intrinsically evil acts and Amoris Laetitia

FATIMA AND THE PROPHETIC DIMENSION OF THE AMORIS LAETITIA CRISIS

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“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” (Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 115)

“Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at ‘the last hour’. ‘Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 670)

Since first writing this post nearly a year ago the crisis over Amoris Laetitia has only deepened and accelerated, and among those who view the papal exhortation as a “paradigm shift” in Catholic morality some are even invoking the document to the point of suggesting or implying that it might be permissible to approve of or bless homosexual unions in the Church (and it is not hard to anticipate that this idea will gain further momentum under the Amoris rationale). The whole idea seems to be that –  through a process of discernment – otherwise intrinsically evil acts can be justified and seen as good in God’s eyes (see AL 301-303, for instance).

Just in the last several weeks  I have read reports about a Vatican commission studying the possibility of modifying Humanae Vitae, of a Jewish member of the Vatican Academy for Life discussing possible exceptions that would justify abortion in special circumstances, and, of course, the continuing drama involving Cardinal Marx’s nuanced remarks pertaining to the possibility of blessing homosexual unions (regarding the blessing of such unions Marx said, “This I really have to leave up to the local pastor and the accompaniment of that person”). It should be noted, as a recent article by Maike Hickson pointed out, that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the Vice President of the German Bishops’ Conference, “has called for a discussion about the possibility of blessing homosexual relationships. He believes there to be ‘much [that is] positive’ in such relationships.” Of course, if the Pope simply said “this blessing is not possible,” as he most definitely should have a long time ago, the laity could be spared all the confusion and harm to the faith that results.

Just a few days ago I was reading that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whom Pope Francis removed as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, “rejects the notion of a ‘paradigm shift’ in Church teaching.” The article from CWN adds:  “In an unusual public disagreement among prominent cardinals, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith takes issue with the use of a term (“paradigm shift”) that was used by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with reference to Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Müller says that term ‘seems to be a relapse into a modernist and subjectivist way of interpreting the Catholic faith’.” Frankly, the phrase “paradigm shift” seems to be a euphemism (or code words) for “new teaching” or, one might contend, good old-fashioned heresy (as Cardinal Muller seems to be implying).

Here in the United States Cardinal Cupich has begun conducting conferences for Bishops on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia (and Cardinal Cupich is fond of saying that Amoris Laetitia favors a more “mature,” conscience based morality – that is, he favors the subjectivist approach to Catholic morality). And a well known papal consultor gave a talk here in America (at Boston College) where he maintained there are no longer any moral norms (Father Antonio Spadaro, who said: “It is no longer possible to judge people on the basis of a norm that stands above all.”). There are many more examples I could give of this fundamental assault on Catholic moral principles that have guided the Church for two-thousand years.

The question therefore deserves to be asked: Is the Catholic Church on the brink of destroying its own morality? The basic premise of the short outline below is that the minor chastisement prophesied at Fatima will coincide with the introduction of heresy into Church teaching. Situation ethics was strongly condemned by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, yet we see the dangerous framework of this subjectivism in Amoris Laetitia (see 301-303), and the surge flowing therefrom to radically change Catholic morality by the approval of intrinsically evil acts. Does the Church think that God is going to remain passive during this planned and orchestrated attack on Catholic morality, which is so contrary to the moral imperative of the Fatima message and the constant teachings of the Church?

This is a speculative note regarding the prophetic dimension of this crisis in Catholic morality brought on by Amoris Laetitia. The author claims no special prophetic charism or expertise, and the outline presented here simply proceeds from his analysis of certain materials (in addition to the Bible) referenced in the note, along with the present circumstances that challenge the Church and the world. As the quote above from the Catechism states, “we are already at the last hour.”

A POSSIBLE OUTLINE OF PROPHETIC EVENTS WE MIGHT BE ENCOUNTERING PRESENTLY OR VERY SOON

1.Our key prophecy will be the first two secrets of Fatima, and we will see that the chastisement and period of peace made known in the Fatima prophecy coincide with the broad spectrum of Catholic prophecy at large.

