back at it today in the Domus Sancta Marthae, with his daily rant…..excuse me……homily…..about “rigid” young people in the Church.

    Pope Francis: Many young people in the Church have fallen into the “temptation of rigidity”

    No, Francis. These young people are the Church’s future and they believe in toto what the Church teaches. They’ve had enough of faithless old has-beens like you who’ve emptied the seminaries and the pews by your compromises with the world and your groveling before the zeitgeist in search of worldly acclaim.

    • PF has tried very hard, any which way he can to confuse, divide, mess up and dictate all faithful Catholics in order to destroy Christ’s Church. Better obey God’s command and hold dearly tradition that has been true for almost 2000 years. Don’t loose heart, God is with us.

    • “Many old people, priests, bishops, cardinals, (even popes) have fallen into the temptation of sloppiness.”
      Young people are the future of the Church: Liberal sloppiness already belongs to the past.
      Let’s hope that the modernist dinosaurs who are currently clinging to their power in the Church will die soon before they have destroyed Her, thus clearing the way to Her true renewal.

  9. It is not merely Chapter 8 of AL that must be removed, but the author, his ghost writers and all his Spadaros and other assorted stooges.

    Bergoglio has proven conclusively a dozen times he is an heretic and no pope can be an heretic. What are the so-called leaders of the Church waiting for??!!! It will not go well for them if the Lord comes again and finds them asleep!

  10. Once you pull the thread on the sweater, though, you can’t unwind Francis’ ‘pastoral’ acceptance of adultery without unwinding the Church’s ‘pastoral’ acceptance of usury.

    Mortally sinful behaviors are either objectively condemnable grave matter, or they aren’t. Conscience and changing conditions can either make previously-sinful actions acceptable, or they can’t.

    Choose wisely, but recognize that the pivot point on moral theology is the 1830’s not the 1960’s or 2016.

      • The situation with usury has been – since the 1830’s – precisely what Francis is attempting to accomplish with (some kinds of) adultery. The doctrine remains as a kind of decoration, far in the background, to which nobody pays any attention and which very few people understand; while ‘pastorally’ everyone pretty much ‘follows their conscience’. There is certainly no outrage that unrepentant public usurers regularly receive Communion; in fact the official “pastoral” position of the Church is (since the declarations of the 1830’s) that priests who absolve unrepentant usurers are “not to be disturbed”. And many usurers probably don’t even understand that what they are doing is gravely immoral.

        If you want to understand the likely future of contraception and adultery (absent the intervention of Providence), look to usury in the present.

        If you want to resist that future of contraception and adultery, it starts with resistance to usury in the present.

        • In a word – no.

          Usury means the practice of making unethical or immoral loans that unfairly enrich the lender. In a pre-industrial world where money was gold or silver, thus no inflation, and there were no commercial banks, adding a premium to a loan of currency was usury.

          With rise of fiat paper money, commercial banking, inflatin, and all that goes with it, a certain rate of interest was required to put the lender in the same relative position as he was prior to the loan. Add to this a reasonable profit, which makes the making of loans possible, and interest is neither unethical nor immoral.

          Loan sharking and other nefarious practices are still usury and are still sinful.

          There is no analogy to be made between that and adultery.

          • Your response proves my point. Future versions of you will reflexively produce similar well established rationalizations on the subjects of contraception and adultery, and why in the Current Year it is great that people in third “marriages” are receiving Communion.

            If you want to actually understand usury (as explained in actual Magisterial documents), you might find my own FAQ helpful:


          • My response proved my point.

            No, usury is not lending money for “profitable” interest.

            No, charging interest is not always immoral no matter what interest rate is charged.

            Thomas Aquinas did address the selling of something which does exist in fiat currency commercial banking system – the time value of money. He couldn’t – it did not yet exist.

          • Any profitable interest on a mutuum – not all contracts which we label “loans” are mutuum contracts specifically – is usury.

            It is up to you, but you might consider taking the time to become more informed on the subject of usury (what it is and, just as importantly, is not) before dismissing the close parallel between ‘pastoral’ acceptance of usury in the 1800’s and (attempted) ‘pastoral’ acceptance of (some
            kinds of) adultery and contraception in the present day.

