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Two More Scholars Issue a Letter of Concern on Amoris Laetitia

At First Things, two more scholars have published a summary of a letter they sent to Pope Francis last month. The full letter (PDF link) is entitled, The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia To Support Errors against the Catholic Faith. The authors are John Finnis, emeritus professor of law and legal philosophy at the University of Oxford and Biolchini Family Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, and Germain Grisez is emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University.

In their summary, they explain:

In this letter we request Pope Francis to condemn eight positions against the Catholic faith that are being supported, or likely will be, by the misuse of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. We ask all bishops to join in this request and to issue their own condemnations of the erroneous positions we identify, while reaffirming the Catholic teachings these positions contradict.

The following considerations make it clear why appeals to Amoris Laetitia in support of these positions are correctly described as misuse of the Pope’s document.

The authors are more circumspect than other critics of the document have been, stating:

In our letter we deal only with the misuse of Amoris Laetitia to support positions held by theologians and pastors who are not teaching in persona Christ. [sic] We neither assert nor deny that Amoris Laetitia contains teachings needing qualification or delimitation, nor do we make any suggestions about how to do that, supposing it were necessary.

The meat of the issue, as the authors see it, is contained in certain positions that have emerged with apparent support to be found in the text of Amoris Laetitia. These positions, they assert, are likely a manifestation of an attempt to deal “realistically with Catholics influenced by secularized culture who are breaking with the Church or drifting away.” Nevertheless, they insist that such a strategy “sets aside the Church’s tradition and primary mission—to preach the Gospel everywhere and always, and to teach believers all that Jesus has commanded.”


The letter explains how proponents of the eight positions we identify can find support in statements by or omissions from the Apostolic Exhortation, and indicates how these positions are or include errors against the Catholic faith. In each case we explain briefly how the position has emerged among Catholic theologians or pastors and show how certain statements or omissions from Amoris Laetitia are being used, or likely will be used, to support it. We then set out grounds for judging the position to be contrary to Catholic faith, that is, to Scripture and teachings that definitively pertain to Tradition, each interpreted in the other’s light.

The eight positions are as follows:

Position A: A priest administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation may sometimes absolve a penitent who lacks a purpose of amendment with respect to a sin in grave matter that either pertains to his or her ongoing form of life or is habitually repetitive.

Position B: Some of the faithful are too weak to keep God’s commandments; though resigned to committing ongoing and habitual sins in grave matter, they can live in grace.

Position C: No general moral rule is exceptionless. Even divine commandments forbidding specific kinds of actions are subject to exceptions in some situations.

Position D: While some of God’s commandments or precepts seem to require that one never choose an act of one of the kinds to which they refer, those commandments and precepts actually are rules that express ideals and identify goods that one should always serve and strive after as best one can, given one’s weaknesses and one’s complex, concrete situation, which may require one to choose an act at odds with the letter of the rule.

Position E: If one bears in mind one’s concrete situation and personal limitations, one’s conscience may at times discern that doing an act of a kind contrary even to divine commandment will be doing one’s best to respond to God, which is all that he asks, and then one ought to choose to do that act but also be ready to conform fully to the divine commandment if and when one can do so.

Position F: Choosing to bring about one’s own, another’s, or others’ sexual arousal and/or satisfaction is morally acceptable provided only that (1) no adult has bodily contact with a child; (2) no participant’s body is contacted without his or her free and clear consent to both the mode and the extent of contact; (3) nothing done knowingly brings about or unduly risks significant physical harm, disease transmission, or unwanted pregnancy; and (4) no moral norm governing behavior in general is violated.

Position G: A consummated, sacramental marriage is indissoluble in the sense that spouses ought always to foster marital love and ought never to choose to dissolve their marriage. But by causes beyond the spouses’ control and/or by grave faults of at least one of them, their human relationship as a married couple sometimes deteriorates until it ceases to exist. When a couple’s marriage relationship no longer exists, their marriage has dissolved, and at least one of the parties may rightly obtain a divorce and remarry.

