While it is the case, as I wrote, that the final chapter represents the very centerpiece of the document, the arguably more concerning “punchline,” if you will, is delivered much earlier in the text…
From its opening paragraph, Amoris Laetitia reflects the impoverished ecclesiology of its author; painting the image of a Church that has lost its way, unsure of its identity, and unclear about its mission.
In a document that proposes to instruct the faithful on matters of importance for the family, Francis begins by stating:
The desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church. (AL 1)
Later we are informed:
The Church, in order fully to understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way… (AL 67) The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross… (AL 72)
Ah yes, the uninspired, confused, and forgetful Church must ever look to the laity for insight and self-awareness, but only if they have the right (or is that the left) mindset:
The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations. (AL 2)
As noted in previous posts (HERE and HERE), Francis would go on to propose the “grounding,” shaky though it may be, that will effectively facilitate the “total change” that he clearly desired all along.
The mere mention of an “immoderate” party is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to fool the naïve into believing that Amoris Laetitia represents the measured voice of reason, when in fact, Francis did nothing whatsoever to moderate the behavior of the Synod’s boldest revolutionaries; on the contrary – he aided, abetted and encouraged them!
His criticism, in other words, is truly pointed exclusively toward faithful Catholics who dare to see the pastoral application of doctrine as an invaluable source of grace and an authentic remedy for families in crisis.
Just as we expected, Francis speaks as if the turmoil that came to define the Synod assemblies never existed:
I must also say that the Synod process proved both impressive and illuminating. I am grateful for the many contributions that helped me to appreciate more fully the problems faced by families throughout the world. (AL 4)
Indeed, Francis was so “illuminated” by the bishops that he ran roughshod over the majority at every turn. For him, it is obvious, the Synod of Bishops is but a propaganda tool; an ersatz-democratic smokescreen behind which the “God of Surprises” can hide (HINT: it’s really just a dictatorial Argentinian Jesuit) as he enforces his will upon the entire Church.
This being his idea of “synodality,” is it any wonder Francis favors it so?
Likewise as expected, it didn’t take long before Francis saw fit to twist Sacred Scripture in service to his ends as he proposed in paragraph 18:
In the concern he shows for children – whom the societies of the ancient Near East viewed as subjects without particular rights and even as family property – Jesus goes so far as to present them as teachers, on account of their simple trust and spontaneity towards others. “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3-4).
Children as teachers?
This is just embarrassing. Our Lord pointed to children as examples of those who trust enough in authority – in this case, His authority as rendered through the Church – to be taught and formed with docility; thus the admonition that followed:
“But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt 18:6)
With this in mind, if I were Francis, I’d be looking for some good scuba gear right about now. Just sayin’…
In keeping with his bankrupt ecclesiology wherein the Church is viewed as a collection of bumbling clerical buttinskis as opposed to what it truly is – “a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs [Pastors and Doctors] who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging,” (Pius X, Vehementer Nos), Francis offered a lengthy and blistering critique of “we,” which is really just code for “the Church of tradition.”
We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism. Then too, we often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation. (AL 36)
He can’t be serious. Ever since Vatican Council II, our churchmen no longer teach the truth concerning the primary ends of marriage (the procreation and education of children); preferring instead to spread the politically correct platitude told here:
Marriage is firstly an intimate partnership of life and love… (AL 80)
His Humility continues his assault on the Church of tradition:
At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families … We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. (AL 36,37)
Notice the false dichotomy between matters theological, moral and doctrinal (these are presented as “artificial”) and “concrete situations” which alone are considered “real.” This is a hallmark of Francis’ ahem… magisterium.
We have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness. (AL 38)
Wasting pastoral energy. This is rich considering the multi-year “synodal” process that was carried out for no reason whatsoever other than to introduce radical decisions that were made long before the assemblies were ever even announced.
In any event, I do appreciate the reminder that “proposing ways of finding true happiness” is the mission of newchurch:
Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. (Evangelii Gaudium 272)
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more “me-centered” than this, Francis then channels his inner Matthew Kelly:
We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. (AL 37)
Francis even gives us a clever, yet entirely meaningless, bumper sticker slogan that no doubt will become a favorite of progressives:
We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. (ibid.)
