Homily for the Assumption of Mary

At the end of her earthly life, Mary was taken in soul and body to heaven, that is, to the glory of eternal life in God.

When a loved one dies, he continues to exist in a certain fashion in the men and women who knew and loved him. As far as they can, they keep alive in their mind and hearts. But though they may want it, they cannot keep him really alive.
But God's love is the very reason we exist. We exist only because he has loved us from eternity and willed us to be. This love can preserve in being all within the communion of this love.

The original sin of Adam and Eve meant a turning away from this love. Shut off from full communion with this creative and life-giving love, the human race would have but a shadowy existence, returning nearly to the nothingness from which God's love had called it. Yet God in his mercy and love sent his Son came to renew the communion and friendship. By his death and resurrection he broke the bonds of death and renewed man's friendship with God. Made sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, we share also in his victory over sin and death. Already now, incorporated in Christ through grace and baptism, through faith and charity, we share in Christ's resurrection, possess eternal life within us, according to his promise: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life" (John 6:54) And though subject to weakness of body and to death, we hope to share in this life also in our bodies. "And I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54)

We see the fulfillment of this saving mystery and of our hope in a special way in Mary. Chosen to be the Mother of God, she is so closely united to Christ that already, immediately at the end of her earthly life, she shares fully in the resurrection of her Son in body and in soul, she lives now what we profess in the creed and hope for at the end of the world, the bodily resurrection of the dead.
Mary's sharing in Christ's definitive victory over death crowns her faith in the Word of God and her complete dedication to the Lord, of whom she became the temple, body and soul. As St. Augustine remarks, "Before conceiving the Lord in her body she had already conceived him in her soul," and this grace was still greater than merely bodily motherhood, as Christ remarks in relation to the blessedness of this motherhood, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28) By divine grace Mary was prepared to be the dwelling place of God Himself, prepared body and soul, prepared forever. Thus she is blessed above all human creatures.

At the same time Mary shows us how we become blessed. We are blessed to the extent that we become dwelling places for the Lord, that we allow him to live in us. We do this first through faith. Elizabeth says to Mary: "Blessed is she who has believed" (Luke 1:45). This is the first step of beatitude, to believe and to trust in God, who reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ, who became Incarnate through the Virgin Mary, and who wills to show Himself through us – through our deeds and in our bodies – and to lead us to definitive communion with Him.

Mary responds: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46). She does not glory in praise of herself, but turns it to God. And this is the second step of beatitude, to turn the eyes of our heart to the Lord more than to ourselves, to love and to rejoice in the will of God more than in our own will. God's every will is done, and nothing happens without God's will, so to the extent we attain to this attitude of always loving and rejoicing in God's will, we shall already have attained the substance of true beatitude.

Let us praise and glorify the work of God in Mary, whom he graced above all other creatures and exalted in Heaven with her Son. Let us see in her what the Lord calls each of us to: a life of faith and love, a life that the Lord will bring to perfection in both our bodies and in our souls if we remain faithful to Him. And let us ask the Lord to strengthen our faith in eternal life, to increase our love, and to make us always joyful persons who live in trusting confidence that all things work out for good to those who love God.

(This homily takes up a number of thoughts expressed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)

The Purposes of Punishment according to Thomas Aquinas

Punishments, whether punishment with which parents punish their children for misbehaving, judges declare punishment for a crime, or God punishes men's sins, have various ends or purposes. Thomas Aquinas summarizes these purposes under two headings: 1. To restrain or inhibit voluntary evil; 2. to establish order there, where a crime has made disorder.

The evil of punishment is imposed to coerce and to order the evil of guilt. (De Malo, q. 1, a. 5, ad 7)

After the remission of sin, punishment is needed for two ends: to settle the debt, and to provide a remedy (In IV Sent., dist. 20, q. 1, a. 2, qa. 1)

Punishment as salutary: healing evils or preventing them

Inasmuch as punishment is aimed at restraining or hindering evil, Aquinas describes punishment as medicinal or salutary, either for the wrongdoer himself, or at least for the larger community. In the best case, the punishment helps to rehabilitate the wrongdoer, training him to live justly as a member of the larger human community; in any case, it helps secure the community freedom from injustice by deterring subsequent crimes by the one guilty of wrongdoing or by others, whom the threat of punishment deters from such crimes; making the criminal incapable of committing further crimes by imprisonment, exile, removal of status or authority used to commit crimes, etc.

Punishment as retribution: balancing out the wrong done

Inasmuch as punishment is aimed at balancing the crime, by which an individual has exerted their will against the requirements of justice and the common good, with an imposition by the community of something contrary to his will, Aquinas describes punishment as vindictive, or retributive.