Position H: A Catholic need not believe that many human beings will end in hell.Our letter concludes by indicating how theologians and pastors who teach and put into practice any of these eight positions can thereby do grave harm to many souls, and pointing to some ways in which this may happen. It also notes the grave damage these errors do to marriage and to young people who otherwise might have entered into authentic married life with good hearts and been signs of Christ’s covenantal love for his Church.

Our letter concludes by indicating how theologians and pastors who teach and put into practice any of these eight positions can thereby do grave harm to many souls, and pointing to some ways in which this may happen. It also notes the grave damage these errors do to marriage and to young people who otherwise might have entered into authentic married life with good hearts and been signs of Christ’s covenantal love for his Church.

Go to First Things to read the rest. The opposition is mounting, and it cannot be answered with silence.

59 thoughts on “Two More Scholars Issue a Letter of Concern on Amoris Laetitia”

  1. Hey, does anyone have a summary of all the letters, dubia, statements by prelates, etc that have been issued regarding this piece of birdcage liner?

    My bishop told me in a letter that suggestions of heresy are “unjustified” so I’d like to send him another letter suggesting he might take another look at it and I’d like a list of those who have expressed serious concerns. To say the least…

    • I think that this is a problem for most of the diocese. Bishops simply do not wish to say anything that might place them in the center of the battle.

      Your idea is a good one given the response you have received. I am writing a letter at present with some others requesting our bishop to take action on the matter and at the very least inform all parish communities in the diocese about the ongoing conflict.

      I wish you well in your efforts.

      God Bless

      • I pray you get a response. It is so hard to get anything to our bishop, here.
        Let alone, to have a direct response from him.
        But, I am going to try as well.

        I am not certain that the bishops will be able to sit on the fence on much longer, though.

        • If the Bishops must take a side, I am in a Diocese that the Bishop is taking the side of error. Would not do ANYTHING for me to try this…….Cupich is at the helm here, and he has already criticized the four Cardinals. Cupich is a ‘Francis Bishop’, and hand picked by Francis might I add. I’m rather stuck.

          • I know that feeling, ” I’m rather stuck.”

            You do have a bishop who is at least, up front, regarding these errors in the faith.
            At least, you know and can keep guard.
            For me, and others perhaps, whose bishops are ” tight lipped” and are very apt at walking a tight rope, that is rather, in a way, even a bigger angst, at least for me.
            Deception can be more evil, than evil out front and loud.

            So, as to unstick myself, I will wait upon our bishop and his response to my letter, which will be respectful….after all he is an ordained bishop and i will give him the benefit of the doubt. If no response, I shall know then.

            I don’t think we are ever stuck. No one, not a pope, a bishop a government can cause us to not keep the faith, given to us by God, through His Church. Our saints are proof of that enough. And His graces are enough to see us through.

      • I have written to our Archbishop requesting clarification of Amoris Laetitia an the Dubia. Ditto to CS below.

      • “Bishops simply do not wish to say anything that might place them in the center of the battle.” If your suggestion is correct, then they are apostates from an ipso-facto foundation, which reflects their affront to just whom they are ordained to be–Apostles of Christ, prepared for the Red Martyrdom which Christ has given them His infinite privilege of, as potential martyrs for Him, in love of Him, at least as understood from the very immanence of what “Bishop” is. As they reject the essence of what Bishop is called to be, they reject Christ’s Will, enslaving themselves to the bondage of this world, whose prince is Lucifer. We now find ourselves in the “mass apostasy”, all dressed up as “ecumenism”. In caritas.

  2. Thank you OnePeterFive, for providing not only this crucial information to keep us informed, inspired and hopeful, but also, you have become a voice for our courageous cardinals and bishops, priests and scholars, so as to pass on the beautiful message of our faith regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, Divine Law, and Fidelity to Christ.

    Could our cardinals be preparing the faithful to KNOW these truths, so that we, the laity can better defend them an stay resilient to what may transpire against us in the future?

  3. These two scholars, Finnis and Grisez, are huge academic heavyweights in moral theology/philosophy. They cannot be brushed off as just anti-Francis cranks, cogs in the ‘vast right wing conspiracy’ trying to take down PF.

    • It’s a bit of a shame however that they have decided to stay on the fence. Perhaps this is a clever tactic so it stands more chance of being read. But still.

