Yesterday, the Society of St. Pius X published an article, Some Timely Reminders About the Magisterium, offering what it described as “a brief synthesis on the magisterium of the Church” in light of the unprecedented scourge on humanity known as Francis and his Love Letter to Satan, Amoris Laetitia.
The article is well worth reading in that it provides a good explanation of the Church’s teaching office, how it is properly exercised, and why it was given to her by Christ.
The unfortunate part of the article, however, is that it more or less repeats the much-criticized initial reaction of Cardinal Burke to Amoris Laetitia; namely, that the document is “non-magisterial” and is simply a “personal reflection” on the part of its humble author.
Readers may recall that Cardinal Burke even went so far as to compare the manner in which Amoris Laetitia should be received to the consideration one might give to the 1967 book, “The Pope Speaks: Dialogues of Paul VI with Jean Guitton.”
The Society’s article makes a similar argument, but appears to go even further by suggesting that Amoris Laetitia is comparable to one of Francis’ many media interviews:
All the more, when the Roman Pontiff presents orientations or exhortations of a practical or pastoral nature such as Amoris Laetitia, or delivers personal and private reflections to any media outlet whatsoever, we do not observe the exercise of the power of the magisterium.
First, I must say that I see an unintended pitfall here:
One may very well read this to say that the “pastoral nature” of a given text, in this case Amoris Laetitia, is enough to render it non-magisterial. This clearly is not true, and it may lead one to believe that the argument so often put forth by the Kasperians in the lead up to the Synod is valid; namely, that doctrinal and pastoral matters can be separated (i.e., one is magisterium, the other is not).
To the extent that the central point being made in the article is that Amoris Laetitia offers nothing that is binding on the faithful, fair enough. What the article ends up doing, however, is adding confusion on top of confusion.
After defining “the object of the magisterium” – namely, the doctrine of Christ – the article states:
… as soon as the pope or bishops approach a matter beyond the limits of this teaching and transmission of the doctrine of Christ that they must faithfully dispense in virtue of the mandate they have received from Our Lord Himself, there is no proper exercise of the power of the magisterium.
For example, this is true of certain speeches or allocutions from the end of Pope Pius XII’s pontificate dealing with very diverse subjects, such as European transports or hunting.
This is true enough, but let’s not lose sight of a few key facts that are not in dispute:
First, the matter being approached in Amoris Laetitia (e.g., marriage, family, mortal sin, adultery, man’s capacity for abiding by the Divine Law, etc.) absolutely pertains to “the object of the magisterium.”
The explanation and the examples given from the pontificate of Pius XII apply rather well to the Envirocyclical Laudato Si’, but certainly not to Amoris Laetitia.
Secondly, Francis and his henchmen have been exceedingly clear about the way in which Amoris Laetitia is to be viewed according to the intent of its author.
In the August 23, 2016 edition of L’Osservatore Romano (the contents of which are vetted by the Holy See), professor of ecclesiology Fr. Salvador Pie-Ninot defended Amoris Laetitia as an example of the “ordinary magisterium” to which all members of the church should respond with “the basic attitude of sincere acceptance and practical implementation.” (See CNS article.)
And then there are the words of Francis himself, who in January 2015 said:
Look, I wrote an encyclical—true enough, it was by four hands [with Benedict XVI]—and an apostolic exhortation. I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium.
Clearly, he intends the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, as magisterium; every bit as much as Evangelii Gaudium.
Lastly, it is worth repeating that the form in which Amoris Laetitia was issued is that of an “Apostolic Exhortation” – an official instrument that was addressed to the entire Church.
Equating it to a book or a mere private reflection given to a media outlet just doesn’t stand up to reason, in my opinion; much less does it seem very helpful in clearing up whatever confusion still exists surrounding the contents of the document.
As I read this latest article on Amoris Laetitia, I could not help but think of Fr. Jean Michel Gleize’s series of articles on the exhortation wherein he cited Francis’ apparent lack of intent to do anything more than put forth “considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice” (cf. AL 4) as grounds for concluding that the text is not properly heretical.
At the time, Fr. Gleize’s conclusion was confirmed to be the “official position” of the Society on the matter.
Since then, however, Bishop Fellay has affixed his signature to the “Filial Correction,” a text that goes much further by stating that “several passages of Amoris laetitia, in conjunction with acts, words, and omissions of Your Holiness, serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.”
In this, the Correction is highlighting two separate things – the document itself, and the words and deeds of its author which serve to reveal the way in which he intends for it to be understood.
NB: It is the passages of AL themselves about which the Correctio states, “serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.” This is made plain elsewhere in the text when it speaks of “the heresies and errors” present in “Amoris laetitia in its natural and obvious sense.”
Clearly, “propagating heresy” and “favoring heresy” are two very different things; the former being the charge to which Bishop Fellay recently added his signature.
My sincere hope is that this latest article from the Society is not being offered with an eye toward taking a step backward and reaffirming the claims made by Fr. Gleize.
In any case, rather than simply dismissing the text as a non-magisterial reflection (just as one may reasonably do with a book or an interview), wouldn’t it be far more helpful to simply and plainly state the obvious?
Amoris Laetitia is a dangerous, error-ridden, heretical and blasphemous text in its objective sense.
“In deciding the meaning of a text the Church does not pronounce judgment on the subjective intention of the author, but on the objective sense of the text.” (Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma)
If we but bear well in mind that what truly matters is “the objective sense of the text,” which in the case of Amoris Laetitia is perfectly plain, then it should be clear that arguments about whether or not Francis has, or intends to, produce what may be defined as “magisterium” or not are rather useless.
In the end, Amoris Laetitia isn’t binding, and it cannot be considered the proper exercise of the Church’s teaching office, for one reason and one reason alone: Because it’s laden with heresy.
As such, the faithful shouldn’t be encouraged, even by way of suggestion, to simply dismiss the text like just another reflection from Francis the Loquacious; rather, every member of Holy Church should be encouraged to firmly condemn the poisonous screed while declaring of its author loudly and clearly, Let him be anathema!
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