Defending the Society of St. Pius X

SSPX 2016In early March, I published a post, SSPX offers stunning evaluation of Amoris, Francis, in reference to Part 5 of a series of articles written by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, SSPX, entitled, Is Pope Francis Heretical?

To say that I’ve received a great deal of feedback is an understatement.

Ultimately, my criticism of what I see as the Society’s inadequate response to the crisis at hand has cost me some of the financial support that I rely upon to keep this effort going, and perhaps even some friends.

That’s OK. I’m hopeful that God will raise up others in time. He always does.

That said, I would like for you to know that among those who reached out to me in confidence to express their support included certain priests of the Society itself, and for this confirmation I am very grateful.

Among those who strongly disagreed with my assessment of the Society’s position is a man that I am pleased to call a friend. Some of you know him from his articulate comments in the combox here as “A Catholic Thinker.”

With his permission, I am “outing” him here. He is Paul Folbrecht – a Catholic writer whose name may be familiar from his articles for Catholic Family News.

Paul posted a strong reply in the comment section of my post on Fr. Gleize’s article. Some of you no doubt read it there.

It occurs to me that this defense of Fr. Gleize’s analysis is perhaps as good as anyone can provide, and for this reason (with Paul’s knowledge) I am posting it here along with my rebuttal.

Now, please bear in mind that Paul (who is an excellent writer) offered the following as a “comment” and not as an article; i.e., it’s not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the topic at hand in either content or style.

Even so, I believe that what follows will be instructive. It’s a bit lengthy, but those who persevere will no doubt come away with a better understanding of this most pressing matter.

For the sake expedience, you will find Paul Folbrecht’s words (some of which quote me from the original post linked above) in regular type, and my own words in response in boldface.

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Concerning the first dubia, Louie disagrees that the phrase “in certain cases” has more than one interpretation. Louie seems to be suggesting that because the Church does not judge internals, there are no valid cases at all where the Eucharist may be offered to public sinners (adulterers), and in that he is completely correct, of course (with a caveat below).

However, of course Fr. Gleize is not contesting that point at all (which he makes clear even in what Louie quotes) – rather, Fr. Gleize seems to be stating that it isn’t clear if “in certain cases” is actually referring to people obstinately persisting in public sin, rather than something else entirely.

Fr. Gleize states, “We are dealing here therefore with a doubt (dubium) in the strictest sense of the term, in other words, a passage that can be interpreted in two ways. And this doubt arises precisely thanks to the indefinite expression in the note: ‘in certain cases.’ In order to dispel this doubt, it is essential to indicate clearly what these cases are in which the Church’s sacramental aid proves possible and to state that this is about situations in which the sufficiently enlightened sinners have already decided to abandon the objectively sinful situation.”

The document leaves no room for doubt whatsoever as to the situation being addressed. It concerns “people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together” (AL 297); “the divorced who have entered a new union” (AL 298), etc.

It is equally as clear from the text that it is not  discussing those in this group who “have already decided to abandon the objectively sinful situation” (to quote Fr. Gleize).

For example, we know with certainty that it is addressing “those in any ‘irregular’ situation” which (we are told) may be  “in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

Without further sin…

Amoris Laetitia is plainly addressing those who are presently in the sinful situation of persons living together more uxorio with someone other than their lawful spouse. 

So, it is clear that Fr. Gleize is questioning exactly what “certain cases” refers to. Note that he has already given his answer to the dubia.

Fr. Gleize writes: “The first dubium poses the question concerning paragraphs 300-305 of Amoris laetitia: is it possible to give absolution and sacramental Communion to divorced-and-remarried persons who live in adultery without repenting? For someone who adheres to Catholic doctrine, the answer is no.”

And yet, Fr. Gleize insists, “It is essential to indicate clearly what these cases are;” namely, cases where the sacraments can be made available to those who persist in the objective state of mortal sin.

As Paul has already acknowledged above, “there are no valid cases at all where the Eucharist may be offered to public sinners (adulterers).”

This being so, why is Fr. Gleize questioning what “these cases are,” when all concerned know that there are none?

In the end, he is introducing “doubt” where it simply does not exist.  

As for what Francis might imagine these cases to be, we already know based upon both the content of AL and his approval of the Buenos Aires bishops’ directives (“there are no other interpretations”) – it is those who may not be culpable. More on that momentarily…

In any case, that Francis is proposing that these special cases exist is perfectly plain.  

He is dead wrong in this, and Fr. Gleize serves no one by failing to say so; calling this error for what it is – a violation of Divine Law. (See below).