2. We will also place weight on the following prophetic statement of Saint Pope John Paul II, which was made during a visit to the United States in 1976 when he was still a Cardinal, and reads:

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.

“We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it. . . .How many times has the renewal of the Church been brought about in blood! It will not be different this time.” 

3. We will also note that Saint Louis de Montfort stated that the Virgin Mary (and specifically those consecrated to Mary) would play a special role in bringing forth the fulfillment of Jesus’ Kingdom in history (noting as well that scholars disagree on exactly how the Saint says this will take place). See Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort, pages 345-365 on “End Times.” Another great and more recent Marian Saint, Maximilian Kolbe,  said the following:

“Modern times are dominated by Satan and will be more so in the future. The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men, even the most clever. The lmmaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. However, assumed into heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God’s kingdom upon earth.” (from EWTN website)

4. In his book, Catholic ProphecyThe Coming Chastisement Yves Dupont offers the following conclusion:

“I regard it as certain that there will be two different stages. The first stage will only be the beginning of sorrows [see Matt. 24:8], and it will be shortened for the sake of the elect, and the Gospel will then be preached throughout the world. This will be the period of peace under the Great Monarch, the period of conversion and general prosperity which we and our children may enjoy – in short, the period of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima” (p.91).

5. Another great scholar of Catholic prophecy, Father Edward Conner, in his book Prophecy for Today, sees the general sequence of prophetic events unfolding in this manner:

A. “Before the Gospel is preached and accepted in all the world, there shall come world wars and insidious doctrines accompanied by widespread persecution.

B. This era shall be terminated by the the direct interference of God destroying the evil systems or persons responsible for the persecutions; and through the leadership of a great civil ruler and a great spiritual leader, a period of peace will come during which nations will hear and accept the true Faith [this period of peace coincides with the Fatima prophecy of a period of peace].”

C. A great apostasy will follow [and Antichrist will come, leading to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the world as set forth in Holy Scripture].”

6. A seminal and very long book on Catholic prophecy published in 1996, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph, by Desmond A. Birch, generally agrees that there will be a minor chastisement (meaning not the final chastisement at the end of the world), a period of peace, a major chastisement (Antichrist), and then the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As to the minor chastisement, which will be followed by a period of peace, these are the first three elements in his long chronology of how it will come about:(1) “At some point in the future, the corrupt faithless age we live in now will come to an end either through inner conversion of sufficient number of people who turn to prayer, sacrifice, and penance,—or there will be a chastisement. This would be a Minor Chastisement preceding the Age of Peace. St Louis de Montfort described this Age of Peace as the Age of Mary. (2) If this chastisement is not averted through conversion, the Latin Church will be afflicted by heresy and schism. (3) The chastising elements will come in two forms, (a) manmade and (b)Heaven-sent” (page 553). Following his description of this minor chastisement, Birch goes on to describe the period of peace which will result, and then the rise of Antichrist and the end of the world.

7. A key insight of Birch is that the minor chastisement prophesied at Fatima (if not averted by prayer and penance) will come by way of heresy and schism entering the Church.

8. The second secret of Fatima, given to the seers on July 13, 1917, coincides with the general prophetic understanding of a chastisement and then a coming period of peace. It states (as verbatim from the Vatican website) the following:

“You have seen hell [the children’s vision of hell is the first secret] where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

9. Saint John Paul II was known as the “Fatima Pope,” devoting himself profoundly to the Fatima message following his having been shot and almost killed in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 (the anniversary of the first apparition of Mary at Fatima). Sister Lucia, the Fatima seer, confirmed that Pope John Paul II’s 1984 consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary had been “accepted by Heaven” (see Fatima for Today, p.260). On May 13, 1982, Pope John Paul II spoke the following words during a homily given in Fatima, Portugal:

“In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fátima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally, denial of God. The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man…. [He] reads it again with trepidation in his heart, because he sees how many people and societies—how many Christians—have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fátima. Sin has thus made itself firmly at home in the world, and denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas and plans of human beings.”