      • Do you mean by giving AL a pass and blaming these errors on faulty interpretations? Yes, I agree on that. But I don’t think they’re staying on the fence. By asking for clarification they’re pushing PF to a clear choice of orthodoxy or heterodoxy.

        • Yes that was my point. But I don’t disagree with you either. My choice of words wasn’t ideal. The document is clearly heretical, it’s not simply at risk of being misinterpreted (where have we heard that before..!). We’re beyond that.

        • They are indeed playing the “conservative” Catholic “it’s the interpretation not the document!” card. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too, like back when Benedict was pope. They are pretending like AL is clear about what it means – which it is not, which is the problem – and hope a clarification will clear everything up. I fundamentally do not understand this point of view. It’s not like papal documents exist in a realm divorced – as it were – from “the Magisterium”, as if the magical magisterium will always intervene to clean up and clarify any papal or conciliar ambiguities that could be exploited for misinterpretation. It won’t, because the documents are EXPECTED to be part of the magisterium and therefore inform and clarify interpretation of themselves. This is essentially the argument that I had with Jeff Mirus over at Catholic Culture. He kept on saying “there’s nothing wrong with the documents of Vatican II, what’s wrong is the interpretation and implementation by the bishops”. Yes, but interpretation and implementation is exactly the bishops’ job, exercising their magisterial authority. The documents didn’t fail the orthodox implementation test because they were misunderstood, they failed because they could be understood in any number of ways. Ambiguity is the post-conciliar rhetorical style par exellence and Francis just takes it to a whole new level. I agree, these theologians are strongly challenging Francis, but they are being alarmingly coy and disingenuous by play acting that the document is not at fault. The document (AL) is the aggressor here, not the victim. Until people realize that about the post-conciliar magisterium, we’ll continue to suffer the same ambiguities and assaults on our capacity for reason and orthodoxy will never be safe.

          • Exactly! This “it’s the interpretation, not the document” nonsense needs to stop. Catholic documents should be written, period. If that had happened, then the faithful can be blamed for rejecting the Catholic Faith. However, if documents like those from the Second Vatican Council promote antiCatholic views, and then are presented to the faithful as being of the Catholic Faith and the faithful act in accordance with those views, how can you accuse the faithful of rejecting the Catholic Faith when the documents themselves encourage them to do that which is lamented by the “good council, bad interpretation” crowd?

          • Matthew 5:37 (NAB): “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more is from the evil one.” As Holy Mother Church speaks in any voice that originates from Her, the foundational premise for Her voice, must as it can only be, Mt 5:37. For anything more, as our Blessed Dominus Deus Sabbaoth and Savior, Jesus the Christ has proclaimed, is from the Evil One. For only those with the faith of a child will enter the Kingdom of God. Pope Bergoglio and his pernicious, malevolent, and pertinacious cadre of murderers of the Truth are the minions of their father, the Father of Lies, who has been the murderer of Truth from the beginning. This all does not end well in the here and now, while at once Truth springs eternal and from the eternal Truth as Logos, eternal Joy. From the Gospel of Matthew (NAB), chapter 10:

            ” 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. 35 For I have come to set a man ‘against his father,

            a daughter against her mother,

            and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

            36 and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’

            We are in the midst of that time, brethren. Gird your loins, as the seas only get much more turbulent from here onward, in this world, as the ship has set out for sea into the tempest of tempests. For the first time in the bi-millennial history of Holy Mother Church, we have a man, whose claim it is, to be the Vicar of Christ in the Chair of Saint Peter, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who demonstrates an implacable hatred for the Mystical Body of Christ, His Bride, Holy Mother Church. This same man, Bergoglio, has opined on several occasions, from his very nascent pontificate, the “prophetic” import of Fr. Hugh Benson’s, “Lord of this world”, as did Pope Ratzinger before him. If you know the story, you know that the protagonist for the “one world religion” is an apostate priest and his name is “Father Francis”. This is the man from whom this Pope, Bergoglio, has taken his name, while at once all the world is led to believe, from the immanence of the masterfully applied “double entendre’ “, that his papal name originates in the great Saint Francis, a truly humble son of the Church, whose love of the spiritually and materially poor was profound, as was his own perfect creaturely detachment from all this world has to offer. Pope Francis is the antithesis of Saint Francis and chooses instead to be in the likeness and image of the False Prophet. In caritas.

