A Short Summary of the 22 April Lay Conference on Amoris Laetitia

Yesterday, 22 April, there took place the important lay conference in Rome which was organized by the Italian publications La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and Il Timone and which was dedicated to a public critique of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Already today, there have been several articles about this event published, among them by Dr. Sandro Magister, America Magazine, and La Stampa. Mr. Andrew Guernsey already posted Professor Claudio Pierantoni’s own speech in English translation, as well as a film on youtube of Professor Douglas Farrow’s presentation.

Professor Claudio Pierantoni, who was one of the six speakers at this Rome conference, kindly accepted our invitation to send to OnePeterFive a more thorough and detailed report about the event in a few days which we will post as soon as it is available. So that our readers receive already now a little impression of the event, we herewith present a translation of an article which was published today by La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana itself. The translation has been kindly provided by Mr. Andrew Guernsey.


Lay People, Free and in Love With the Church: as “Hobbits” Call for Truth on the Sacraments, not Revolts

Lorenzo Bertocchi

23/04/2017 “We’re not here for an ideological battle,” said the director Riccardo Cascioli, “but because we feel that we are called to a responsibility.” With this statement the conference yesterday was closed: “Seeking Clarity: One year after Amoris laetitia,” held in a Columbus Hotel room around the corner from St. Peter’s Square organized and promoted by La Nuova BQ and Il Timone.

A conference convened by lay people, with lay speakers from around the world. Many journalists were present, we only remember some big names of Italian vaticanistas like Sandro Magister, Luigi Accattoli, Giuseppe Rusconi and Aldo Maria Valli. Among the foreigner ones were Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register. There were around 200 people who followed the proceedings of the busy day.

The most important emphasis of the event at the hotel Columbus is precisely the role of the laity, as Valli rightly noted in his article before the conference and published on his blog.

“All too seldom,” he wrote, “are Catholic lay people seen gathered on their own, without the guidance of a cardinal, a bishop, a monsignor or at least a simple priest, to discuss issues that concern first of all the fundamental contents of faith. It is even rarer to see lay people who decide to come out in the open to appeal to the pastors with an admonishment that sounds like so: “Excuse us, but look at what, according to us, you all have produced, that is, something which does not work, and which can become dangerous not only and not so much in an abstract sense, but precisely for the salvation of souls.”

The speaker, Anna Silvas , an Australian university professor, in her intervention brought up the great saga of Tolkien to remember that the laity are like the hobbits of Middle Earth. “Not powerful, but with a fundamental role in the battle for the triumph of good.” The very director Cascioli recalled in his introduction what are the issues of concern that sparked the organization of the conference. “In the dispute over Amoris Laetitia the meaning of three sacraments is implicated: marriage, penance and especially the Eucharist. We have bishops’ conferences, individual bishops, priests, who on the most sensitive issues also give even opposing interpretations and directives. We have such absurdity that, just as an example, the directives to the faithful on access to the Sacraments change not only from country to country but also from diocese to diocese and parish to parish.” Hence the request for clarification that builds on the five dubia that four cardinals have handed over to the Pope so that he may untie the knots on fundamental issues that concern the Catholic moral doctrine and the pastoral practice that follows it.

These prominent speakers, Cascioli said , “come from different cultures, from different ecclesial experiences, they also express different sensibilities and also the way to address the current situation is not identical. But in common we all have the perception of the seriousness of the crisis of the Church and the desire to carry out our personal responsibility fully in order to contribute to the good of the Church itself, in order to call the pastors to their duty.”

The proceedings opened with the intervention of Jürgen Liminski , director of the Institute for Demography, Welfare and Family (Germany), who stressed the social value of the indissolubility of marriage. “A long-lasting marriage,” he said, “guarantees a climate of trust in the bonds of affection and trust is the cement of society. For this reason, stable and non-liquid relationships are a cultural capital useful to society and also to the economy.”

The very articulate speech of Douglas Farrow, professor of Christian philosophy in Montreal. He recalled a certain “Gnostic risk that there is in dividing a judgmental God from a merciful God. And the challenge for the Church today is to raise his eyes to a God who does not need to mitigate justice to give mercy. “ If tradition “cannot contradict itself, paragraph 303 of Amoris laetitia raises the question of how conscience is understood compared to what paragraph No. 56 of the encyclical of St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, teaches.”

The speech of the Parisian philosopher Thibaud Collin noted that the issue of the relationship between natural law and conscience, between the objective order and subjective responsibility, is at the heart of the five dubia that the Cardinals have addressed to the pontiff. “The law of God,” Collin said, “cannot become one element among others, to be weighted on the basis of situations.” Collin’s speech, very profound, will be published in full in Italian in the coming days, along with those of all the other speakers. The Frenchman has also confronted the question of the possible development that Amoris laetitia would bring about in the continuity of Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, noting a number of inconsistencies far from being resolved.

Dr. Silvas had also alluded to a certain spirit of modernity that seems to be pursued by many pastors, like through ‘getting easy approvals », it seems, she said that “one Hegelian spirit is hovering around, the deep spirit of modernity.” She ended her speech by saying that as long as the dubia the four cardinal will not find an answer, “it will be difficult to avoid the confusion of interpretations, because the text of Amoris laetitia, objectively, leaves obvious openings.” Among other things, she recalled the strange case of footnote 329 to the text of Amoris laetitia, which “recalls Gaudium et Spes in a passage that concerns spouses, but applies it to couples who are not spouses. Why?”

Professor Claudio Pierantoni, Chile, specified that, in a sense, the dubia are new, because “they ask something on which the magisterium had already clearly expressed itself several times.” In Amoris laetitia, according Pierantoni, “the indissolubility of marriage is affirmed, then there are innovations in practices that contradict it.”

The contribution of Jean Paul Messina, a Cameroonian professor, focused mainly on the issue of polygamy which, in Africa, is a true and proper risk to the Gospel of the family and Christian marriage.

“This conference,” Cascioli reiterated, “is not an act of rebellion against the Pope, nor does it intend to put an ultimatum nor does it have schismatic intentions. Criticism of certain passages – especially contained in chapter eight  of Amoris laetitia, as well as of certain interpretations by bishops’ conferences such as the German and Maltese ones, and of individual cardinals, bishops, religious, are simply a testimony of clarity.”

This article has been updated.

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