In an article written for the Italian daily, La Stampa, theologians Dr. Robert Fastiggi and Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein have entered a rather creative defense plea on behalf of the bishop in white who stands accused of heresy.
Specifically, the two contend that one of the most controversial texts in Amoris Laetitia (article 303) is actually orthodox, and that the English translation (below) provided by the Holy See is simply deficient.
Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. (see AL 303)
“When read in its original Latin, one [the above] contested passage in the document has a significantly different meaning than it does in the official English translation,” Fastiggi and Goldstein object.
One small problem…
Though an “official” (or typical) Latin version of the exhortation eventually was created for entry into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis more than one year after its publication, the “original” text of Amoris Laetitia was not Latin.
[For a list of the eight languages in which AL was originally published, see HERE.]
[For Fr. John Zuhldorf’s commentary on this fact, see HERE.]
What’s the difference? I say “official,” you say “original.” Let’s call the whole thing off!
The difference in this case; in particular, as it concerns chronology, is actually huge, but we’ll come back to this momentarily.
For now, let’s take a closer look at the excuse du jour; cutting right to the chase.
Fastiggi’s and Godlstein’s plea zeroes-in on the Latin word oblationem as they contend:
Our translation from the Latin shows that Pope Francis is clearly not saying that conscience may rightly discern that an objectively immoral act is not immoral. Instead, he is noting that in some complex and irregular situations a person’s conscience will recognize that God is asking for a generous response, indeed an oblationem, or offering, that moves in the right direction even though it does not completely rectify the objective irregularity of the situation.
How did they arrive at this conclusion?
The defense team of Fastiggi and Godlstein proposed what they consider to be a more accurate translation of the Latin text under review as follows:
This conscience, however, can not only recognize a given situation to be objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel; it can also recognize sincerely and honestly what may be the generous response owed to God in the present circumstances; and this same firm conscience can come to understand with a certain moral certitude that this is the offering that God himself is asking amid the mass of impediments, although it may not yet be the perfect objective model.
Go ahead, read it again if you must.
I know… you were expecting more, but that’s it. This is the version of the text that supposedly gets Jorge off the heresy hook.
Though it’s hardly necessary for most readers of this space, let’s go ahead and break down the “not guilty” version, shall we.
First and most obvious point: When it comes to such matters as marriage and adultery, the Gospel (i.e., the teaching of Our Lord offered in His very own words) provides far more than just a “general mandate.”
This much is entirely obvious, and it is precisely in reducing these teachings to such that Amoris Laetitia paves the way for its heresy and blasphemy.
Even in the translation provided by Fastiggi and Godlstein, the following is plain:
– The text points to “a given situation” that is “objectively at variance” with what Our Lord taught, as recorded in the Gospels, about marriage and adultery.
– It states that those in such a situation can “recognize sincerely and honestly what may be the generous response owed to God in the present circumstances.”
If the sentence stopped here, it may be taken to mean that those presently in an adulterous relationship can recognize that they must cease persisting in it, and this is true. But alas, the sentence goes on!
For our purposes, we need to see how the text of AL (again, the translation given by Fastiggi and Goldstein) defines “the generous response owed to God in the present circumstances.”
We find this definition, plain as day, in the rest of the sentence:
– “The generous response … is the offering that God himself is asking amid the mass of impediments, although it may not yet be the perfect objective model.”
Fastiggi and Goldstein, in their reading, even plainly admit that the “objective irregularity of the situation” remains even after the generous response is given.
Let’s be clear: The so-called “perfect model” of marriage is that which is in accord with Divine Law. Our Lord did not make a Divine Suggestion. What is here called “objective irregularity,” therefore, is more properly called “objective mortal sin.”
Fastiggi’s and Goldstein’s failure stems from their having swallowed the first crucial error that we identified in this portion of Amoris Laetitia; namely, the false idea that the teaching of Our Lord concerning marriage and adultery is simply a “general mandate.”
All of that said, the defense plea offered by Fastiggi and Goldstein fails perhaps even more miserably as a matter of common sense. Recall their main objection:
Our translation from the Latin shows that Pope Francis is clearly not saying that conscience may rightly discern that an objectively immoral act is not immoral.
Clearly? I’ll give you clearly….
It is an indisputable part of the historical record that in the time between Amoris Laetitia being published and the eventual creation of a Latin text, right up to the present day, Francis has made no effort whatsoever to insist upon, or even hint at, the spin provided by Fastiggi and Goldstein; on the contrary, and this even after being implored to do so multiple times by many highly respected individuals.
And now for the most tragic part of this tale:
Robert Fastiggi is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI, and Dawn Goldstein is a Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT.
So much for neo-con claims about a new crop of orthodox priests currently in formation.