The vilification of the Church such as she was prior to the New Springtime continues with respect to the treatment of single mothers:
In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy. Rather than offering the healing power of grace and the light of the Gospel message, some would “indoctrinate” that message, turning it into “dead stones to be hurled at others”. (AL 49)
From whence does this man’s hatred arise? (HINT: it ain’t Heaven.)
No entity on earth has ever done more to support single mothers than the Catholic Church!
No doubt the neo-cons will cite ad nauseam those paragraphs (specifically nos. 62 and 63) where the indissolubility of marriage is mentioned, as if they somehow serve as a remedy for the poison. They don’t, which is why I feel no need whatsoever to repeat them here.
Consider the following, however:
There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. (AL 52)
Notice how even in the context of affirming a truth about marriage, Francis just can’t help but throw a bone, not only to cohabitators, but also to homo-deviants by citing “family situations” that offer a “certain stability” – as if “I’ll bugger you ‘til death do us part” is a praiseworthy commitment.
Francis then moves on to another highly favored constituency, women:
If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women. (AL 54)
Come Holy Ghost!
I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practiced in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making. (ibid. 54)
Oh yes, these two things are comparable! That said, since when is being a wife and a mother less dignified than entering the labor force?
Ever since the Spirit-led women’s movement came into being, that’s when.
Moving on to the men…
Men play an equally decisive role in family life, particularly with regard to the protection and support of their wives and children. (AR 55)
St. Paul (and every real man worth a whisker) would disagree (e.g., see Ephesians 5), but Francis dismisses the Evangelist’s words as time bound and outdated:
Paul was writing in the context of a patriarchal culture in which women were considered completely subordinate to men… (AL 154) This passage mirrors the cultural categories of the time… (AL 156)
Moving on, Francis states:
Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences… (AL 56)
This is quite true, but he then criticizes the ideology of gender further, stating:
This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time. It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised.
Reading this, one may be left to wonder exactly what “understandable aspirations” motivate transgenderism (doesn’t this sometimes entail genital mutilation?), or worse, parents who abuse their children by deliberately promoting gender confusion?
Now, I don’t believe that Francis intends to say that justifiable aspirations exist in these cases, but such is the confusion that is created when churchmen fail to condemn evil plainly and without qualification.
In any case, no church-of-man exhortation would be complete without encouraging religious indifferentism:
We can readily say that anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the people, religion or region to which they belong! (AL 77)
At this point in the document we come to an excruciatingly verbose treatment of what amounts to a Christianized version of Dr. Phil doling out relationship advice. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things to be found in this portion of the text, but who’s kidding who:
The purpose of the entire document is to turn the Church’s perennial pastoral practices with respect to persistent mortal sin and the Sacraments upside down.
This brings us to the document’s treatment of homo-deviants:
We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives. (AL 250)
Indeed, violence and aggression is no way to treat those who suffer with a psychological disorder. If only he would tell this to the Muslims that he can’t fawn over often enough.
That said, why does Francis feel the need to employ the language of LGBT activism?
There is no more such thing as a “homosexual orientation” than there is a “suicidal orientation;” rather, there is a psychological disorder wherein certain individuals are tempted to engage in deviant and unnatural sexual behavior with persons of the same sex.
Moving on, Francis makes a good point, while yet again employing the language of LGBT activists:
In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”. (AL 251)
There is no such thing as “homosexual persons;” just persons who engage in homosexual acts that are intrinsically disordered.
While the neo-cons can be expected to applaud this treatment of “gay marriage” as evidence of Francis’ faithfulness to Catholic doctrine, one cannot but lament these all-too-casual references to “homosexual unions.” This is like referring to Planned Parenthood as a “healthcare network.”
In other words, Francis writes as if these arrangements are something far more innocent than what they truly are – pacts between individuals who bring great harm to themselves by engaging in reprehensible acts.
At this, I come to what is perhaps the most noteworthy portion of the document beyond the infamous “Chapter Eight.”
As we expected, Francis stated a desire for “regional solutions” to be developed moving forward:
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 … Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated,if it is to be respected and applied. (AL 3)
Do not gloss over this!
It means that Amoris Laetitia is just the beginning; like fire applied to a fuse, and one shudders to consider where the various bishops’ conferences will go from here now that mortal sin (as mentioned in the previous post) has been all but abrogated.
Know this: Couched though they may be in soothing “pastoral” tones, there are doctrinal detonations to come, the likes of which one can hardly imagine.