          • I read your material, i.e. spiel.

            A mutuum loan is a loan of personal chattels to be consumed by the borrower, and to be
            returned to the lender in kind and quantity; .e.g. a loan of corn, wine, or specie, which are to be used or consumed, and are to be replaced by
            other corn, wine, or specie.

            It does not include fiat currency loans since they do not consist of personal chattel. Paper currency, or entries in accounting records, are not chattel.

            They represent claims to future paper currency or entries in accounting records at some future point where the chattel for which they may remained may be less than what those same claims would purchase today.

            To put the loaner in the same position as he was when he made the loan it may be necessary to reimburse him for the difference in buying power. In addition those who process the loan are entitled to fair wages for the work they did to make the loan and to service it.

            Were this the 13th century when all money was specie, or if we operated under sharia law, you would have a point.

            There is no parallel with adultery.

          • You must have missed (among other things) the part where the ignorant medieval Magisterium expressly condemns charging interest to recover “opportunity cost” or “time value of money”. And the part where “time value of money” may licitly be recovered from nonrecourse “loans.”

            Again your reaction and rhetoric simply demonstrate the point: people with exactly the ‘conservative’ (for lack of a better term) mindset you demonstrate here will, in the future, defend Francis’ pastoral innovations on adultery with similar zeal.

          • The medieval theological opinions and speculations – not magisterium – could not consider charging interest to recover “opportunity cost” or “time value of money” in the modern sense in a paper economy since it did not exist and would not generally until early in the 20th century.

            Your argument consists of a tangle of equivocations resting on the use of words which – as is common in English – are the same but describe different things.

            The same thing occurs in discussing “slavery”, which in the Roman era included a number of classes of people that today we would not consider slaves, but in English has never meant anything but chattel slavery.

            In any case, there is no connection whatsoever with adultery. A defense of Francis’ apparent errors would rest on the kind of confusion your argument on usury exhibits.

          • I know, I know. Times have changed, conditions have changed, Aquinas knew nothing about property and finance that applies to the Current Year, and the full throated Magisterial condemnation of usury for a thousand years is at this point just a doctrinal decoration with no implications for how everyman lives.

          • Missing completely from the history of the topic is a “full throated Magisterial condemnation” of things which did not even exist at the time.

            Things existed for which we use the same terms.

            For an example, a Roman household slave at the time of Jesus had legally defined rights and was often a complete member of the family, a completely different matter than described in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.

            Yes, usury is immoral, was immoral, and remains immoral. Reasonable interest in a modern fiat paper economy is not usury, which is not a synonym for interest.

          • “The Pill is totally new
            technology; the condemnation of contraception doesn’t apply.”

          • Morally the pill was not totally new. The moral content of using the pill was the same moral content as using a condom.

            Morally charging reasonable interest was not totally new. It had the same moral content as paying a worker just wages.

            You’re caught up in vocabulary, not content.

          • You might consider actually reading the FAQ you are pretending to respond to. But that is just a suggestion.

          • Reading isn’t comprehension. If you comprehended it you would at least address the substance of the matter rather than insisting that there is a vocabulary problem.

            In fact, you have adopted the modern anti-realist view of usury by claiming that some time in the 20th century (per your comment above — the US dropped the gold standard in the 1970’s, so presumably you mean then) profits on personally guaranteed loans became licit because of changes in financial technology. You should at least own the substantive point of disagreement.

            And you should probably actually cite the Magisterium rather than just repeating financially anti-realist talking points. I’ll help out. Here is the actual Magisterial citation you are looking for — the Amoris of the 1830’s:


          • I completely agree that reading is not comprehension. Where we appear to disagree is which of us is experiencing a comprehension issue.

            The underlying immorality which is the target of the prohibition against usury is the taking advantage of, the exploitation of, someone else’s need. Your cow has died, and I loan you one until you can buy another but require two cows in payment. That is usury.

            The charging of reasonable interest in the course of a paper economy so that, for the cost of servicing the loan and a small profit which allows me to make other loans, so that you may drive a 2017 Cadillac rather than a 2015 Cadillac is hardly exploitation, and therefore is not immoral.

