By Don Pietro Leone
A spiritu fornicationis
libera nos, Domine
(invocation from the Litany of the Saints)
How can we doubt that this encyclical, publically called into question by the same Cardinal Caffarra (amongst others) to whom Sister Lucia had written, is not part of the clash between the Church and Satan that we have mentioned above?
In this brief glance at Amoris Laetitia we consider marriage, adultery, and ‘sex education’.
The Exhortation Amoris Laetitia states in § 80: ‘Marriage is firstly an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ which is a good for the spouses themselves, while sexuality is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman’... Nonetheless the conjugal union is ordered to procreation by its very nature’.
In the footnotes, four references are provided for this text: Gaudium et Spes § 48 with regard to the ‘intimate partnership’; the Code of Canon Law (1983) c.1055 with regard to the ‘good of the spouses’; the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2360 with regard to the ordering of sexuality to conjugal love; Gaudium et Spes § 48 again with regard to the ordering of marriage to procreation.
There are two things to note when comparing this passage of the Exhortation with recent Magisterium:
1) It represents a step forward, inasmuch as it now explicitly presents married love as the primary end of marriage (‘Marriage is firstly... conjugal love’);
2) This doctrine is a further example of the eroticizing tendency in recent Magisterium, manifest here also in the re-iteration of three doctrines (which we have treated above) describing marriage as an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ and a ‘good for the spouses’, and concerning the ‘ordering of sexuality to conjugal love’. The suggestion that conjugal love is essentially sexual in content will indeed subsequently be elaborated in exclusively secular terms in § 150 entitled ‘The Erotic Dimension of Love’.
Pope Francis follows Pope John Paul in no longer treating marriage as inferior to virginity and celibacy (Exhortation § 159 citing the above-quoted passage of Pope John Paul II). This certainly corresponds to the importance he too accords to conjugal love.
It is certainly the spirit of eroticism already manifest in the above quotations that is behind the Pope’s indulgent attitude towards adultery.
a) Advocacy of Adultery
In the document Amoris Laetitia § 298, the Pope speaks of ‘divorced and remarried’ couples in the following terms: ‘The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate’ (Familiaris Consortio § 84), and he adds in footnote 329 ‘In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Gaudium et Spes § 51).
‘Expressions of intimacy’ refers to sexual relations, as appears from a reading of the complete passage of Gaudium et Spes, and from the fact that the said ‘expressions of intimacy’ are contrasted to cohabitation ‘as brother and sister’. Consequently, the text may be summarized as follows: Many divorced and remarried couples who live together for the good of their children, find that sexual relations (i.e. adultery) are fruitful for their relationship and for the good of their children.
We see then that:
i) Adultery is justified; that is:
ii) as a means to an end: namely the couple’s fidelity and the good of their progeny;
iii) in a particular situation, indeed a situation experienced by ‘many’;
iv) in purported continuity with preceding Church Magisterium.
We may reply to each of the points as follows:
i) Adultery is condemned expressis verbis in the Old Testament in the VI Commandment, and by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the New (Mt 19.9; Mc 10.11-12). Furthermore, Our Blessed Lord specifies it as one of the sins that exclude the sinner from eternal life (Mt.19. 17-18), in other words as a mortal sin. Being, therefore, an intrinsic evil, it can in no way be justified.
ii) St. Paul (Rom 3.8) declares explicitly that an evil cannot be done as a means to a good;
iii) Here ‘Situation Ethics’ is in operation, with the principle that the conscience creates a norm according to the situation in which the individual finds himself. The Church has, by contrast, condemned situation ethics, and understands the conscience as a judgement which applies objective moral principles to particular actions;
iv) The Pope (or his collaborators) suppresses essential parts of the passages from which he quotes. In the first passage, Pope John Paul II, when speaking of the ‘divorced and remarried’ who live together for motives which include the good of their children, declares that they must live in perfect chastity: if they do not, they cannot receive Holy Communion. In the second passage, the Council recommends sexual relations for reasons of fidelity and the good of the children, but only among those who are sacramentally married.
In other words, Pope John Paul II states that a ‘divorce and remarried’ couple may live together for the good of their children but in perfect chastity; the Council states that sexual relations can promote the fidelity of a couple and the good of their children within marriage. By combining the two passages while cutting out the references to chastity and marriage, Pope Francis purports to justify adultery on the basis of preceding Magisterium.
b) The Ecclesial Status of Adulterers
The Exhortation states in § 299 that the ‘divorced and remarried’ are, ‘as living members, able to live and grow in the Church’ and proposes that they be integrated in the public life of the Church, as god-parents for example. The Church’s Tradition along with St. Thomas Aquinas on the other hand, consider them as dead members of the Church, like dead branches of a living tree. For this reason, and by reason of their bad example, it is clearly not appropriate for adulterers to assume positions in the public life of the Church, nor has it ever been permitted for them to do so.
c) The Admission of Adulterers to Holy Communion
We may conclude from § 298 and footnote 329 analyzed above, that if adultery is no longer considered as a mortal sin, it follows that adulterers have the right to be integrated into the life of the Church, even as far as receiving Holy Communion is concerned. Let us now examine one of the passages of the document that says so explicitly: ‘[…]the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same [...]This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists’. (§ 300 with footnote 336).