10. Pope Benedict XVI suddenly resigned as Pope on February 28, 2013, the first Pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

11. On  March 13, 2013  Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, becoming the 266th Pope, and the first Jesuit Pope. He took the papal name Francis. Apparently with the help of certain Cardinals, Pope Francis then embarked on an intense campaign to essentially change Catholic doctrine regarding the absolute impermissibility of  divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist, a move which, in the opinion of some high-ranking clergy, could ultimately open up reception of the Holy Eucharist to people in other types of “irregular unions” (all of which would serve to ultimately undermine Catholic teaching regarding mortal sin because reception of the Eucharist is the summit of the Catholic life). When Pope Francis failed to obtain consensus at the Synod on the Family for the change he so earnestly desired, he nevertheless pushed his communion exception through in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, cleverly placing the key language for such an exception in the back of the document in the now infamous footnote 351. Although there has been a de facto schism in the Catholic Church for quite some time, Pope Francis’ bold move marked the first time a challenge to authentic Catholic teaching was undertaken at the highest level of the Church. There is now a great battle going on in the Church over Amoris Laetitia, and Pope Francis seems intent on bringing a new type of Catholic morality into existence, slowly, so as not to upset the faithful all at once (in general, this new morality –  in its fullest development – would grant those in “irregular” situations access to the Eucharist, which is an interpretation which has been proposed by some, and even Pope Francis mentioned that cohabiting couples may be in a “real marriage”). This is my sense, after careful evaluation, of where Amoris Laetitia is taking the Church; I am open to being shown where I may be wrong. My concern here is to protect the integrity of doctrine as passed on to the Church from Jesus and the apostles.

12. Based on the foregoing (relying on Desmond Birch’s insight) the conditional chastisement warned of by the Virgin Mary at Fatima is closely connected to the “the Latin Church [being] afflicted by heresy and schism.” We may have reached a pivotal point regarding the Fatima prophecy of a chastisement; it may be that such a chastisement is needed for the purification of the Church and the protection of the papacy, considering as well the great moral upheaval presently taking place in the world. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.”

13. It is not my job to suggest whether a particular teaching constitutes material or formal heresy. Rather, I feel called to point out that Amoris Laetitia is profoundly at odds with Saint John Paul II’s great encyclical on moral theology, Veritatis Splendor, and that the ultimate trajectory of Amoris Laetitia would lead to a dramatic reformulation of Catholic morality, allowing those in so-called “irregular unions” access to the fullness of the faith which the Eucharist is (thus essentially creating an end-run around the infallible doctrine of the Church that those in mortal sin are prohibited from receiving the Eucharist). In the end, then, the whole system of Catholic morality would be rendered optional. If this be the case, then Amoris Laetitia would represent a profound rejection of traditional, orthodox Catholic morality.

14. “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Pray the Rosary every day as Mary entreated us at Fatima. Pray for the Church.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. To further understand the enormous implications to Catholic morality occasioned by Amoris Laetitia, please refer to my previous posts set forth below:

why amoris laetitia is much worse than originally … – Catholic Strength

THE HUGE “MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES” MISTAKE IN AMORIS …

does a tendency toward universalism account for amoris laetitia?

Additionally, I bring to your attention and discernment these words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in an apparition said to bear upon Fatima:

“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests): churches and altars will be sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.” (Approved message of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Sister Agnes Sasagawa, Akita, Japan, October 13, 1973)

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WHY AMORIS LAETITIA IS MUCH WORSE THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT

“I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.” (Pope Francis)

From the beginning the controversy regarding Amoris Laetitia has been portrayed as being limited to whether a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic might be permitted, in certain circumstances, to receive Holy Communion. The purpose of this note is to demonstrate that the reach of Amoris Laetiti goes well beyond just the divorced and remarried, at least for those who do not intend to interpret the exhortation through the previous teachings of the Church regarding the impermissibility of exceptions for intrinsically evil acts.