            Loan sharking, of course, clearly violates the moral prohibition against exploitation.

            Much of what you call “Magisterial citation” is not magisterial. Your citation, for example, is so arcane apparently only you can see what it allegedly means.

          • Your citation, for example, is so arcane apparently only you can see what it allegedly means.

            Perhaps you should consider taking the time to comprehend the Magisterial citations on usury rather than insisting (not without irony) that I am having a comprehension problem.

          • Our disagreement appears to include my impression that you fail to comprehend the Magisterium as it pertains to usury.

          • Our disagreement appears to include my impression that you fail to comprehend the Magisterium as it pertains to usury.

            OK, but you said yourself (rather than presenting your own interpretation) that you found my citation of the Magisterium ‘arcane’. So Magisterial citations before the Current Year don’t apply, and the most recent ones are “arcane’.

            The perceptive might notice a pattern here, if you aren’t careful.

          • The pattern involves your Google searches for the word “usury” in English translations of Latin originals sans context, sans a definition of usury, and therefore sans meaning.

          • While this indeed an important topic, this has left the topic of the thread so much that I think we need to end this discussion. It also doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it seems to me (from what I’ve read here) that things are getting a little heated. Let’s move on to more related topics. Thank you all!

          • A nonrecourse interest-bearing loan for a new Cadillac is not usury.

            A recourse loan charging interest is usury, no matter what is purchased with the proceeds (including Cadillacs). See Usury and Contract for Rent by Pope Callistus III.

            As the Magisterium emphasizes (see Vix Pervenit), usury specifically is in the nature of the contract itself not in the nature of what is lent (including financial securities) or in what is done with the proceeds.

          • What a tangle of verbiage.

            There are no non-recourse automobile loans (for those who have an interest, a non-recourse loan is a loan for which the only remedy for the loaner is seizure of the collateral for the loan).

            Since Pope Callistus III was not living in a paper-based economy, automobiles and “time payments” did not yet exist, and so on we can move past “Usury and Contract for Rent”and “Vix Pervenit” as not directly relevant.

            The way automobile loans are written the lender may seize the collateral AND the debtor is liable for any deficit between the value of the collateral and the amount then left on the loan, plus any out-of-pocket costs of the collection.

            This leaves the loaner in the same position as he would be if the debtor had paid off the loan, is therefore no exploitative, and therefore is not usury.

            Usury involves exploitation.

          • Since Pope Callistus III was not living in a paper-based economy, automobiles and “time payments” did not yet exist, and so on we can move past “Usury and Contract for Rent”and “Vix Pervenit” as not directly relevant.

            That’s the important thing, apparently. Modernity has arrived, securities and contracts are totally new and haven’t been around since pre-Christian Rome, so it is past time we all moved on. Anything the Magisterium isn’t saying in the Current Year is irrelevant.

            And this is not even slightly comparable with the current kerfuffle over Amoris. Really.

          • Are you arguing that adultery has not been around since pre-Christian Rome, or male and female genitalia, or lust?

          • Are you missing that financial contracts and securities *have* been around since pre-Christian Rome?

          • Financial contracts and securities in the modern sense have not been around since pre-Christian Rome.

            “Financial contracts” in the modern sense deal with fiat money, not specie, not barter.

            “Securities” in the modern sense deals with tradable securities in an industrial society where there are established markets for equity instruments.

            Different worlds, different meanings, different economies.

          • Fiat money is just a kind of security, where “security” means a formal contract that entitles the owner to some privilege. Fiat money entitles the owner to the settlement of tax liabilities.

            Formal contracts entitling owners to privileges have been around since man could write and do business.

            How does the fact that modern markets are significantly more liquid, or more precise in their pricing capability; and the fact that modern securities tend to confer ownership rights over industrial capacity change the fundamental question of the moral status of profiting off a mutuum contract?

          • Fiat money is not a kind of security. The former silver and gold certificates were.

            Formal contracts entitling holders to privileges are not at issue. Your shipment of wine from Greece in return for olive oil from Italy does not have the characteristics of a modern mercantile loan.