What kind of justification for access to Holy Communion does the Pope here have in mind? ‘Situation Ethics’? but, as we have already explained, this ethic is null and void. Or is it perhaps the ignorance on the part of the couple that adultery is a mortal sin, or that Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is a further mortal sin? It is true that a mortal sin is not imputed to a sinner who did not know that it was mortal; nonetheless, the sin in question is mortal objectively and is a grave offence against God. For this reason, any form of spiritual assistance, discernment, declaration, or intervention on the part of the Church must be directed towards instructing the couple concerning the objective natural and Divine law, and to leading them to live in the Grace of God: not leaving them in ignorance and sin for fear of offending their sensibilities. In short, the Church’s task here is not to avoid offending the faithful, but to avoid offending God.
3. ‘SEX EDUCATION’
Now that European schools have been flooded with ‘sex education’ programmes of an immoral and purely hedonistic order (and we fear that even worse is to come), an intervention from Holy Mother Church becomes increasingly more opportune and urgent with every day that passes. With the publication of Amoris Laetitia, one might perhaps have hoped that the Hierarchy would have adopted some truly Catholic stance in regard to the issue, for example:
i) A proposal to found new, and authentically Catholic schools, or at least to found new institutes to teach Catholic doctrine in existing schools;
ii) An appeal to parents to educate, or at least to supervise the education of, their children themselves, as they are indeed obliged to do in accordance with the primary end of marriage (i.e. the procreation and education of children);
iii) A clear exposition of Catholic doctrine on marriage, on the acts contrary to it, on purity, on impurity, and on the fact that all sins against purity are mortal.
Instead of this, the period § 280-286 entitled ‘The Need for Sex Education’ is singularly lacking on all of these counts.
i) Far from proposing alternatives to the present ‘sex education’ programmes, the document limits itself to suggesting certain modifications or change of accent within them;
ii) The educative role of parents is not even mentioned, in marked contrast to the document ‘The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality’, promulgated by the Vatican some 20 years before (in 1995), which, in view of the dangers of treating such matters in school, firmly collocated ‘sex education’ within the family. In the passage in question, Amoris Laetitia in fact entirely ignores the primary end of marriage, concentrating (except for one single reference to the ‘natural procreative end of sexuality’) on the secondary end of marriage, i.e. on love: indeed on a love understood exclusively in an emotional, and above all in a sexual, sense. One reads for example about ‘education for love, for mutual self-giving’ (§ 280); about the ‘capacity to love’ (§ 281-2) and the way that ‘young people show love’ (§ 284).
iii) With respect to Catholic doctrine on marriage and purity, nothing at all is said. Sexuality is in fact treated in an exclusively psychological manner, without so much as an allusion to morality. The evil to be avoided is no longer sin, but rather sociological or psychological problems such as: ‘trivialization and impoverishment’ (§ 280); ‘the flood of pornography’, the deformation of sexuality, the crippling and ‘distortion’ of the capacity to love (§ 281-2); ‘narcissism and aggressivity’, ‘toying’ with bodies and desires (§ 283); immaturity (§ 284); isolation (§284-5), not accepting one’s own body, fear of the other (§ 285).
We see that sexuality outside marriage is not condemned. Rather, it seems actively to be encouraged, so that the section in the final analysis is entirely compatible with ‘sex education’ programmes: those already in force and those yet to be imposed upon the children: ‘The sexual urge can be directed through a process of growth in self-knowledge and self-control capable of nurturing valuable capacities for joy and for loving encounter’ (§ 280). ‘The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect, and deeply meaningful communication’, in preparation ‘for sexual union in marriage as a sign of an all-inclusive commitment enriched by everything that has preceded it’ (§ 283, viz. also § 284).
Indeed, the section is compatible even with ‘Gender’, inasmuch as its author contemplates sex education not only for adolescents, but even for ‘children’ (§ 280 and 281); and is pleased to assert: ‘Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture etc. [...]; But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories [...]’. The section ends with a warning against ‘condition[ing] legitimate freedom and hamper[ing] the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential’ (§ 286)
Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana
Part 5 to be posted, soon.
 cf. Footnote 9 above
 The document breathes an authentically Catholic spirit, apart from a personalist over-insistence on ‘love’.
 Again in marked contrast to ‘The Meaning and Truth of Human Sexuality’.
 İt is uncertain what is being referred to here. Certainly the Greek and Roman ‘love-poets’, for instance, would have imagined they were engaged in some such communication, but certainly in abstraction from chastity.
 An ideology as bird-brained as it is despicable
 But in which case why, pray, is ‘not accepting one’s own body’ a problem (cf. § 285)?
 The deleterious effect of this passage is not diminished by Papal disapproval of ‘Gender’ on other occasions, since the latter statements have the effect only of confusing, rather than of correcting, the former statements.