Father Brian Harrison

Amoris Laetitia and Lets Pretend



In regard to Amoris Laetitia most Catholic commentators have been playing a huge game of Lets Pretend.  What has sparked this game is the fact that Amoris Laetitia is a stark departure by Pope Francis from what was previously taught by the Church.  Afraid of admitting this obvious fact, most Catholic analysts have been bending themselves into pretzels pretending that nothing has changed, for fear of the unsettling implications that looking at reality head on will raise.  I am unable to join in this game of Lets Pretend.  Facts are facts and it is always harmful, and untruthful, to attempt to ignore them or wish them away.  Father Brian Harrison also is refusing to join in the game of Lets Pretend:



In allowing exceptions to the ‘no-Communion’ law for those in invalid marriages, Pope Francis is acting against the clear and constant bimillennial teaching confirmed by Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio #84, and reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1650 and 2390, last sentence). Also under St. John Paul II, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, in its Declaration of June 24, 2000, has asserted unequivocally that the exclusion of such Catholics from the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist flows from divine law, so that no human ecclesiastical law can change it, since it’s irrelevant whether the subjective imputability of remarried divorcees might in some instances be diminished. Why is this irrelevant? Because, says the Declaration, the admission to Communion of those who are publicly living in a situation which Jesus himself calls adultery will send a clear message that the Church doesn’t really take too seriously this teaching of our Lord about the indissolubility of marriage. And this will inevitably cause scandal (in the theological sense of leading others into sin). Pope Francis briefly mentions this document; but only by uncritically using the selective and deceptive citation found in the 2015 Synod Relatio (#85). Thus, both the Relatio and Amoris Laetitia omit altogether the main point of the 2000 Declaration, which is that the obligation of priests and other ministers to refuse Communion to civilly remarried divorcees “is by its nature derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church” (section 1).

Also, this Declaration points out that logically, a concession to some remarried divorcees on the grounds that their subjective conscience may not be gravely guilty will open the way for further concessions, on the same grounds, to many who are living publicly in other objectively immoral situations. For instance, now that some civilly remarried divorcees are to be admitted to sacramental absolution and Communion, will not at least some same-sex couples have to be admitted these two sacraments on the same grounds (i.e., ‘diminished imputability’)? 

Are we now supposed to believe that Pope Francis alone is right on this issue, and that all his predecessors, including the still living Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and the Catechism promulgated by St. John Paul II, have been wrong and ‘unmerciful’ in allowing no exceptions in this area? If so, why should we believe that? Doesn’t it seem more likely that just one pope is wrong, and that all the other hundreds of popes have been right? Continue reading

Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915 — the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” — in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated — to my recollection — with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)

That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding — most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil” — does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock — the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States). [Note: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a newcomer to the debate, has likewise made it known in the comments of this post where he stands on the matter].

Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.

With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.

There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.

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