            Modern markets flow almost entirely on paper, which makes loans a necessity in the ordinary course of business – for example working capital loans are essential to retailing – rather than something out of the ordinary for someone in need, which was the former situation when these ancient citations originated.

            This changed the very nature of interest as this article published originally in 1910 attests:


            “What is the reason for this change in the attitude of the Church towards the exaction of interest? …. this difference is due to economical circumstances. The price of goods is regulated by common valuation, and the latter by the utility that their possession ordinarily brings in a given centre. Now, today, otherwise than formerly, one can commonly employ one’s money fruitfully, at least by putting it into a syndicate. Hence, today, the mere possession of money means a certain value. Whoever hands over this possession can claim in return this value. Thus it is that one acts in demanding an interest.”

            That is why none of the citations originated in the 20th or 21st century.

            Seeking advantage of the disadvantaged, loan sharking, in exploitation remains usury and immoral.

          • Fiat money is not a kind of security.

            Sure it is.

            If fiat dollars didn’t entitle you to anything it would be irrational to own them and trade in them.

            Fiat dollars entitle the bearer to make a barter exchange of property and/or labor in the sovereign market: you barter with your counterparty in the sovereign marketplace, and then surrender the appropriate number of coupons (fiat dollars) to the sovereign. If you fail to pay the tax to the sovereign (surrender his coupons back to him) you go to jail along with Al Capone.

            You might think of fiat dollars as similar to airline tickets or tickets for a carnival ride, or to the theater. They entitle you to certain actions or usage within a particular context, and you surrender them to the ‘owner’ of the context – who is also the issuer of the coupons – when you engage in the action or usage.

            And of course, just as Bob might barter his theater tickets in exchange for Fred mowing his lawn, people pervasively barter fiat dollars with each other.

            Not that this has anything to do with usury. Usury is profit from a mutuum (recourse, in modern terminology) loan (which is always exploitation and always unjust, though of course it is not the only kind of unjust exploitation) — no matter what kind of property is lent, or what is done with the proceeds.

          • Fiat money is not a kind of security. Unlike a gold or silver certificate you can’t redeem it for specie. It simply a government-mandated means of exchange.

            Fiat money is an IOU, in this case for more fiat money.

            Per se it entitles you to nothing, and if the government prints enough of it (the Weimar republic, Zimbabwe) that’s what it’s worth.

            The notion that usury is profit from a mutuum loan ended with the rise of the modern paper economy, the ability to invest money in syndicates, and the realization that in that sort of economy the mere possession of money has a value.

            Thus by the beginning of the 20th century (the following article was published in 1910), the notion that “usury is profit from a mutuum loan” no longer fit the definition of interest or the reasons for and practice of loaning money.


            “In our day, she permits the general practice of lending at interest, that is to say, she authorizes the impost, without one’s having to enquire if, on lending his money, he has suffered a loss or deprived himself of a gain, provided he demand a moderate interest for the money he lends. This demand is never unjust. Charity alone, not justice, can oblige anyone to make a gratuitous loan (see the replies of the Penitentiary and of the Holy Office since 1830).”

            “What is the reason for this change in the attitude of the Church towards the exaction of interest? As may be more fully seen in the article USURY, this difference is due to economical circumstances. The price of goods is regulated by common valuation, and the latter by the utility that their possession ordinarily brings in a given centre. Now, today, otherwise than formerly, one can commonly employ one’s money fruitfully, at least by putting it into a syndicate. Hence, today, the mere possession of money means a certain value. Whoever hands over this possession can claim in return this value. Thus it is that one acts in demanding an interest.”

            This explains the antiquity of your citations.

            Usury, that is the exploitative charging of exorbitant interest, remains sinful – which of course was always the prohibition of usury.

          • Fiat money is not a kind of security.

            Repeating the denial doesn’t make it true. Try making taxable transactions in sovereign marketplaces without producing any fiat dollars to pay the tax, and I expect you may find that reality begs to differ with the movie playing in your mind.

            Interesting that you repeatedly cite an article by laymen (whom you probably can’t even name without consulting Google) against both the Magisterium and Aquinas. Yet you never cite the actual Magisterium to support your view. You probably don’t see how that rhymes with the progressive approach to the morality of sex and marriage, because you are too buried in this discussion at this point. But I expect it may be more obvious to at least some folks reading the thread.

