In Part 5 of an ongoing series of articles being published by the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize attempts to answer the question, Is Pope Francis Heretical?
Here, I provide a necessarily detailed examination of Fr. Gleize’s jaw-dropping treatment; one that is sure to disappoint those who, in these deeply troubling times in which we live, have come to rely upon the Society for Catholic clarity and conviction. (I encourage especially those who fit this description to read this difficult post in its entirety.)
Before we begin, might I suggest that all concerned take heart by recalling the words of our first Pope:
And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)
“The words of everlasting life” remain available to us, even if not in the utterances of present day churchmen, in the timeless decrees infallibly set forth by the Holy Catholic Church that speaks in the name of Our Blessed Lord.
It is these upon which I rely in the following.
Fr. Gleize proposes, “in order to be brief,” to explore the question at hand by examining “the essential idea of each dubium.”
The first dubium asks if it is possible to give absolution and sacramental Communion to divorced-and-remarried persons who live in adultery without repenting, to which Fr. Gleize responds, “For someone who adheres to Catholic doctrine, the answer is no.”
He then goes on to cite AL 305, followed by the infamous footnote:
“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)
He then cites the infamous footnote 351:
“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.’”
Fr. Gleize concludes:
“The doubt arises here with the note. There is no doubt about the fact that non-culpable ignorance of sin excuses from sin.”
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.
If and when it is the case that one is inculpable of a grave sin committed, it is God alone who renders such judgment. (Fair warning: It will be necessary for us to repeat this infallible doctrine often in the face of Fr. Gleize’s assessment.)
Fr. Gleize goes on to say:
“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.
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.”
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!
According to Fr. Gleize:
“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.’”
I disagree with the suggestion that this text from AL can be interpreted in two ways as it clearly proposes that the Church and her confessors have the ability, and the right, to weigh culpability, when in truth, they do not.
This, my friends, is the fundamental error upon which much of Amoris Laetitia, Chapter Eight, is constructed and must fall.
Frankly, I am surprised that Fr. Gleize has not seized upon this very point.
In his Encyclical on the Errors of the Modernists, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X repeated the traditional (and dogmatic) doctrine:
“We leave out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge.” (cf Pascendi 3),
Even the dreadful conciliar document Gaudium et Spes gets this right:
“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)
Moving on to the second dubium, which asks if, in light of AL 304, there is such a thing as intrinsically evil acts from a moral perspective that the law prohibits without any possible exception.
Fr. Gleize answers. “For someone who adheres to Catholic doctrine, the answer is yes.”
He then goes on to paraphrase AL 304:
“…citing the Summa theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas (I-II, question 94, article 4), [AL 304] insists on the application of the law, rather than on the law itself, and emphasizes the part played by the judgment of prudence, which allegedly can be exercised only on a case-by-case basis, strictly depending on circumstances that are unique and singular.”
It must be said yet again, there is no “part played by the judgment of prudence” with respect to intrinsic evils (such as adultery) that admit of no exceptions. “No exceptions” means precisely this.
Fr. Gleize then quotes AL directly:
“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. At the same time it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule.” (AL 304)
Fr. Gleize concludes:
“This passage does not introduce any ambivalence, properly speaking. It merely insists too much on one part of the truth (the prudent application of the law), to the point of obscuring the other part of the same truth (the necessary value of the law), which is altogether as important as the first. The text therefore errs here by omission, thus causing a misreading.”
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.
Contrition, confession, firm purpose of amendment… The practical application (insofar as the remedy is concerned) is equally as clear.
That said, one should know that Francis is misappropriating St. Thomas’ teaching in order to give the impression that the Angelic Doctor considered the Commandment against adultery a mere “general rule,” when in fact he clearly treated it for what it is; a moral absolute upon which particular circumstances have no bearing.
AL 304 is an error plain and simple (and not simply by “omission” as Fr. Gleize states) since 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.
Moving on to the third dubium we find a question concerning paragraph 301; paraphrased by Fr. Gleize as follows:
“Can we say that persons who habitually live in a way that contradicts a commandment of God’s law (for example the one that forbids adultery) are in an objective situation of habitual grave sin?”
