Yesterday, 31 March, it became widely known that Pope Francis has chosen Anne-Marie Pelletier, a French Professor of hermeneutics and biblical exegesis, to write the meditations for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday which will be read by the pope himself. The author of this year’s Via Crucis Meditations was the first woman to receive, in 2014, the Ratzinger Prize which was established in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, and with the help of his own monetary donation. Pelletier is not the first woman, however, to have been asked by a pope to write the Via Crucis Meditations; she is the fourth woman to have been asked to do so, after Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had appointed already three other women for that task.
However, what is yet more significant is that Professor Pelletier is an ardent progressive defender of the “remarried” divorcees, and thus of the habit (or acts) of adultery. She had participated in the highly controversial May 2015 Day of Study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome organized by the German, French, and Swiss Bishops’ Conferences. This conference — whose talks have been subsequently published — prepared the way for the 2015 Synod on the Family and presented, among other themes, liberalizing ideas with regard to the “remarried” divorcees and homosexuality.
The title of Professor Pelletier’s talk at that gathering was “Concerning the Reception of Matthew 19:3-12”; this Scripture passage deals with the words of Jesus Christ concerning the fact that Moses had originally allowed divorce because of the “hardness of hearts” of his people. As Pelletier argues, also today, the customs of our times have changed in an analogous way. There is now, professedly, to be on the way an “ideal of temporary loyalty.” [my emphasis] It is in this context that Pelletier claims there are people who
warn against the violence which would be done to those persons in the situations in which they live – if these spouses were to be put into a fixed and conclusive category as “adulterers”; and if there is also depreciative talk about those persons who still insist upon practicing and retaining their sin; and who are, therefore, exposed to a canonical order that disallows them to live out the sacramental rootedness of their identity [sic]. [my emphasis]
Pelletier doubts whether one should call “each conjugal separation a sin.” She proposes to listen to the “sense of the faithful” (as was highly recommended also by the German bishops) and claims that those “remarried” couples are unfortunately in an “impasse” and do not find forgiveness. The French professor then proceeds to make her own special ideas even clearer:
Should not the Church simply take the risk in accepting that spouses who have come into conflict with the canonical law claim their right to ask for forgiveness, even if they do not claim the right for forgiveness? In this way, the Church would act according to the justice which Christ teaches, beyond the temptation into which His interlocutors [the Pharisees] tried to lead Him. [italics in the original; emphasis added]
Professor Pelletier effectively argues here that, if the Church were to accept and forgive “remarriage” after a civil divorce, it would act according to Christ’s Own Justice! Moreover, Pelletier also proposes an “actualization” of the passages of the New Testament, since some people’s lives have changed so fundamentally. She claims that the language of the Biblical texts has “to be translated again and again into the present,” adding: “They refer to life conditions which are simply not any more valid because of the social and cultural changes.” (As if human nature were not still the same even as it is today!)
Pelletier also comes up with the self-contradictory claim:
Exactly because the votum of Jesus – in favor of marriage and against divorce – is so clear, it is also open. […] This openness is not relativism, but the capacity to deal with the future.” [emphasis added]
The French professor also claims that the “teaching, morality, and law of the Church have to be constantly on the course of reform, since it is accountable for discovering anew, and under the markedly changing conditions, what marriage – in Jesus’ sense – means hic et nunc.”
As if this kind of speech was not yet enough, Pelletier also proposes the problematic line of argumentation that, since God can dissolve a marriage, the Church has now the permission to do the same:
But according to the New Testament, God Himself can dissolve a marriage – if the bond of the faithful with Him which has been concluded in baptism cannot at all be saved otherwise [sic]. Consequently, the Church has to make use of her power to bind and to loosen, and to do so in more cases than [were done] in the past – for the sake of the Faith. [emphasis added]
Professor Pelletier continues her argumentation in claiming that the earlier Catholic moral teaching which had “interpreted the 6th Commandment expansively [sic] and in such a way that any sexual intercourse outside of a validly contracted marriage is judged as being licentious” is “a rather rigid interpretation.” In her eyes, some of these divorced spouses who enter a new “relationship” are not culpable because they purportedly did not receive the grace to abstain from sexuality after a divorce. (We do wonder whether they asked for it.) In thus exculpating such a sinner, she explains: “Whoever does not have the grace, cannot immediately be called an obstinate sinner with reference to the indissolubility of marriage.”
And this intellectually promiscuous Professor now receives the honor of writing the Via Crucis Meditations? This, too, is mercy?