          • thank you for telling us that aka Lord of the World. Others are also saying he is the false prophet based on what he says and does.

  4. Wow! Finnis and Grisez too? These dudes are the most subtle of Veritatis Splendor opponents…in some publications they have pushed the importance of subjective intention in a moral act to such an importance as to claim that crushing an infant’s head in an emergency late term abortion could actually just be “skull size reduction” rather than murder. Still, kudos to them for taking a stand. Their voices are certainly significant.

  5. Francis’ latest bizarre remarks and those of his coterie (such as Spadaro) have been so unhinged and positively weird that he’s actually losing some of his “orthodox but PC” friends, and an increasing number of papolaters – I say this because they confused the papacy with the Church – are having public misgivings. Even in Crux, I saw Fr Dwight Longenecker write, after gushing about Francis as a “prophet,” that the duty of Peter was not to be a prophet, but to protect the Church as it had come down to him. He said that the Pope thus owed a response to the dubia, and that his duty was to protect the teachings of the Church, no matter how “prophetic” he thought he was. So if something like this is appearing in Crux, it’s obvious that Francis’ attempt to kidnap and remake the Church according to his own VII “prophetic” vision is disturbing to more than the usual, easy to villainize Traditionalist crowd.

    • I saw this and laughed. Surely it is the stupidest “defense” of Pope Francis to be applied with ink.

      You are right; if Cruz is trolling for creative ways to make Pope Francis look like a decent man while sort-of admitting his incapacity, they must be thinking his days are numbered.

  6. This article brings more clarity to the heresies and probable misinterpretations contained in Amoris Laetitia. The key ‘get-off-the-hook’ element is Position H where it is presumed hardly anyone goes to hell thus assuring that no one should get particularly overwrought about Positions A through G. All of this is subversive to our Catholic faith and the work of the devil.

  7. Did anyone else happen to see the clip that Raymond Arroyo ran on his “World Over” program on EWTN this week? It was from a panel discussion he moderated a few weeks ago at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. It was held before the Dubia were made public, but Arroyo and Robert Royal both did a decent job of making Abp. Kurtz squirm in his efforts to say essentially “nothing to see here, folks.” The Bishop of Worcester did okay too, although they all continued to dance around the elephant, even as Arroyo forcefully raised PF’s letter to the group of Argentinian bishops and asked for comments on it. I hope Arroyo continues to take EWTN in the direction of truth on this issue. He has yet to really launch on AL since the Dubia came out. Maybe Ed Pentin’s latest will spur him on. It’s past time for the network to take a stand on this, I believe.

  8. I’m sure this is helpful, but to blame the interpretation and dismiss the authors…still…we are grateful for everyone who speaks out against this ongoing outrage.

  9. Just read this yesterday. I can’t think of anything more likely to discourage future vocations than this attempt to push debatable “science,” raw partisan politics in reality, into the program of formation for Catholic priests. And few Catholics in the pews will accept this bogus nonsense from any priest who decides to “get with the program” either. It will prompt many, lamentably, to throw the baby out with the bath water, to reject what is legitimate along with this malarkey.

  10. It is not a misuse of AL to attempt to admit sacrilegiously to Holy Communion those who are “remarried” and living more uxorio without benefit of an annulment. To provide cover for the most widespread establishment possible of this and other intolerable practices is the apostolic exhortation’s very raison d’etre.

  11. Imagine that you ask your parish priest some explanations about a peculiar and grave matter of Faith and that this priest instead of charitably providing his lights to comfort you, lets you staying in confusion while remaining silent. You would have a very bad opinion of this man and since then you would flee him and reject all his advices.
    Pope Francis matches exactly this man.
    Matthew 5:37 “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no”
    Silence or ambiguous comments from people who have no magisterial authority are not the ways the Holy Spirit uses to enlight the Flock in troublesome periods.
    Our Blessed Mother, we beseech you, pray for our Church which is in a so dire situation !


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