“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exod. 20:14)
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18)
Since the family is the basic cell of society, when it is in crisis, all of society is dragged down with it.
Today, the family is shaken above all by the crumbling certainty in marriage’s indissolubility, and the role this indissolubility plays in family life and in the education of children. The evil fruits of the family crisis are the staggering numbers of those who divorce, downgrading their sacred marriages into temporary living arrangements.
Even among Catholics, indissolubility is evanescent, as the numbers of divorces and nullity decrees increase, due in no small measure to the mischief of liberal theologians and pastors. Indeed, rather than laboring to restore the true meaning of marriage, reminding the faithful about the Church’s perennial and immutable teaching in this regard, they lull consciences to sleep, misleading many who live in an objective state of mortal sin.
Regretfully, in its insinuations, ambiguities, omissions, and one-sidedness, instead of buttressing the sacred institutions of marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia contributes to their disintegration.
Some have pointed out that Amoris Laetitia also has many good things. In this, however, one must always remember that good comes from the integrity of a cause and is corrupted by any defect. Evil and error when mixed with good and truth are more harmful than when alone. For as Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) reminds us,
There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition.
I. Is It Even Licit to Deal with This Issue?
While expounding on related topics, Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira observed:
A Catholic who loves the Papacy and is thus keenly protective of the monarchic character of the Church could ask us a preliminary question: Is it licit to delve into such matters? Would it not be more pious to accept as infallible everything that the Popes and also the bishops say?
We would answer that the faithful should not look at the Church as Our Lord Himself did not make it. If there are doubts about such a fundamental point of Catholic doctrine, it is the mission of Catholic publications to clarify them, for Church doctrine is not esoteric.
It is in this spirit, that we will now analyze aspects of this important document of the Pope’s Ordinary Magisterium.
II. The “Kasper Thesis”
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (henceforth “AL”) is the conclusion of heated discussions among theologians, cardinals, bishops, and laity which began with the speech of Walter Cardinal Kasper at the February 2014 Extraordinary Consistory, continued at October 2014’s Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and then October 2015’s Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
What shocked Catholic clergy and laity was the fact that in his speech — which Pope Francis praised as “serene theology,” a way of “doing theology while kneeling” — Cardinal Kasper proposed something contrary to the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel and the whole tradition of the Church, something contrary to the warnings of Saint Paul, namely, that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics be allowed to receive Holy Communion.
In addition to books and articles of great historical and theological weight written by cardinals, bishops, priests and laymen refuting the “Kasper thesis,” over 800,000 signatures were collected around the world by Filial Appeal, a coalition of TFPs and other organizations. Over 200 cardinals and bishops also signed this Filial Appeal asking the Pope to say a clarifying word that would dispel so much confusion.
III. Is God’s Law Not Applicable to All?
Ultimately, AL accepts the “Kasper thesis,” not just in note 351 of paragraph 305, but throughout the Exhortation’s confused and ambiguous line of reasoning.
Leaving aside the document’s sociologism, its theological-moral argumentation is based on the principle that Divine Law and Natural Law cannot be applied universally to all persons because these Laws have to be adapted to the specific circumstances of the lives of each individual and their subjective consciences. AL downplays the normative character of Natural Law, presenting it only as a “source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions” (n. 305).
Examples being so numerous that it would be impossible to cite them all herein, we limit ourselves to this quote summarizing the whole argumentation:
If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.(n. 300)
According to AL, the factors that excuse people from the guilt of sin in the internal forum are such, that remarried divorcees and cohabiting couples should no longer be presumed to be public sinners:
Hence it is [sic] 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. (n. 301)
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. (n. 305)