            Also, citing that (pre fiat money) article conflicts with your other contention that interest on mutuum loans became licit with the introduction of fiat money.

          • Marty Eble,

            Given the current cesspool we live in, shouldn’t it at minimum cause you to pause when, arguing about mortally sinful usurious acts, your first move is not to provide Magisterial statements positively supporting your position, but rather to discredit the relevance of prior Magisterial statements to our current situation? That when someone responds to your arguments with actual statements by the Church and Doctors of the Church, you place yourself on the side of the moderns who know better?

            How is that any difference from what we hear all the time with regards to homosexual acts, contraception, and the like? At minimum, shouldn’t you stop and reconsider your position given the rhetorical company it feels comfortable with?

          • One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. — Vix Pervenit

          • Since the charging of interest, per se, is not sinful the only can be if the interest charged is excessive.

            It is the exploitation of another’s need to borrow which constitutes a sin.

          • Labeling profits ‘interest’ doesn’t make them usurious, to be sure. Usury is any profit from a particular kind of contract: a mutuum (personally guaranteed) loan.

            Nor is it denied that it is very often possible for someone, by means of contracts differing entirely from [mutuum] loans, to spend and invest money legitimately either to provide oneself with an annual income or to engage in legitimate trade and business. From these types of contracts honest gain may be made. — Vix Pervenit


            We can easily understand this if we consider that the nature of one contract differs from the nature of another.

            Notice the parallel to sexual sins. Adultery is not merely “unjust sex” or “nonconsensual sex”, which tell us nothing about the specific kind of behavior in question. Adultery is sexual relations between a married person and someone other than that person’s spouse. It has an objectively definable character as a kind of behavior.

            Notice that sexual progressives attempt to frame sexual sins by saying that the only sinful sex is unloving sex or nonoconsensual sex, as opposed to particular kinds of behavior.

            The ‘progressive’ mindset on usury is basically the same as the progressive mindset when it comes to sex.

          • …for example working capital loans are essential to retailing …

            Sure. And as claims against the balance sheets of institutions they are generally not mutuum (personally guaranteed) loans in the first place.

            Usury is profit from mutuum loans specifically: from loans which provide for a deficiency judgment against the borrower personally, as opposed to a well defined balance sheet of property. Usury is not profit from every kind of contract that modern people label ‘loans’.

            If you weren’t so quick to dismiss actual Magisterial statements on usury and read (for example) Usury and Contract for Rent by Callistus III without assuming that he was a moron and that nobody knew anything about contracts and money before the end of the gold standard in the 1970’s, you might begin to come to grips with the subject.

          • You seem to be operating under the misimpression that everything Thomas Aquinas wrote was “magisterial”, that Callistus III’s now obscure encyclical (it does not even appear at ) binds every Catholic for all-time and everywhere, and that the 15th century regional agricultural economy and the 21st century international industrial economy rest on the same economic underpinnings.

            I am sure you also favor distributism and that General Motors should be replaced by a consortium of guilds.

          • You seem to be operating under the misimpression that everything Thomas Aquinas wrote was “magisterial”, …

            Not at all. Not Magisterial, just the writings of one of the most important Doctors of the Church, as opposed to (say) an article in an encyclopedia assembled by laymen in New York in the 1900’s — which is the only reference you’ve actually cited.

            … that Callistus III’s now obscure encyclical …

            I suppose if by ‘obscure’ you mean “in Denzinger indexed under ‘usury’, but not at some particular website”.

            I am sure you also favor distributism and that General Motors should be replaced by a consortium of guilds.

            You obviously know very little about my views on economics and finance, let alone my background. But hey, whatever stereotypes make you feel better.

          • Many of Thomas Aquinas’ positions were never adopted by the Church.

            The Encyclopedia you’re referring to was assembled primarily by clergy and examined and approved by the then Cardinal Archbishop of New York. The article reflects the replies of the Penitentiary and of the Holy Office from 1830 forward, a few hundred years more current than most of your references.

            Yes Denziger indexed the encyclical under “usury”. No, the encyclical cannot be found on-line in translation and the last time I encountered it in Latin was in the library of a seminary in a medium-sized midwestern city.

            Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger’s “Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum” as updated (Denzinger died in 1883) is a handy compendium of a lot of material, some obscure, since updated by dozens of others.

            However, being listed does not make the document binding, magisterial, or even still relevant, as in this case. Note that “usury” and “loan” don’t even appear in the Church’s current catechism, being subsumed in the general topic of justice and sins against justice.

            Not only do I have some idea of what your views are, you’re something of a legend:

            “Zippy Catholic is Back in the Saddle, Talking about Usury”


            or at least somewhat notorious.

          • The article reflects the replies of the Penitentiary and of the Holy Office from 1830 forward …

            Elsewhere in this thread you called those very replies ‘arcane’, when I provided you with a link to the actual text. You must be getting dizzy.

            Not only do I have some idea of what your views are, you’re something of a legend

            If you actually do know something of my background and views on economics and finance, why the obviously false caricature?

          • However, being listed does not make the document binding, magisterial, …

            Encyclicals and other Magisterial documents come with expiration dates? On what date does Humanae Vitae expire?

          • > Fiat money is not a kind of security.

            What is your reasoning? Is it not a contract which entitles the bearer to settle “debt public and private?” I.e. a bearer bond for tax liabilities? What is the specific difference between fiat money and a security in general?

            “working capital loans are essential… This changed the very nature of interest”

            Are you aware of the difference between ancient uses of the word “loan” and modern uses? Are you sure you understand the difference between a mutuum loan and a recourse loan? Are working capital loans to a business a mutuum? Are unsecured personal loans a mutuum?

            “today, … one can commonly employ one’s money fruitfully”

            Is the “time value of money” real? Does it actually exist, or is it an uncertain projection of the future? Can you be certain of the “fruitfulness” of a “syndicate”? How does the syndicate earn money with your money?

            “Seeking advantage of the disadvantaged, loan sharking, in exploitation remains usury and immoral.”

            Where does this interpretation originate? What do you mean by loan sharking? Does anyone dispute that exploitation is immoral?

            I am loath to declare what you do or do not understand, but it certainly *seems to me* that you do not understand zippy’s argument, and are reflexively reacting against his point that the usury apologists of yesteryear make the same arguments (times have changed) as the fornication apologists of today. Is my characterization correct?

          • … “time payments” did not yet exist…

            Apparently the Holy Office had heard of them in 1679 when it condemned the following proposition:

            Since ready cash is more valuable than that to be paid, and since there is no one who does not consider ready cash of greater worth than future cash, a creditor can demand something beyond the principal from the borrower, and for this reason be excused from usury. – Various Errors on Moral Subjects (II), Pope Innocent XI by decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679 (Denzinger)

            And you obviously haven’t read (or at least comprehended) Usury and Contract for Rent, the very subject of which is the recourse/nonrecourse distinction as it pertains to time payments.

            All of these are collected in Denzinger and thus easily verifiable.

          • Thank you for supporting my interpretation: ready cash is more valuable, and a creditor can demand something beyond the principle.

          • After spending many years dealing with that fringe group which call themselves “distributists”, I have encountered your position and even zanier ones on their blogs and websites for many years, most citing much the same material that you do. Here Thomas Storck drops into the very same rabbit hole:


            The errors include a complete regard of context, transferring words written in a non-mercantile pre-industrial specie economy dealing with issues other than consumer purchases of frivolous items such as new Cadillacs, and failing to define usury at all, or incorrectly defining as “an injustice when one
            achieves profit for doing nothing other than taking advatage of financial inequalities – that is, having money while another lacks it.”

            By the same process we can conclude that a farmer charging for grain, which takes advantage of agricultural inequalities – that is, having grain while another lacks it – is an injustice.

            It does not take Thomas Aquinas to note that this illogical process carried to its end results in absurdity.

            Scanning Latin documents for “quod debetur nobis” or “usura” and compiling them into a FAQ – which you appear to have already done – does not constitute a “proof”. It constitutes an exercise in avoiding the meaning of the prohibition and instead focusing on some keywords sans meaning, sans context, sans everything.

