The Amoris Laetitia Debate is Far From Over: An Update on Recent Events

September 20, 2017
Source: District of the USA
Mgr Victor Manuel Fernández.

An article in a theological magazine describes any critique of Amoris Laetitia as being in a "death trap" and gives a concise view of its impact.

In its May-August 2017 issue, the theological magazine Medellín published under the authority of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) a collection of studies on the magisterium of Pope Francis. It includes an analysis of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia by Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and a very close friend of the Argentinian pope.

Under the title “Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia: The Calm after the Storm,” the article explains that the pope’s intention was to move the Church forward on the question of Communion for some remarried divorcés “in a discreet way.” 

The author recognizes that this intention was unsuccessful, notably due to the publication of the dubia by four cardinals, Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra, and Meisner. But those who criticize the exhortation are in a “death trap,” declares Archbishop Fernández, and their approach is “a betrayal of the heart of the Gospel.” The Argentinian prelate accuses them of a sort of “intellectual Pelagianism.”

The magazine was highly praised on August 22, 2017, by the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, after statements in the press by several theologians who are legitimately critical of Amoris Laetitia.

New Critical Statements on Amoris Laetitia

In the newspaper The Wanderer on August 14, Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in the Vatican, explained what he means by a “formal correction” of Amoris Laetitia. He said it is now necessary to state clearly “what the Church teaches about marriage, the family, acts that are intrinsically evil.” 

On August 18, Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, who has taught at Oxford, Cambridge, and Rome, published on the British website Catholic Herald a conference he gave at the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, an ecumenical association, where he spoke to a largely non-Catholic audience. He explained the need for a canonical reform that would allow for just such a “formal correction” of the sovereign pontiff. Given the limits on papal infallibility, canon law might be able to accommodate a formal procedure for inquiring into whether a pope had taught error, he believes. 

In the August 2017 issue of the German magazine Die Neue Ordnung, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, who also signed the dubia, thinks it advisable for the successors of Peter to publish a profession of Catholic Faith. The last pope to do this was Paul VI in 1968 with the Creed of the People of God, and other popes from the 5th century on had done the same. The German prelate asks what conclusions can be drawn “for the Church of our days.” 

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra

The Death of One of the Authors of the Dubia

After the death of Cardinal Joachim Meisner on July 5, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who also signed the dubia, passed away on September 6, at the age of 79. The archbishop emeritus of Bologna granted an interview in January to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, in which he voiced his “respect” for the pope, but also his worry at “the division among the pastors” caused by the dubia. He pointed out the risk of pastoral practice being “arbitrary” when it “is not founded and rooted in doctrine.” 

Camillo Langone wrote a homage to this prelate in the columns of Il Foglio on the day he died:

The cardinals die; the doubts live on. Or rather, each time a cardinal who voiced his doubts on Amoris Laetitia dies without being answered, the pope’s silence grows more deafening. And the doubts, unlike those who voiced them, are increasing. What exactly does this ambiguous apostolic exhortation say? Are Jesus’ words on marriage still valid?

On September 7, on his blog, Vaticanist Antonio Socci related the following testimony:

A priest confided to me that in the past few days, he went to tell the Cardinal of his distress over the disasters that he endures in the Church every day, mentioning some incidents to him. The cardinal burst into tears, saying: ‘The Lord will not abandon His Church. There were twelve apostles, so the Lord will start again with a few. Imagine the suffering of Saint Athanasius, who was left alone to defend the truth for the love of Christ, of the Church and of men. We must have faith, hope and fortitude.’ 
 

The priest confided in me: ‘The cardinal was very sorrowful, but he conveyed to me so much courage and love for the Church.’…He was certain that in the world and in the Church, the Lord will win in the end. Thus, in recent years, he was found to be the protagonist of a powerful defense of the Catholic Faith and of the sacraments in the face of Pope Bergoglio’s Amoris Laetitia.
 

In this testimony, he was comforted by the prophetic words which he had received years ago from Sister Lucia of Fatima in a letter in which she wrote to him that ‘the final battle between God and Satan will be about marriage and the family.’