The Vatican grapevine informs us that the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Marriage is expected to be released this Saturday, March 19th. Yes, that’s the Feast of St. Joseph, because irony. Unsurprisingly, there are serious reasons for concern:
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia reportedly disclosed the news today at a conference with priests in Portugal, according to Il Sismografo, a semi-official Vatican news aggregator supervised by the Secretariat of State.
The Italian archbishop said the much-anticipated document, which summarizes the Pope’s conclusions of the two synods dedicated to the family, will be “a hymn to love, a love that wants to take care of the welfare of the young, to be close to wounded families to give them strength, a love that wants to be close to children as well as to all mankind in need. ”
Well informed sources have told the Register that the document, which observers believe will probably be released on March 19 — the feast of St. Joseph and the 3rd anniversary of the Pope’s inauguration Mass — is in its third draft. They also say that the chief drafter is Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, rector of the the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires and one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers.
One reliably informed source, a recognized moral theologian who has seen the draft, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the text as it “calls into question the natural moral law”. A senior Vatican official said he had heard the draft was good, but that was “some time ago”. He said he expects it to be similar to the Ordinary Synod’s final report, almost all of which the synod fathers passed unanimously.
Many are looking to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family to give clarification on where the Pope stands on the issue of Communion for remarried divorcees, and what it will say about other crucial moral and theological issues.
We’ve previously mentioned Archbishop Fernández, who, in addition to being the alleged ghostwriter for Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si, is the author of the (allegedly not autobiographical) 1995 book, Heal Me with Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.
Fernández’s trust in the reliability and coherence of all papal teaching seems very selective, since he clearly has no qualms about giving greater “theological structure” to the New Evangelization (Evangelii Gaudium), ecological stewardship of the earth (cf. promissory encyclical), or even the Theology of the Body, as his 1995 book, Heal Me with Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing, makes clear. On the last point, we must commend Pope Francis’s wise instincts for selecting such a talented writer. Fernández is so gifted a wordsmith that his book on the art of kissing was honored by being shown and read from in an Argentinian telenovela, Esperanza mia, about a priest who seduces a nun into a secret love affair. Something tells me Cdl. Maradiaga would appreciate the priest’s realism and flexibility.
And in case you’re wondering if this is a case of mistaken identity, it isn’t. As my friend Oakes Spalding noted last year, Archbishop Fernandez himself tried to explain away his odd choice of subject matter to his readers:
I want to clarify that this book is not written from my own experience, but from the lives of people kissing. In these pages I want to synthesize the popular feeling, what people feel when they think of a kiss, what they experienced when they kiss. For that I chatted at length with many people who have abundant experience in this area, and also with many young people learn to kiss. In addition, I consulted many books, and I wanted to show how the poets talk about the kiss. So, I tried to synthesize the immense richness of life, these pages, out of the kiss. I hope they help you kiss better, and motivate you to release the best of your being in a kiss.
You can’t make this up. This is the most qualified guy to write papal documents? Astonishing.
In anticipation of the Exhortation (which some have already taken to calling the “Exhortation of Desolation”), Voice of the Family has published a comprehensive analysis of the Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father:
Our analysis argues that the Final Report, which was approved by the Ordinary Synod on the Family on 24 October 2015, undermines the teaching of the Catholic Church on matters relating to human life, marriage and the family. By striving towards bringing Catholic moral teaching in line with the norms prevailing in the modern world, the report pursues an approach that runs contrary to divine revelation and the natural moral law.
The Final Report:
- endorses a central aspect of “gender theory” by asserting that biological sex and socio-cultural “gender” can be distinguished (paragraph 58)
- threatens the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children by asserting that the family “cannot be the only place for formation in matters of sexuality” with regard to “young people at the age of puberty and adolescence” (paragraph 58)
- undermines the Church’s teaching on the nature and the ends of marriage through the use of ambiguous language and by failing to adequately express central doctrines (paragraphs 1, 4, 39, 40, 47, 49, 84, 85, 86)
- attempts to prepare the way for “divorced and remarried” Catholics to receive Holy Communion without true repentance and amendment of life through the use of ideological language in place of the Church’s traditional terminology, by distorting Catholic teaching on the nature and effects of mortal sin, and by obscuring previous Church teaching by means of omission and selective quotation (paragraphs 84, 85, 86)
- undermines Catholic teaching as regards contraception by failing to restate the Church’s teaching while simultaneously presenting a confused exposition on the nature of conscience (paragraph 63)
- undermines the Church’s teaching on artificial methods of reproduction by failing to restate that the primary reason for the immorality of such practices is the separation of procreative and unitive elements of human sexuality, thus implying that methods that do not cause destruction of human embryos might be permissible (paragraph 33)
- states that the Church “collaborates in the development of a new ecological culture” which includes “a new mentality, new policies, new educational programmes, a new manner of living and a new spirituality”. The analysis demonstrates that the path of collaboration is leading Vatican bodies to collaborate with the promotion of abortion and contraception and with attempts to undermine parental rights and authority (paragraph 16).
And that’s just for starters. I haven’t read their full report, but it’s hefty, weighing in at 41 pages.
I don’t know for certain if the release will happen on Saturday, but that’s the working date as floated. Whether it’s intentional or not, St. Joseph is the patron saint of families, of fathers, and of the Universal Church — and also has the title, “Terror of Demons” — so it seems appropriate that we ask for his intercession in responding to whatever it contains.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.