“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

Long before Pope Francis became Pope competent theologians had already established that the teaching in Veritatis Splendor was an infallible teaching. Referencing Veritatis Splendor, the Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine (Our Sunday Visitor), published in 1997, specifically states that the Church’s teachings therein about mortal sin “are decisive,” having “been taught insistently by the Church” with the “degree of universality and firmness associated with infallible teaching of the ordinary Magisterium.” Pope John Paul II seemed to say as much in Veritatis Splendor itself when he said:

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuials but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (No. 115).

It is shocking but nevertheless accurate to say that Pope Francis did not agree with Veritatis Splendor, and the launching of his Pontificate has essentially been a carefully strategized attack on Veritatis Splendor. This whole unfortunate matter is brought to our attention again by the Vatican’s recent sacking of certain moral theology professors at the John Paul II Institute (see George Weigel’s important article linked below).

The Vandals sack Rome….again

The point of this short note is merely to state rather forcefully that Pope Francis was under every obligation to follow and promulgate Veritatis Splendor, but in Amoris Laetitia he boldly and even cavalierly adopted the very situation ethics arguments condemned in Veritatis Splendor (see AL 301-303). Naturally concerned about this contradiction in Papal teaching in the all-important area of moral theology, Professor Germain Grisez (a great theologian of Catholic morality) sent a lengthy letter to Pope Francis in which he said:

“When a bishop acts in persona Christi, fulfilling his duty to teach on matters of faith and morals by identifying propositions to which he calls upon the faithful to assent, he presumably means to state truths that belong to one and the same body of truths: primarily, those entrusted by Jesus to his Church and, secondarily, those necessary to preserve the primary truths as inviolable and/or to expound them with fidelity. Since truths like these cannot supersede or annul one another, papal or other episcopal statements made while teaching in persona Christi must be presumed to be consistent with one another when carefully interpreted. Thus it is a misuse of such a teaching statement to claim its support without having first sought so to interpret it.”

It is therefore quite clear that where Amoris Laetitia attempts to circumvent Veritatis Splendor, that is, where it attempts to provide a moral calculus which allows one to transform an intrinsically evil act into something good (and even willed by God) under particular circumstances (again see AL 301-303), such a formulation lacks fidelity to the clear limitations imposed by Veritatis Splendor and is, therefore, ipso facto, invalid. This is the only possible way to resolve a conflict which never should have happened in the first place.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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