In fact, in the controversial Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis states that the type of mercy being advocated is not just for the divorced and remarried but for everyone “in whatever situation.” He states:

297. It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves. 

In a 2016 letter to Pope Francis, distinguished professors Germain Grisez and John Finnis pointed out just how easy it would be for those not committed to Catholic orthodoxy to interpret Paragraph 297 of Amoris Laetitia in a way that runs profoundly afoul of Catholic morality, and they petitioned the Pope to correct such a misunderstanding (see, “The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia to Support Errors Against the Catholic Faith,” available online). These professors provided numerous examples in their letter as to how no. 297 could be used to support immoral behavior.

Even within the parameters of a more restrictive interpretation, AL 297 specifically mentions couples “living together,” and by the time you get to paragraph 301 the generalized use of the term “irregular situations” begins to appear. No precise definition of what “irregular situations” means is given, but one presumes the more generalized language is purposeful.

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 justified in remaining in his objectively sinful condition even though he knows the rule):

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.  

Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains another very controversial statement made by Pope Francis, stating that a person can come to the realization that God wills him to stay in his sinful condition. It reads, in pertinent part:

“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. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”

In his great encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II specifically foresaw and rejected the type of argument put forth in Amoris Laetia (303) quoted above. He stated very clearly that

“It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103) 

Still further, Saint John Paul II stated:

“circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” (VS 81)

Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor the clear Catholic teaching that an intrinsically evil act cannot be creatively transformed into something willed by God under concrete circumstances (the suggestion put forth in AL 303 and 301).

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

By trying to claim that an intrinsically evil act like adultery, fornication or other “irregular situation” may be the most generous response a person can give to God at a certain moment in his life, Pope Francis has embraced situation ethics and has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality. Pope John Paul II had already warned that such an argument is clearly erroneous.

CONCLUSION: Amoris Laetitia potentially opens the door to the justification of practically any type of mortal sin, not only because it is arguably for “everyone” in “all situations,” but also because “no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed” if the general statements about moral acts in the document are considered valid, to quote the great Dominican scholar, Father Aidan Nichols. For example, why would a married gay couple not be able to claim under the rationale of Amoris that their union is the best response they can make given their concrete situation. Thus, when Dr. Joseph Seifert referred to Amoris Laetitia as a “theological atomic bomb” which in essence would blow up Catholic morality, making all Catholic morality essentially optional, his opinion was not mere hyperbole.

Amoris Laetitia has created quite a mess for those who teach moral theology. One could forcefully argue it is the greatest threat to Catholic morality the Church has ever encountered.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

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SAINT JOHN PAUL II WARNED THAT AN AMORIS LAETITIA-LIKE ARGUMENT WOULD CONSTITUTE A SERIOUS ERROR

“In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances.” (Pope John Paul II, VS 104)

Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains a very controversial statement made by Pope Francis. It reads, in pertinent part:

“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. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”

In his great encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II specifically foresaw and rejected the type of argument put forth in Amoris Laetia (303) quoted above. He stated very clearly that

“It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103) 

Still further, Saint John Paul II stated:

“circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” (VS 81)

Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor the clear Catholic teaching that an intrinsically evil act cannot be creatively transformed into something willed by God under concrete circumstances (the suggestion put forth in AL 303 and 301).

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

By trying to claim that an intrinsically evil act like adultery, fornication or other “irregular union” may be the most generous response a person can give to God at a certain moment in his life, Pope Francis has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality. Pope John Paul II had already warned that such an argument is clearly erroneous.

CONCLUSION: In light of the above discussion, Amoris Laetitia is on very shaky ground. To repeat Saint John Paul II’s own words: “It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

References: I am relying largely on the following three internet articles which are available on-line. 1. Amoris Laetitia and John Paul II by John Kusch (containing some of the important VS quotations I have used); 2. Is Amoris Laetitia really Thomistic and against “decadent scholasticism”? Let’s hear what the Angelic Doctor says! by Luisella Scrosati; and 3. Is ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Really Thomistic? by Edward Pentin.

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