Last Sunday [February 11, 2018], an interesting interview appeared on Vita Diocesana Pinerolese [the website of the Diocese of Pinerolo, Italy, near Turin in the Piedmont] (Anno 9, N.3) in which the newly appointed bishop, Derio Olivero, comments on the documents of Piedmont Bishops’ Conference furnishing guidelines for the application of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. La Bussola Quotidiana already reported on the Bishop of Pinerolo previously, when, prior to being installed as bishop, he was blessed by the people.
Some quotes from this interview have impressed us, which seem to be indicative. One of these we find really brilliant: “The marriage thus continues to be indissoluble [indissolubile] but not unbreakable [infrangibile].” We’re sorry – we didn’t quite get that. It seems we didn’t get the memo that there is a new category of breakability or unbreakability. Does this mean that if two people get married, they are in some sense indissoluble, but we can break it up (in every sense)? And then what happens? The next sentence is illuminating: “For those who are united in a new union there can be a way that leads also to their being fully integrated.”
This sentence has a logical consequence, readily understood by the interviewer, who in fact asked, “Could that way lead to considering giving a blessing to that new union?” Bishop Olivero responded, “In the document of the Piedmont Bishops’ Conference this is not contemplated, but I believe that could be a good solution. After a short journey [cammino] we could foresee giving a blessing that would signify recognizing the validity of the relationship.”
Does this mean, in practice, that in addition to the first valid sacramental marriage of one or both partners, the Church would add a rite to put a seal or rubber stamp on the second union? Speaking of Amoris Laetitia, the bishop expounds on what seems to him to be its two great novelties. “The first: It is no longer possible to say that all those who find themselves in so-called irregular situations are living in mortal sin, because there are many questions to consider. There is no longer automatism. There is only a case-by-case analysis. The second: The grace of God is also at work in the lives of the divorced and remarried.”
“These two great principles open the door to the possibility of making a journey of welcoming and accompaniment that is able to assist them with discernment (it is the conscience of the individual that decides, not the conscience of the priest) to evaluate the possibility of an integration that leads to return to the sacraments.” Thus, in the understanding of this bishop, the priest, who is presumed to be the confessor, has not one word to say about the state of the person who has come to him for guidance.
One wonders what has happened to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and why it should even be retained. And if the conscience of the individual decides, what is the purpose of diocesan marriage tribunals? If I am convinced that my first marriage was not valid, why should I spend money and time going through the process with the diocese? And look at this last quote: “Amoris Laetitia goes outside juridical logic. A couple who in conscience are fully living their new union in all of its aspects can come to the sacraments, after a short journey. This helps us to understand that the sacraments are not a reward for those who are good.”
In light of these interpretations, it seems that it is evident and urgent to have a response from the pope to the five dubia, which thus far has been denied. Perhaps it is opportune to recall them, because each of the five dubia touch on the points developed by Bishop Olivero.
First: It is asked if, following what is affirmed in Amoris Laetitia 300-305, it is now possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus admit to Holy Communion a person who, bound by a valid matrimonial bond, is now living more uxorio with another person, without following the conditions foreseen by Familiaris Consortio 84 and restated in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 34 and in Sacramentum Caritatis 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” in footnote 351 of paragraph 305 of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to the divorced who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
Second: After the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), is the teaching still valid of the encyclical of St. John Paul II Veritatis Splendor 79, based in Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms, valid without exception, which prohibit intrinsically evil acts?
Third: After Amoris Laetitia 301, is it still possible to affirm that a person who lives habitually in contradiction with a commandment of the Law of God, such as, for example, the commandment forbidding adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), is in an objective state of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration of June 24, 2000)?
Fourth: After the affirmation of Amoris Laetitia 302 on the “circumstances that mitigate moral responsibility,” is the teaching still valid of the encyclical of St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor 81, based in Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, according to which “[c]ircumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
Fifth: After Amoris Laetitia 303, is the teaching still valid of the encyclical of St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor 56, based in Sacred Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, which excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and affirms that the conscience is never authorized to legitimize exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit actions that are intrinsically evil by virtue of their object?
Originally published at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. Translated here from Italian by Giuseppe Pellegrino.
Marco Tosatti is a renowned Italian journalist and Vatican expert. He has been covering the Holy See since 1981. His written work appears in La Stampa and La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. He is the author of several books, including The Prophecy of Fatima and Investigation of the Holy Shroud. He blogs at Marcotosatti.com.