The Epistle for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the Mass of Ages is taken from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, wherein he declares:
But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time; until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.
When these words were proclaimed at Holy Mass I immediately thought of Amoris Laetitia and two priests in particular; one of whom is “traditional,” the other of the Novus Ordo variety.
At one time, the latter priest (whose identity is irrelevant) was my spiritual director. He is a very solid moral theologian and seminary professor who is fairly well-known and highly regarded in conservative circles, even in Rome. Though he had moved out of the area and ceased serving as my spiritual director well prior to the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia, we discussed the text via an exchange of emails.
Shortly after the “Apostolic Exhortation” (so-called) was published, I wrote to him:
Truly, there are few voices in the Church as well-placed, as well-qualified and as credible as your own in this matter. A strong word from you would immediately be heard throughout the entire world. It would garner international attention.
Yes, you carry a heavy burden, but there can be no doubt that you also have a remarkable opportunity (duty, even) to do what (thus far) no bishop has had the wherewithal to do, and that is to warn the faithful plainly and publicly, to condemn Amoris Laetitia in its entirety in light of the Scriptural warning concerning “a little leaven,” and rebuking Francis for his grave offenses against Christ.
Unfortunately, this public condemnation never came.
At one point (back in 2016) I solicited his thoughts on what I consider to be a fundamental flaw in the text; namely, the fact that it presumes that it is possible for our sacred pastors to subjectively determine that mortal sin is only venial due to circumstances that may diminish culpability; e.g., as some have argued, a mother and wife who feels pressured to continue objectively adulterous conjugal relations in order to keep the bread winner spouse from leaving the home.
Bear in mind that Francis, by this time, had already written a letter praising the guidelines for the implementation of Amoris Laetitia as established by the bishops of Buenos Aires – guidelines that insist that pastors can “recognize that, in a specific case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability” in situations of objective mortal sin (namely, adultery); with Francis saying “there are no other interpretations.” Since then, Bergoglio has gone even further by ordering both the guidelines and his letter to be entered into the AAS so as to be considered “authentic magisterium.”
The argument that I shared with my former spiritual director is that it is beyond the scope of any pastor’s ability, much less right, to render such objective judgments as these are the purview of God alone. Even the Second Vatican Council got this one correct:
God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone. (GS 28)
Father agreed wholeheartedly, and even said that he often cautions his seminarians to refrain from making the determination that a person in a situation of objective mortal sin is not culpable; even if it appears that this may be the case. He added, however, it seems that only God and the person himself can know for sure.
On this latter point, I countered by suggesting that even the individual person cannot know for sure that he is inculpable; one reason being that we are very adept at deceiving ourselves and making excuses in sin (also mentioned in the Mass of Ages during the incensing of the altar). Furthermore, and more importantly, mankind has no right to make such judgments; only God does.
I am sorry to say that he never replied and our dialogue ended.
In any case, I hadn’t given our discussion much thought over the past two years; that is, until last Sunday as the Epistle for Holy Mass could not be clearer:
But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord.
In other words, in the case of one who is genuinely unaware of any personal fault, even then we may not judge ourselves, for the Lord alone is judge.
Unfortunately, my former spiritual director does not offer the Traditional Mass. If he did, I would have to wonder if he too was not also reminded of Amoris Laetitia and its utterly anti-Scriptural proposals at the proclamation of this Epistle.
The other priest that came to mind on the Fourth Sunday of Advent is traditional; namely, Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, FSSPX.
Readers may recall Fr. Gleize’s multi-part treatment of Amoris Laetitia. Published in 2016, it still stands as the Society’s “official position” on the exhortation; one that goes no further than to suggest that the text, in its treatment of inculpability in cases of objective mortal sin, simply raises doubts; i.e., it does not plainly constitute error (much less heresy) but only invites as much by its alleged ambiguity.
The key portions on this note reviewed by Fr. Gleize are as follows:
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. (AL 305)
In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy. I would also point out that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. (AL, footnote 351)
In reference to these, Fr. Gleize wrote:
The doubt arises here with the note. There is no doubt about the fact that non-culpable ignorance of sin excuses from sin. But to those who are victims of this ignorance and thereby benefit from this excuse, the Church offers first the help of her preaching and warnings, the Church starts by putting an end to the ignorance by opening the eyes of the ignorant to the reality of their sin. [Emphasis added]
As I commented on Fr. Gleize’s position shortly after it was published, Francis is not speaking of ignorance. This he made plain in AL 301 immediately after stating, “Hence it is 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…”
More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. 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)
For whatever reason, Fr. Gleize ignored this portion of AL completely. He concluded:
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 other words, Fr. Gleize and the SSPX are not only acknowledging the existence of “certain cases” that involve “an objective situation of sin — [for] which [the person] may not be subjectively culpable” (a true proposition); they are conceding that it is in fact possible for a pastor to recognize as much subjectively (though how and when remains unknown), thus opening the way for the “help of the sacraments.”
If only Fr. Gleize had taken note that the Church has neither the ability nor the right to render such judgments, he certainly would have concluded otherwise; namely, that there is no doubt presented here in any sense of the term; rather, it is an egregious offense against Christ, and for the simple reason made perfectly plain in the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday of Advent:
If and when it is the case that one is inculpable of a grave sin committed, it is the Lord alone who renders such judgments; bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, and making manifest the counsels of the hearts. (cf 1 Cor. 4)
I wonder if, as this passage was proclaimed at Holy Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Fr. Gleize was reminded of Amoris Laetitia’s fundamental error; the same that he foolishly conceded in his now infamous evaluation – the “official position” of the SSPX?
Was his conscience pricked in such way as to call him to account for the danger that he (and the Society) has invited by giving pastors of souls the impression that it is possible for mere men to judge the hidden things of darkness before the time of the Lord comes (cf 1 Cor. 4) rather than condemning this lie for what it is?
Did these words of St. Paul perhaps get the attention of other traditional priests, who have yet to sound the alarm publicly over Bergoglio’s poisonous decree?
Let us hope so.
As I write, it seems that Amoris Laetitia – one of the most blasphemous and heretical texts ever to come out of modernist Rome bearing a “papal” signature – is no longer on anyone’s radar. It is being treated as a fait accompli, yesterday’s news, and the new normal.
Should auld offenses be forgot?
Sure, some of them probably should. In the case of Amoris Laetitia, however, God forbid.