Thank you for your continued prayers for our mission! After a very successful week in Kenya, Dr. Brian Clowes and I have arrived in France, and after some fruitful meetings with pro-lifers from over 12 countries, tomorrow we expect to march with about 40,000 in the streets of Paris in defense of innocent life. God is so good.
Certainly we must all deepen our prayer lives without delay, by God’s grace. These are troubling times. It is time to speak plainly in truth and charity about the confusion engulfing the faithful regarding Church teaching on marriage, family, and the Eucharist. I meet many priests from around the world, and you would not believe how unsettled they feel about what they are hearing from Rome and how many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia.
If you follow HLI’s writings on the topic, you know that we have been very respectful even as we affirmed the beautiful and traditional teachings of the Church, and as we insisted that practice must not contradict doctrine. Where such a contradiction exists, we have a failure of integrity—basically setting aside doctrine as if it were a dusty artifact so we can proceed in “compassion” as if that doctrine did not exist. We have thanked faithful bishops who, seeing the widespread confusion and recognizing their pastoral responsibility to their priests and catechists, affirmed the positive elements of Amoris Laetitia while also teaching that it changed nothing in the doctrine or Eucharistic practice.
Sadly, the Holy Father’s closest collaborators do not support this interpretation. One of the bishops upholding the continuity of teaching and practice for marriage and the Eucharist was even publicly attacked by one of Pope Francis’s recently appointed cardinals, in a remarkably substance-free broadside. And the courageous cardinals who privately presented to Pope Francis the dubia—charitably expressed and very precise questions on serious theological questions presented by Amoris—were ignored and thus went public to address the public confusion and hopefully advance the conversation. For their trouble they, too, have been attacked by many in the Curia, not on the level of theological engagement, but, tellingly, on the level of their supposed motives. In saner days such unjust attacks would be dismissed by all thinking people as an admission of the emptiness of the attackers’ arguments.
Now the bishops of Malta have published guidelines telling their flock that divorced and remarried Catholics may receive the Eucharist, after some kind of discernment, if they feel they are “at peace with God.” This was now over one week ago, in the Vatican newspaper, and there has been no clarification from above even as the Maltese bishops have reaffirmed their teaching as being consistent with Amoris Laetitia. This follows reports that an Austrian bishop actually invokes his dangerous pre-Amoris diocesan practice of giving Communion to Catholics in adulterous relationships as finding justification in the Apostolic Exhortation.
Such is how reckless dissent regarding the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is now affirmed, and Biblical and doctrinal admonitions against unworthily receiving Christ dismissed. Such is a person’s conscience—a conscience that is by all accounts not formed in accord with the truth of Catholic doctrine—made supreme, even when it opposes the very plain teaching of Our Lord Himself on marriage. And if a faithful priest, bishop, or cardinal feels impelled by his own conscience to ask questions and adhere to existing doctrine and practice, he will have his character and motives attacked even from the highest positions of the Church.
As all of this continues to unfold, we hear that proponents of forced abortion and sterilization are being invited to speak at the Vatican. After three years of watching population control promoters go unchallenged in this pontifical academy as they are invited to speak and co-sign statements with Vatican officials, we hear the leading prophet of the “people are the problem” anti-gospel, Paul Ehrlich, is to be honored with a speaking position at a conference that is tailor made for his discredited theories about the always-impending ecological catastrophe. And since his population panic mongering was apparently insufficient to make the case, leaders of the most aggressive population control agency in the world, the Population Council, are also invited to speak.
Why bring all of this up now… hasn’t this been going on for some time? Yes, for sure. But like you, and like most those who are now voicing criticims, I have a great love for the Church and the Holy Father, and a deep disposition toward defending them against unjust attacks. Indeed, this situation has led many to stand up courageously and ask legitimate questions about what is going on. One doesn’t do this to be popular at cocktail parties or to make peace with the wider culture. We believe that our societies are sick, that sin has run rampant, and that the only answer comes from Our Lord Himself and the courageous witness of the Church that he established on the Rock of Peter.
In fact, we’ve been called “dissenters” – quite bizarrely – simply for upholding Church teaching even as the confusion has spread. Such charges are usually made quickly and without support, but this nonsense is now fairly common.
I simply can’t look my brother priests in the eye anymore and tell them I have a way of interpreting the current state of affairs in a way consistent with previous doctrine and practice. I’ve read some attempts to do so, but they mostly entail name calling against those who believe that Christ’s words on marriage were definitive, that the Church’s doctrine cannot suddenly change, and that practice cannot contradict doctrine. My brothers, we cannot be forced against our will to mislead those under our spiritual care, or to say what is not true.
To all who are confused: Our task in this situation is in prayer. Pray and offer your suffering for the Holy Father, the cardinals and bishops, priests and catechists, and lay people who are confused. Be consoled by the examples of saints who held strong to Christ and told the truth in love even as many around them fell into error. It is the centenary of Our Lady’s appearance at Fatima, and there are many riches and consolations for the faithful in these devotions.
Our faithful bishops have been put in a very difficult position with this confusion, and we must pray for them constantly. They cannot end the confusion above them, but they can mitigate the confusion that is spreading among those put under their spiritual care, and they can stand by brothers who are publicly attacked for telling the truth. They can tell their priests that they will not be asked to violate their consciences and further mislead people whose consciences are poorly formed. They can tell Catholics in the pew that they are loved, that God’s divine mercy remains available to everyone who turns to Him, confesses their sin, asks for forgiveness and firmly resolves to amend their lives. The person who does this may partake in Holy Communion. If they are not ready to do this, then they may be welcomed by the community, praying and discerning under the direction of a priest who will tell them the truth in love and accompany them without affirming what may be mortally sinful acts.
Do not be afraid to tell the truth, but do so thoughtfully and with care, always beginning with prayer and acts of reparation. We don’t need more rants, we need more clarity, more truth presented with love. We need saints.