Pope Francis Didn’t Change Doctrine (and Other True Stories)

The current Catholic conundrum.

If the title of this post is all you want to hear about Amoris Laetitia, then kudos to you, because it’s true!

He didn’t change doctrine. Never could. Never will.

Of course, he absolutely gutted pastoral application and guidance on the doctrine on sin and marriage to the point that he made them both virtually unrecognizable. He accomplished this, as usual, through a subjective, relativistic approach to truth by way of “conscience” and “discernment.”

The so-called “Kasper Proposal” is, as it turns out, actually the Francis Proposal. It appears, in fact, that Kasper was telling the truth all along.

“I’m not naïve,” Kasper said. “I knew that there are other positions, but I didn’t think that the debate would become, and now is shown to be also, without manners.”

“Not one of my fellow Cardinals ever spoke to me. I, instead, [spoke]  twice with the Holy Father. I agreed upon everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do, except be with Pope? I am not the target, the target is another one.

Kasper again claimed that Pope Francis knew what he was going to propose and fully approved of his speech.

“They know that I have not done these things by myself,” he said. “I agreed with the Pope, I spoke twice with him. He showed himself content [with the proposal]. Now, they create this controversy. A Cardinal must be close to the Pope, by his side. The Cardinals are the Pope’s cooperators.”

But wait! I hear you say. I read today that the issue of Communion for the Divorced and “Remarried” wasn’t concretely addressed by the document!

All I can say to that is that there are a lot of folks out there saying a lot of things about this document that aren’t necessarily true. Take America Magazine for instance. Check out their zany tweet this morning:

Wild. Whacky. Completely accurate:

301. For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”,339 or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision”.

I guess that was a bad example.

But I was telling you about the Francis Proposal. So here is part of it:

305. For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”.349 Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”.350 Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.351 Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

Another big piece is in one of the footnotes from that paragraph – 351:

351 In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039). 352 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1039.

For those late to the party, there’s a striking similarity between the Kasper position and the Francis position. See the commonality of language between Kasper in 2014 and Pope Francis in 2015:

Kasper: “A pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency and indulgence,” he said, would affirm that “the sacraments are not a prize for those who behave well or for an elite, excluding those who are most in need.”

Compared to:

Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the strong, but a source of strength for the weak, for sinners. It’s forgiveness, it’s the Viaticum that allows us to go forward and move along.”

This is not the first time Pope Francis has used this “not a prize” language. It also shows up in Evangelii Gaudium #47:

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

And now we have EG #47 again as a footnote in Amoris Laetitia.

We have come full circle.

There is, of course, more. Much more. For such a toxic digression from an authentic understanding of Catholic teaching to be palatable, it must be diluted as much as possible. It seems that nearly 60,000 words was enough to do the trick. But for the sake of space, and because I am positively exhausted, I will not quote more of it here.

It’s there, if you want to find it. Those who don’t want to see it will continue to gloss over it, pretend it hasn’t happened, shout you down, or lie to you. Let them. They are even now signing away their own relevance, and one can only imagine, God is allowing their hearts to be hardened even further.

People will hate you for sharing the truth. It’s become something of a theme. Our official Facebook page was tagged today in a post, and when I clicked on the link, I saw this:

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Or how about this one, left on a post shared by a friend:

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We are, as they say, the wurst.

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These are not the only such posts, but worth sharing, if only to demonstrate that we’re so far past the line where people should be awake, and they’d still rather shoot the messenger. I’ve heard from other another reader today who was summarily banned from the blog of a Catholic “apologist” for even suggesting — extremely respectfully — that Francis appears to condone adultery in the exhortation. (He does. Paragraph 298)

This is where we are. This is how far we’ve come. I observed to someone today that we’ve become so inured to the constant error coming out of this papacy that even though the exhortation is actually most likely worse than we feared, it doesn’t feel like the gut punch we were waiting for.

The banality of evil. The terror of low expectations. (Or as Eliot might say, this is how Church teaching ends, not with a bang, but a footnote.)

This document has struck an incredible blow to the marks of the Church. We’ll see that continue to unfold, but all the wrong people are already declaring victory:

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In large measure, we will now see that we’ve lost the unity that is characteristic of the “Oneness” of the Church. It was already on the ropes, but it got hit with a folding inculturation chair in paragraph 3 and went right out of the ring. The Holiness is gone too. And the Catholicity has been chipped away for a long while. If our bishops don’t speak up soon, we can give demerits for Apostolicity, as well.

I’m not saying the Church is done. I’m saying that the long-rumored time of a Remnant Church is now upon us. Where the faith is adhered to and practiced, where the doctrines and liturgical and sacramental life of the Church is loved, there the four marks continue.

Today, I tried to explain what we’re facing to the folks at the BBC (go to 50:08 in the timeline here if you want to hear it.) I was rushed in, rushed out, and got the feeling that nobody cared beyond the fact that it was a juicy story for the next 24 hours.

Tomorrow morning, the kind folks at Fox & Friends are bringing me to their DC studio to have a brief on-air interview (7:40AM Eastern) about Amoris Laetitia. They’re going to ask me if this exhortation is good or bad for the Church, and while it’s obviously bad, how do you explain away something so voluminous and complex in a sound bite? We’re going to talk about the paragraphs mentioned above. If you pray for me, I might even make a cogent case.

For now, I’ve been working the better part of 40 hours, I think, on about 4 hours’s sleep.

Someone reminded me today what St. Pio used to say, “Pray, trust, and don’t worry.”

That’s sound advice. For me, for you, and for everyone left who still cares.

UPDATE: It appears Raymond Arroyo gets it. God bless him.

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