            John T. Noonan does much the same thing on the topic of slavery in his attempts to fall all over himself “proving” the Church changes doctrine.

            Once we begin with the correct moral definition – usury is the making of loans that unfairly enrich the lender – your “proofs” evaporate and the loan for your 2017 Cadillac becomes as moral as the day is long.

  11. The two quotes from this laudable article pasted below contain the core of the problem with Francis’s pontificate and seem to point to the necessity for condemnation by competent authority in the Church:
    1. Prof. Pierantoni points out that condemnation of a pope can be based on ,not only formal heresy, but practical conduct promoting heresy as well.
    2.The condemnations of the heresy of both Liberius and Honorius had the extenuating circumstance of involving doctrine not yet defined whereas this is not the case with Pope Francis where the doctrine in contention has been firmly rooted in Tradition and extensively clarified by recent Magisterium .

    “Pope Leo II confirmed Honorius’s condemnation by the Council, adding a formal censure to the negligence of Honorius, which permitted the spreading of the heresy. So we can here observe that the condemnation of a pope may be based not only on a formal heresy, but also on practical conduct on a pope’s part that tolerates heresy or, in the present case of Francis, even favors it openly.”

    “Synthesizing the comparison between the ancient popes and the present case, Prof. Pierantoni states:

    However, despite their differences, taken in a general way, the two cases of Liberius and Honorius have an important point in common, and that is the fact that both their interventions took place while the process of formulating the respective dogmas was still in progress, the Trinitarian one in the case of Liberius and the Christological one in the case of Honorius. … Now, this point that unites the doctrinal deviation of the two popes of antiquity is undoubtedly their extenuating circumstance, but unfortunately this same thing is the point that contrasts them to the doctrinal deviation that is occurring during the current pontificate, which instead has a strong aggravating factor in [Pope Francis’s] setting himself [not] against doctrines not yet [clear], or in the process of being formulated, but against doctrines that, in addition to being firmly anchored in Tradition, have also already been exhaustively debated in recent decades and clarified in detail by the recent Magisterium. So this is not only a deviation of the Magisterium from Tradition taken in general, but also a direct contradiction of the pronouncements of the very recent Magisterium”

  12. I am so grateful that OnePeterFive publishes summaries of presentations at this important Congress because it helps to know there are fine Catholic people who can accurately identify the real threats against doctrines of the Faith. It is very helpful to all of us that they gather and discuss and then share their conclusions with the rest of us. It is consoling to realise that each of us, no matter in what work we are engaged, are all addressing this threat in our immediate daily life, and we are doing it together. We all have similar choices to make. It’s mostly the same bottom line : pray more intensely, offer personal sacrifices, and study to increase our understanding of the Faith.

  13. Truth is supreme fundamentally immutable and eternal. There can be no add up to the truth or subtraction from it in order to make it more truthful. Such may only be an aberration. The Churches truth is not a human truth but Divine and therefore handed down to us by the Divine. Any human creativity borne out of the Modernism shares no part with the audacious prescriptions of the truth of the faith. What the Apostles have seen, touched and heard, they have handed down to us in its purest an adulterated form. It is our obligation to keep and preserve with the uttermost faithfulness and devotion.

    The devil in his cunning has the ability to use the Scriptures to even mislead us. For this reason, we are exhorted to be mindful if his wiles.

    The Professors, in their holy zeal to bring clarity to what is laden in obscurity have Spirit-filled well reasoned assertions rooted in orthodoxy with theological underpinnings that profoundly speak to subject of the crisis in the Church. They are the commoners that the Spirit finds worthy to reveal the mysteries of that speak in response to the obscurity that has engulfed the Church with AL. In once accord we pray for their Holy Spirit to sustain their spirit for a greater height in Catholicism

  14. “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. John 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.”

    The problem is, this “interpreting” is NOT being guided by “the Spirit”, as in Holy Spirit. It is being guided by poorly-catechized, agenda-laden apostates.

  15. Claudio Pierantoni (or Steve),
    Would a published compilation of this conference be available or forthcoming in English? I would like to purchase two- one for my shelf and one to be forwarded to my Bishop. (This is a serious question- not sarcasm.)


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