a conceptual heresy from Pope Francis – to wit: that a person may be justified in intentionally committing mortal sin.


“When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 96)

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus not guilty of  any sin):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. 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, 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.  

Saint Pope John Paul II specifically rejected the above argument proposed in AL 301, stating the following in no. 76 of his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor:

“Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition…. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord. When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfillment of the law in the precept of love of neighbor as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbor cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit.”

We are faced then with at least a hypothetical or conceptual heresy from Pope Francis, to wit: that a person may be justified in intentionally committing mortal sin. If this be the case, then the foundation of Catholic morality has been fractured, and who is to say what is right or wrong? Pope John Paul II warned of this very situation, saying:

“It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Veritatis Splendor, 104).

Pope Francis, in AL 301,  has attempted to alter the understanding of justification pronounced at the Council of Trent, where it was infallibly said:

“If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace, let him be anathema” (Session 6, canon 18)

I conclude with this final quote from Pope John Paul II, which should have served as an impenetrable road block against theories of moral relativism such as AL 301:

“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 individuals 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, Veritatis Splendor)

What motivated Pope Francis to go against the entire Tradition of the Church, and thus to compromise the moral law, is a very perplexing consideration? May the Holy Spirit guide the Church back to the fullness of truth.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image: Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens, between 1610 and 1612 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

P.S. Significantly, one of the Church’s most prominent theologians has recently addressed errors in Amoris Laetitia. See link that follows:

Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors …

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