To the joy and encouragement of many faithful Catholics, Professor Josef Seifert, a prominent Catholic philosopher, defender of life and a former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), has published two essays containing a charitable and clear critique of the papal document Amoris Laetitia. Professor Seifert published his first, more detailed critique in August of 2016, and then, only recently, his shorter, more pointed one in which he speaks of the logic of a possible dissolution of any absolute moral law, should Pope Francis not revoke some premises and certain statements from Amoris Laetitia. With these two texts, he has made a lucid and charitable Catholic witness in defense of the traditional and infallible moral teaching of the Catholic Church for which he has for some time now had to suffer. In 2016, in response to Professor Seifert’s first essay, the Archbishop of Granada, Spain, where Professor Seifert had been teaching, excluded him from his teaching of seminarians in his archdiocese. Moreover, as of 31 August of this year, Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández has announced that he decided, rather abruptly, to force Professor Seifert into retirement as a direct response to the Austrian scholar’s second critique of Amoris Laetitia. Without any discernable sign of mercy, the archbishop claims that Seifert’s essays are confusing to the faithful, and he publicly announces to have adopted for his own archdiocese the pastoral guidelines from the bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. (OnePeterFive has reported on it here.) Significantly, Archbishop Martínez Fernández has just posted, on 3 September, on his diocesan website an article about Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández’s own defense of Amoris Laetitia.
Please pray for Professor Seifert, that he may have the graces to deal with this great injustice, but also that Archbishop Martínez Fernández may realize that Professor Seifert has done a great service for the greater good of the Church and the salvation of souls by pointing out doctrinal errors and moral dangers stemming from Amoris Laetitia.
In his 31 August statement, the Spanish archbishop raises very serious and offensive charges against Professor Seifert without offering any reasons for them. He claims that Seifert’s article “damages the communion of the Church.” Since the Seifert essay only puts a question to the pope, who is asked to answer it, the article cannot damage the communion of the Church at all. Moreover, if the assertion in Amoris Laetitia that God can want a couple to commit an intrinsically wrong act of adultery, leads logically to the claim that God can also want, in some situations, contraception or abortion, then this assertion should be fittingly revoked by the pope. Since this is Seifert’s argument in his new essay, he greatly helps the Catholic Faith and does not at all damage the communion of the Church, which is a communion based on an ethical truth that has, for 2000 years, always held the opposite to this current affirmation in Amoris Laetitia, namely that God never can want men to commit an intrinsically evil act. Instead of damaging the communion of the Church, Seifert thus helps by putting it on the foundation of moral truth, which alone can guarantee this communion and thus unite the present Church with the past and perennial one.
The archbishop claims, without offering the slightest reason, that Seifert’s paper “confuses the faith of the faithful.” We find, on the contrary, that the article clarifies the raging confusion of the faithful through its clear distinctions and reasons. The Spanish archbishop also claims that Seifert’s paper “sows distrust in the successor of Peter,” while in reality it affectionately presents a moving and filial appeal to the successor of Peter as the “sweet Christ on Earth” – as he calls the pope in the words once used by St. Catherine of Siena – to revoke a specific statement IF he comes to recognize the grave and logical consequences of the above-mentioned assertion.
Moreover, Archbishop Martínez Fernández claims that Seifert’s paper “in the end, does not serve the truth of faith, but, rather, the interests of the world.” This charge is particularly puzzling. How does Seifert’s strong defense of the moral absolutes of “do not ever commit adultery!”, “do not ever use contraception,” “do not ever kill the unborn,” serve the interests of a world whose utilitarian thinking and morals violate worldwide these moral absolutes, to include among them Doctors without Frontiers, refugee camps, and Catholic hospitals?
When the archbishop states that the Diocese of Granada “has adopted, from its very beginning, the application of the pontifical text prepared by the Bishops of the Region of Buenos Aires [Argentina],” he keeps forgetting that he first sent to his whole clergy the statement of Monsignor Livio Melina as a guideline, which was concordant with that of Cardinal Gerhard Müller and with that of the Polish Bishops, namely, that Amoris Laetitia had not changed anything regarding the sacramental discipline from what has been said in Familiaris Consortio. Only later, in a radical reversal of his earlier guidelines, Archbishop Martínez Fernández unexpectedly then switched to the position now upheld by the Bishops of Buenos Aires who, in opposition to Pope John Paul II’s own teaching and 2000 years of the Church’s sacramental discipline, have decided to admit couples “in irregular situations” – after a period of ostensible discernment – to the sacraments. In proposing the guidelines of the Bishops of the Buenos Aires region as a binding and absolute law for his diocese, Archbishop Martínez Fernández has acted far more “papally than Pope Francis,” who has left to the Polish Bishops, for example, the full freedom of abiding by the sacramental guidelines set down by Pope John Paul II, and has also left it to individual bishops and bishops’ conferences to interpret Amoris Laetitia along the lines of Cardinal Müller, i.e., in full unity with the existing traditional guidelines.
In a word, it seems to us scandalous and a violation of the rights of an eminent Catholic scholar, philosopher, and personal friend of Pope John Paul II, that Archbishop Javier Martínez wants to dismiss him from a Catholic institution on the basis of false claims and false charges raised against one of the most deeply believing and faithful, and pope-loving Catholic thinkers, who had proven his loyalty to the papacy not only through his close collaboration with Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, but also through his attempts to aid the Magisterium of Pope Francis by offering him, in deep reverence and charity, precious pieces of advice as to how to secure the unity of the Church based on the truth.
We now publish here below Archbishop Martínez Fernández’ public statement concerning this matter, in its entirety (our translation):
Concerning an Article Published by Professor Josef Seifert on the Post-synodal Exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia
The Diocese of Granada deeply regrets the article recently published by Professor Josef Seifert on the Post-Synodal Exhortation of Pope Francisco Amoris Laetitia, because it damages the communion of the Church, confuses the faith of the faithful, and sows distrust in the successor of Peter, which, in the end, does not serve the truth of faith, but, rather, the interests of the world. The Diocese of Granada has adopted, from its very beginning, the application of the pontifical text prepared by the Bishops of the Region of Buenos Aires, recognized by the Holy Father, which is accessible to all on the website of the diocese.
Professor Seifert is one of the founders of the International Academy of Philosophy of Liechtenstein, an institution that has been rendering for decades a remarkable service to Christian thought, especially in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In recent years, Professor Seifert has been teaching at the Institute of Philosophy “Edith Stein” in Granada, which is currently the headquarters of this Academy in Granada. Professor Seifert stopped his teaching at the “Edith Stein” Institute as early as September 2016, following his first critical writing on Amoris Laetitia, published in German. And right now, concurring with the precise and fuller reasons for it, his retirement from the above-mentioned International Academy of Philosophy is now being processed.
Granada, August 31, 2017