Now I definitely agree that AL seems to be suggesting that “certain cases” refers to those “in an objective situation of sin”, but the document does not state this with complete clarity, which is exactly why bishops have been and continue to interpret it differently. The point of Fr. Gleize’s analysis is to remain completely objective.

AL is not “suggesting” anything; it is perfectly clear. One need only read the article under discussion (AL 305), and better still, the entirety of Chapter Eight.

There is absolutely no room for doubt as to what is meant by “irregular situations” – it clearly refers to the civilly divorced and remarried who are persisting in the grave sin of adultery. To deny this is to deny reality.

My response to Fr. Gleize’s article at this stage was simple enough:

A critical point that Fr. Gleize fails to mention is that while “it is possible” that one who commits an objectively grave sin “may not be subjectively culpable,” the Church does not have the right, or the ability, to render such judgments.    

This is no small oversight on Fr. Gleize’s part. Simply acknowledging this one basic doctrine is enough to correct many of the grave errors present in Amoris Laetitia.

So-called “full communion” bishops have done so. Is it too much to expect the Society of St. Pius X to do likewise in stating its official position on the text?

(And here’s the caveat: Louie is missing that the Church does not judge the internal forum, just as individuals do not, but the Church certainly can and does judge public sins in some cases – after all, that’s exactly what the prohibition from the Eucharist for unrepentant public sinners is based on! However, this is unrelated to his arguments.)

Far from missing the point, I’ve stated many times that the Church has not only the ability, but even the duty to judge such public sins. Indeed, I have said over and over again that this objective situation is the only thing the Church is able to judge (as opposed to the subjective matter of culpability).  

“Hence it 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.” (from AL 301)

To which Fr. Gleize proposes: “Two points should be emphasized. The sentence just quoted posits in principle the impossibility of making a universal affirmation. It does not deny the possibility of saying that public sinners are deprived of grace; it only denies the possibility of saying that all public sinners are deprived of it. This denial has always been taught by the Church.””

Louie writes: “Once again, it is to be shocked. Here is what the Council of Trent had to say…”

Louie, you’re contradicting yourself. You noted above that only God judges the internal forum, and Fr. Gleize is saying nothing more than that above. He’s merely noting that none of us know which public sinners are culpable for their sin – and he’s entirely correct that this is in concert with Catholic teaching.

He said nothing more here; he did not in the least indicate that this in itself justifies the heterodox praxis AL seems to allow. He is examining this statement in isolation, and his analysis is completely correct and completely straightforward. How are you shocked by the true statement that not all public sinners are deprived of grace?

You quote Trent regarding the fact that sanctifying grace is lost by mortal sin, as if this is something Fr. Gleize is not cognizant of. Fr. Gleize is merely making the proper distinctions between the objective and subjective, and you are not. Whether or not objectively sinful acts deprive the soul of grace comes down to imputability, of course. This is basic Catholic teaching and all that Fr. Gleize is stating!

(The Church’s laws regarding obstinate public sinners being deprived of the Sacraments is not, of course, based on the internal forum. It is not based on purporting to know the state of their souls, but on prudently taking steps to avoid the *possibility* (likelihood) of desecration of the Eucharist and, the public scandal of allowing those in public sin in the external forum to approach the Sacred Body and Blood.

AL 301  goes well beyond simply “noting that none of us know which public sinners are culpable for their sin.”

The Council of Trent is very clear: The objective reality of mortal sin (including adultery by name) “is to be maintained…”

In other words, the Church and her ministers (and Catholics in general) must maintain that those persisting in adultery “are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”

The Church has always done this. AL 301 even tacitly acknowledges as much: “It can no longer…”

Professing the objective reality of mortal sin concerning those living as husband and wife outside of marriage (again, as the Church has always done) does not amount to a denial that the God who alone judges the internal disposition of souls may hold the individual sinner less than fully culpable.

Rather, it is simply a reflection of the Church’s duty to “teach everything whatsoever…,” in this case, the objective reality of the mortal sin of adultery.

Either the Church has this duty or it doesn’t. Trent is very clear on this point. The Church has always behaved accordingly, and yet AL 301 insists upon the exact opposite – It can no longer simply be maintained…

And worse still, AL 301 even goes so far as to include in this prohibition – in the very next sentence, in fact – those who persist in adultery while “knowing full well the rule.”

For some reason, Fr. Gleize chose to ignore this portion of AL 301 entirely!  