Again, Fr. Gleize responds, “The Catholic answer is yes.”
He then quotes AL 301:
“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.”
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.”
Once again, it is to be shocked. Here is what the Council of Trent had to say [with my emphasis]:
“In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification [sanctifying grace] is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins…” (Session VI, Chapter XV)
NB: It is to be maintained… Note as well the reason given: thus defending the doctrine of the divine law.
AL 301, in contravention of the divine law, presumes to overturn the infallible teaching set forth by the Council of Trent by insisting that it can no longer be maintained.
Folks, this is a no-brainer; it is plainly “heretical” according to Fr. Glieze’s own working definition of the word.
Fr. Glieze continued:
“There are in fact, in concrete human acts, what is called exculpatory or ‘mitigating’ reasons (or factors). Because of them, the sinner may not be morally responsible for the objective situation of sin.”
At this point, I am certain that you can say it with me: God alone judges such matters as moral responsibility.
As for what is required of Catholics who wish to remain in communion with the Church, we must accept what is stated by the Council of Trent: It is to be maintained…
Fr. Gleize’s treatment of AL 301, in an essay that proposes to examine whether or not Francis is a heretic, is at best perplexing.
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)
Once again, that which is set forth by Francis runs afoul of the infallible doctrine taught with piercing clarity by the Council of Trent:
“With the help of divine grace, one can refrain from such deadly sins as adultery and fornication.” (cf Session VI, Chapter XV)
NB: There are no “concrete situations” wherein one is unable to refrain from the mortal sin of adultery.
If this isn’t enough for one to conclude that Francis is heretical, consider as well:
“If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Canon XVIII)
NB: In stating that certain situations “do not allow” one to keep God’s commandment against adultery, Francis has most certainly anathematized himself.
This brings us to the fourth dubium which poses the question (as presented by Fr. Gleize) concerning paragraph 302:
“Can we still stay, from a moral perspective, that an act that is already intrinsically evil by reason of its object can never become good because of circumstances or the intention of the person who performs it?”
Once again, Fr. Gleize provides a response, “The Catholic answer is yes,” and then quotes Amoris Laetitia:
“A negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.” (AL 302)
Fr. Gleize states:
“That is true, but the reverse is not, and by neglecting to say that, this passage again introduces doubt…
This is the case indeed, but yet again, the fundamental error undergirding much of this disastrous Exhortation is left unaddressed: The Church and her confessors simply do not have the right (or the ability) to weigh matters of imputability.
On this, Catholic doctrine leaves no room for confusion. Simply accepting and applying this doctrine is enough to remove all doubt.
Francis, in Amoris Laetitia, however, goes to great lengths to undermine it.
Finally, we arrive at the fifth dubium concerning AL 303:
“Can we say that conscience must always remain subject, without any possible exception, to the absolute moral law that forbids acts that are intrinsically evil because of their object?”
Fr. Gleize responds, “The Catholic answer is yes.”
He continued by stating that AL 303 is deficient in that it fails to make clear that “a will conformed to an erroneous conscience can be bad,” thus “introducing here a fifth doubt.”
In his treatment of AL 303, Fr. Gleize has once again chosen to focus on but one solitary sentence while ignoring entirely what, in this case, are perhaps the most offensive portions of the entire Exhortation:
“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.” (AL 303) [emphasis added]
Here, we have two more undeniably clear examples of heresy as defined by Fr. Gleize.
If, as Francis states, persisting in mortal sin is the most generous response which can be given to God, this necessarily means that “the demands of the Gospel” (God’s laws) are, at times, impossible to keep.
As previously noted in our examination of AL 301, according to the Council of Trent, Francis has thus anathematized himself:
“If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Canon XVIII)
At this we come to that truly odious proposition set forth by Francis which says that, at times, God himself is asking man to persist in his failure to meet the demands of the Gospel; in this case, to persist in the mortal sin of adultery.
