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More Sophistry Concerning Amoris Laetitia

by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 21, 2017

In this, the fourth year of the Bergoglian tumult, just as Our Lady of Akita predicted, we see “cardinals opposing cardinals and bishops opposing bishops.” They are quarreling over the meaning of the utterly unprecedented Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia (AL). They quarrel over whether AL has opened the door to Holy Communion for public adulterers, even though Pope Bergoglio has confirmed that in his own view of his own document it does indeed do so.

A curious pattern has developed in this opposition between prelates: Those who raise doubts concerning AL, including the four cardinals with their five yet-to-be-answered dubia, invariably cite the constant teaching and Eucharistic discipline of the Church affirmed by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The staunch defenders of AL, on the other hand, ignore the prior teaching and discipline and invariably resort to sophistry.

Take the Spanish theologian Salvador Pié-Ninot, for example. In an article published by Religión Digital (hat tip to canon212.com), Pié-Ninot, a priest of the Diocese of Barcelona, claims that AL is a teaching of the ordinary Magisterium which, while not infallible, requires “loyal assent of the will” even if it is not irreformable (that is, even if it could be revised). He relies on and quotes a 1990 instruction by Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But that Instruction, Donum Veritatis (DV), was written to address the problem of dissenting theologians who were expressing opposition to settled and constantly repeated teachings of the ordinary Magisterium (such as the teaching on the impossibility of Holy Communion for those living in adultery or the teaching against contraception) which had not been the subject of a formal infallible definition. DV certainly was not written to address a papal document that is widely understood to contradict what the Church has constantly taught and practiced in line with that teaching. 

What happens, however, when a Pope propounds the kind of moral and pastoral theological novelties we see in AL? Ironically, DV itself provides the answer:

“It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. Here the theologian will need, first of all, to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the interventions, which becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed.”

Note that a key factor warranting the raising of questions concerning a purported teaching of the Magisterium is “the insistence with which a teaching is repeated.” With AL, there has been no historical repetition of its novelties by the Magisterium. They originate entirely with Pope Bergoglio. Indeed, AL would appear to contradict precisely what the Magisterium (including the teaching of Pope Bergoglio’s two immediate predecessors) has insistently repeated in rejecting challenges by dissident theologians such as Cardinal Kasper, whose views clearly enjoy the favor of Pope Bergoglio. 

In fact, any papal document that would contradict the teaching of the promulgating Pope’s own predecessors cannot be part of the Magisterium in the first place, as the teaching office of the Church by definition cannot contradict itself. Therefore, an outlier document like AL could only be false wherever it is involved in contradiction of what the Church has insistently repeated before. In this case, as the same Cardinal Ratzinger declared in the CDF’s 1994 Instruction:

“[I]f the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception.”

Thus, Salvador Pié-Ninot has sophistically turned DV on its head in order to suggest that everyone must now obey a document — AL — that actually undermines the very teaching that Pope Bergoglio’s own predecessors insistently repeated. Almost incredibly, then, Bergoglio stands in the same censured position as the dissenting theologians DV had in view.

From this abuse of source material, Salvador Pié-Ninot proceeds to an equally sophistical non sequitur:

“It must be noted, however, that Amoris Laetitia recognizes a plurality at the practical level, since there exist ‘different manners and consequences’ given that ‘unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16, 13)…’”

The claim is self-contradictory nonsense: Unity of discipline and practice in the Church is necessary, but there can be various ways of “interpreting” a teaching and its “consequences” in different places — meaning no unity of discipline and practice, which is exactly what we are witnessing now with an “implementation” of AL that varies from place to place.

And what is the source for the internal quotation in Pié-Ninot’s conclusion? None other than paragraph 3 of AL, whose absurd suggestion of an effective doctrinal regionalism has never even been intimated by any prior Pope, much less insistently repeated by the Magisterium. So, sophistically enough, Pié-Ninot cites only AL’s novelties in defense of his claim that the same novelties pertain to the authentic Magisterium. According to that logic, any papal utterance within the four corners of a papal document would have to be accepted as authentic Catholic teaching by the mere fact of its publication, even if it runs contrary to the Church’s perennial teaching on the same subject. The papacy would thus be a kind of fickle oracle rather than a guarantor of the truth, that is, the traditio handed down to him for transmission intact to his successor — hence Tradition.

That AL can only be defended by such sophistry is reason enough to view it with suspicion. Hence the five dubia, which Pope Bergoglio clearly has no intention of answering.  Hence the Bergoglian tumult in general, created by an occupant of the Chair of Peter who seems to think that he creates the Magisterium rather than conserving and defending its constant teaching. As Pope Bergoglio declared to America magazine: “I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium. That’s what I think…”

May Our Lady of Fatima deliver us from this confusion.