Louie writes: “Now we seem to be getting somewhere… The Church’s response to every sinner is to preach, to warn, and to invite to conversion. She does not, however, enter into an examination of culpability as such is the prerogative of God alone!”

And Fr. Gleize is certainly not contradicting that.

In this, I was responding to Fr. Gleize’s comment:

“The help of the sacraments can only come afterward, if and only if the formerly ignorant persons, now instructed as to the seriousness of their state, have decided to make use of the means of conversion, and if they have what is called a firm purpose of amendment. Otherwise the help of the sacraments would be ineffective, and it too would be an objective situation of sin.”

Fr. Gleize is correct, of course, which leads one to once again wonder why he is asking for clarity concerning “certain cases” that the text of AL is at pains to describe as those situations wherein one is not fully culpable for their ongoing adultery.  

In the face of this, Fr. Gleize failed to apply the very basic Catholic doctrine that the Church does not, indeed cannot, judge culpability. If only he had done so, a great deal of confusion would have been removed from the minds of many. There is no excuse for such an oversight.

Louie writes: “I find this stunning, to be quite honest. Remember what we are discussing – adultery. ‘The law’ in this case is absolute; it is not open to nuance or ‘prudent application,’ properly speaking: Thou shalt not commit… This formulation is very clear, and Our Lord even further clarified precisely what constitutes adultery.”

By no means does Fr. Gleize give any hint of suggesting that there are occasions where adultery is allowable!

What Louie has missed is that the passage Fr. Gleize was responding to speaks of “rules” – Church law – not the objective morality of acts. And, he does say that the passage “errs”!

Louie writes: “… moral absolutes such as that expressed in the Commandment against adultery do indeed “provide absolutely for all particular situations. Francis states the exact opposite, and that, my friends, is heresy.”

While I’d never defend this disastrous document, again, it isn’t referring to adultery here but to sacramental practice – “rules.”

AL 304 states: “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.”

Again, Louie is mixing & conflating the objective and subjective, and now sin and canon law as well.

Fr. Gleize says that AL 304 errs by overstressing “the prudent application of the law;” (i.e., how does the law apply to person X as opposed to person Y).

There is no such thing as “prudent application” when it comes to the matter of Communion for unrepentant public adulterers; it is absolute and applies in all cases.

Divine Law and Church Law in this case are so directly related as to form a whole. For reference see the 1994 CDF Letter to Bishops upholding and explaining Familiaris Consortio 84 wherein Cardinal Ratizinger makes it clear that the “practice” under discussion (Church Law) is truly a matter of doctrine and Divine Law.

The effort to separate “adultery” from “sacramental practice” (Divine Law from discipline) has been a key strategy of the Bergoglian party from day one.

I’m afraid that my friend Paul, in a good faith effort to defend the SSPX, is inadvertently coming dangerously close to validating their erroneous claims.

Louie writes: “For reasons that only he can explain, he has chosen to focus on the solitary sentence quoted above while ignoring entirely the one immediately following, which reads: “A subject may know full well the rule [divine law concerning the mortal sin of adultery], yet have great difficulty in understanding its inherent values, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” (AL 301)”

I must agree that this omission is unfortunate. This sentence is indeed horrible; to state that persons might be “disallowed” from avoiding sin is indeed preposterous and indeed at least seemingly in conflict with dogma. The same goes for paragraph 303. This is one valid point that Louie makes (anyone who responds to my rebuttal be sure to be aware that I allowed this).

Allowing this is good and appreciated, but what is stated here isn’t nearly enough.

The idea that such statements in AL are only “seemingly in conflict with dogma” serves no purpose.

The dogmas of the Faith are very clear; so too is Amoris Laetitia and its contradiction of the same. Hesitating to condemn the latter for what it is – in places, blasphemy and heresy – is a grave disservice to souls.

However, once again Louie certainly goes much too far in his opinion, apparently unaware that the objective and subjective are being mixed without distinction. Though this clause appears to be impossible to reconcile with Catholic moral dogma – which is why it’s been attacked so savagely by Chris Ferrara and others in the Recognize and Resist camp – whether Francis is pertinacious in heresy (that is, “a heretic,” himself), consciously rejecting the teaching of the Church, is another matter. That’s the question here – it concerns the person of the Pope, not statements in this exhortation.

Not so. Fr. Gleize’s article and my response to it does not concern the person of the pope in a  subjective sense (e.g., with respect to pertinacity); it concerns the objective sense of the text of AL.

That is step one: determining if in fact he is teaching heresy.