This is a blatant instance of both heresy and blasphemy. As Sacred Scripture attests, and the Catholic conscience most certainly knows, the All Holy God never asks that we should persist in sin:
Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils: and he tempteth no man. (James 13:1)
Far from asking us to sin, the Lord’s will is perfectly clear in spite of knowing our every weakness:
Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
The Council of Trent teaches [emphasis added]:
“If any one saith, that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God worketh as well as those that are good, not permissively only, but properly, and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Chapter XVI, Canon VI)
By stating that God himself is asking one to persist, at times, in the intrinsically evil act of adultery, Francis is imputing this work of evil to God, properly, and of Himself. He has thus anathematized himself yet again.
An “Editor’s note” given at the conclusion to Fr. Gleize’s article provides the punchline:
“Fr. Gleize’s precise distinction will surprise more than one. In short, it seems that Pope Francis cannot be considered heretical…”
How about disgust.
Fr. Gleize, in his own words, concludes:
“The five dubia are therefore quite well-founded. The root of them is always the same: the confusion between the moral value of an act, a strictly objective value, and its imputability to someone who performs it, a strictly subjective imputability … The Church’s traditional doctrine gives primacy to this objective order of the act’s morality, which follows from its object and its end or purpose. Amoris Laetitia, by reversing this order, introduces subjectivism into morality.”
No, the traditional doctrine does not simply “give primacy” to the objective order; it goes further by insisting that the Church does not judge subjective imputability.
Fr. Gleize asks rhetorically:
“Does such subjectivism, as understood in its principle as well as in the five conclusions that follow from it here, represent the negation of a divinely revealed truth that is proposed as such by an infallible act of the ecclesiastical Magisterium?”
He then states that the answer, at least for himself, “is far from obvious and certain.”
That I disagree has already been made clear. Know, however, that I am not alone.
Readers may recall that three Eastern European prelates – Archbishop Tomash Peta, Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider – recently issued a text concerning AL that includes the following observations:
God gives to every man assistance in the observance of his Commandments, when such a request is properly made, as the Church has infallibly taught: “God does not command that which is impossible, but in commanding he exhorts you to do that which you are able, and to ask for that which you cannot do, and so he assists you that you might be able to do it” (Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 11) and “and if someone says that even for the man who has been justified and established in grace the commandments of God are impossible to observe: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, session 6, canon 18.)
The Church, and specifically the minister of the sacrament of Penance, does not have the faculty to judge on the state of conscience of an individual member of the faithful or on the rectitude of the intention of the conscience, since “ecclesia de occultis non iudicat” [the Church does not judge internals] (Council of Trent, session 24, chapter 1). The minister of the sacrament of Penance is consequently not the vicar or representative of the Holy Spirit, able to enter with His light in the innermost recesses of the conscience, since God has reserved such access to the conscience strictly to himself: “sacrarium in quo homo solus est cum Deo” [conscience is the altar upon which man is alone with God] (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, 16).
NB: There are no less than three direct citations of the dogmatic and infallible Council of Trent given in the above commentary provided by three “full communion” bishops.
Who would have thought that more Catholic clarity and conviction would come from these men-of-the-Council than from the Society of St. Pius X?
Throughout this lengthy examination of Fr. Gleize’s assessment of Francis vis-à-vis Amoris Laetitia, it has (in the present writer’s opinion) been sufficiently demonstrated that Fracnis is objectively “heretical” according to the parameters that Fr. Gleize himself established at the outset.
In a number of places, including portions of AL that Fr. Gleize chose not to address, Francis set forth propositions that directly contradict Sacred Scripture and have been unambiguously condemned by the Council of Trent.
And yet, remarkably, Fr. Gleize states:
“For this new theology of Francis, which extends that of Vatican II, avoids this sort of formal opposition with regard to truths already proposed infallibly by the Magisterium before Vatican II.”
If Amoris Laetitia does not represent “formal opposition” to the infallible Magisterium of the Church, nothing does.
As if all that has been written by Fr. Gleize is not disturbing enough, he states:
“If Amoris laetitia became the cause of heresy, it would be in an absolutely unique way, underhanded and latent as modernism itself.”
Pope St. Pius X defined modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies.”
And yet, how quickly Francis is being all but excused for his underhanded, latent, modernist screed; even by the Priestly Society that bears his name.
Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.