Louie writes: “If this isn’t enough for one to conclude that Francis is heretical…”

Louie switches from the objective to the subjective without batting an eye, or apparently being unaware that he’s made just the leap. What Louie seems to mean is that the statement is heretical, but then he immediately assigns culpability for obstinate heresy to the person of Francis – in contradiction to the maxim he states himself above. If this isn’t what he meant, the terminology (which is rather critical – the entire point here) is quite sloppy.

Actually, a person as well as a statement can be objectively “heretical” (please see the Catholic Encyclopedia’s treatment of heresy) even if not formally (subjectively) so.

That is the sense in which Fr. Gleize poses the question in the title to his article, and it is the sense in which I used the same terminology. 

Fr. Gleize’s analysis is rational and sober. It is the response of a trained theologian – a man who has taught theology in a Traditional Catholic environment for decades. If an objective analysis will not satisfy some, the fault lies not with the document or its author. (I do not intend to make some kind of argument from authority here – these are objective comments regarding the document.)

Again, however, it would have been better to speak (objectively) fully to paragraphs 301 and 303 – but, again, this would, in itself, be quite separate from the question of whether Francis is a heretic, and that based only on examining Amoris Laetitia, which is the scope of this article.

The scope of Fr. Gleize’s article is indeed examining AL for heresy, and for the purpose of answering the question posed in its title, “Is Pope Francis heretical?” These are not “quite separate” matters; they are directly related.

If AL doesn’t contain heretical statements, it cannot be the basis for determining that Francis is heretical. If it does, he can be considered heretical on this basis.

The question of pertinacity and formal heresy only has relevance after one proposes heresy. (NOTE: The Catholic Encyclopedia article linked above refers to this distinction “between formal and material heretics.”)

As Fr. Geize notes early on, “It is different [than use of the word an an insult] with the doctrinal censure ‘heretical’: the latter is a technical expression, part of the terminology to which specialists resort in order to give as precise an evaluation as possible.”

And the doctrinal censure of a person – a subject – is exactly the topic here.

As I suggested: In this process, first things first; namely, assessing the objective sense of the person’s text in order to discover whether or not heresy is present. That is truly the topic at hand here.

It isn’t enough that Fr. Gleize gave the correct answer to every dubia and correctly labels AL ambiguous? It is a fact that the document is ambiguous, just like those of Vatican II regarding other potential errors, just like this entire crisis, which is why there has been so much disagreement regarding its interpretation.

No, it is not nearly enough. AL is not ambiguous in the least; it is very clear on certain crucial points that just so happen to plainly contradict Catholic dogma (as demonstrated in numerous posts in this space). 

The article reiterates correct Catholic teaching on each and every point, and, further, indicts AL most seriously. Coming from such a theologian, statements such that the document “errs” and that the criticism of the dubia, which everyone knows is a ferocious slap in the face to the pontiff, is “quite well-founded,” are damning.

Fr. Gleize points out:

– “The help of the sacraments can only come afterward…”

– “The text therefore errs here by omission…”

– “The five dubia are therefore quite well-founded…”

Fr. Gleize has clearly sided entirely against Francis (of course) in regards to the monumental and almost unprecedented step the Dubia cardinals (the “Dubia Brothers” as Louie refers to them) have taken in publicly challenging the pope.

Yet, again, the analysis is sober and rational, and is careful to make the critical distinctions between the objective and the subjective. I can understand that “disgust” might be the reaction of those who have already judged Francis a notorious heretic.

In conclusion, I find it most ironic that Louie drives home the point that, “The Church and her confessors simply do not have the right (or the ability) to weigh matters of imputability,” while proclaiming a judgement on Francis himself regarding his culpability in heresy.

My entire treatment of Fr. Gleize’s unfortunate series is focused on the objective sense of the text of AL; i.e., I remained witin the scope of his article. 

As for the question of Francis revealing and judging himself to be pertinacious, my position is fleshed out in great detail in my exchanges with Robert Siscoe in this space where I make it perfectly plain that no one has the ability to judge the pope.

This, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with either Fr. Gleize’s treatment of AL, or my response to it. 

In conclusion:

I think it’s fair to say that Paul Folbrecht’s good faith effort to defend Fr. Gleize’s analysis of Amoris Laetitia and its humble author (which represents the official position of the Society of St. Pius X) cannot be bested; i.e., it is about as thorough a defense as one can hope to find.

Now, having considered it closely, I will leave it to readers to decide for themselves just how “sober and rational” it truly is.

AKA No Voice 2

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