We have an intuitive feeling: one who has done wrong has harmed another person or the community, thereby deprived that person and the community of some good, and so owes them a debt; again, one way of (at least partially) resolving this debt is by "paying back" the evil to the wrongdoer.

Where is the justice in this "payback"? What distinguishes this "payback" from mere vengeance, or the notion that "two wrongs (i.e., a wrong done to the wrongdoer) make a right"?

St. Thomas Aquinas writes:

"the failing of a voluntary action is the essence (constituit rationem) of sin and guilt, so the failing of any good imposed on someone contrary to the will of the one on whom it is imposed, is the essence of punishment. For punishment is imposed as a medicine for guilt, and as setting it in order. As medicine, inasmuch as man, by reason of punishment, is held back from guilt when, in order that he not suffer what is contrary to his will, he foregoes doing a disordered action that would otherwise please his will. It sets it in order, since by guilt man transgresses the limits of the natural order, giving more to his will than he ought. Hence he is led back to the order of justice by punishment, through which something is taken away from his will. From this it is evident that a fitting punishment is not given for guilt, unless the punishment is more contrary to the will than the guilt is pleasing. (Compendium theologiae, ch. 121)

A person who acts unjustly creates an inequality within the community, a disturbance of the order by which all are members of the community are fundamentally equally ordered to the common good of the community as participants in it. The inequality consists in an excessive exertion of the wrongdoer's will against the order of natural or civil law by which the common good is preserved and promoted. Insofar as freedom is a good, this exercise of free freed from the demands of law, is a kind of advantage the wrongdoer has arrogated to himself in comparison with other citizens: he enjoys freedom and other common goods of the community preserved by the order of law, while not respecting the equal right of others under that law.

This inequality, consisting in the exertion of an individual's will against the demands of law and the common good, may be removed, and equality of all citizens with respect to the common good and the law, by the imposition, by a competent authority, on the wrongdoer of something contrary to his will.

Since the purpose of punishment is the re-establishment of equality before the law, punishment can only be imposed by one authorized to apply the law in the name of the community; such an authority may also declare, in a particular case, that punishment will not be imposed (amnesty), which insofar as it is a judgment made by a lawful authority for the common good, is in its own way equally a re-establishment of the order of justice.

Retribution is essential in constituting punishment

In order for punishment to be just, indeed, to be punishment in the strict sense, it must have an element of retribution. Civil authorities might come upon of the idea of deterring theft by taking some random person, whipping them publicly, and announcing, "this and ten times more will be done to anyone who commits theft". This, however, would not be punishment, but terrorizing, not a just subordination of individual good to the common good, but the instrumentalization of individuals for the state.

Healing or inhibition of evil is the primary purpose of punishment in civil or human communities

Yet while retribution is necessary in order that punishment actually be punishment rather than merely a way of striking fear into the populace, it is not the principal goal. Aquinas sees the goal or purpose of punishments within civil communities (in contrast with punishment in purgatory or hell imposed by God as creator and ruler of the universe) as being medicine for or restraint of sin.

  • Punishments are not directly intended by the legislator, but are medicines, as it were, for sin. And therefore the equitable person does not apply more pain than suffices for restraining sin. (Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics V, lectio 16)
  • The infliction of punishments should not be sought for its own sake, but punishments are inflicted as medicines for restraining sins. And thus they have the character of justice just insofar as they restrain sins. (ST (Summa Theologiae) II-II, q. 43, a. 7)
  • The punishments of this present life are more medicinal than retributive, for retribution is reserved for the divine judgment. (ST II-II, q. 66, a. 6)
  • The punishments of the present life are not sought for their own sake, because this is not the time of final retribution; but they are sought insofar as they are medicinal, aiding either the correction of the sinning person, or the good of the republic, whose tranquility is procured by the punishment of people who sin. (ST II-II, q. 68, a. 1)
  • Vengeance is made by inflicting something painful on the sinner. Therefore we must consider the mind of the avenger. If he intends principally the evil for the one on whom he takes vengeance, and rests in that evil, vengeance is completely unlawful, since to delight in the evil of another person pertains to hatred, which is contrary to the charity by which we should love all men. Nor is someone excused, because he wills evil on someone who inflicted evil on him, just as one is not excused because he hates someone who hates him… but if the avenger principally looks to some good that is attained through punishing the sinner, e.g. his correction, or at least restraining him [from further sin] and quieting others, and the preservation of justice and the honor of God, vengeance can be licit, so long as the other suitable circumstances are present. (ST II-II, q. 108, a. 1)
  • Vengeance is licit and virtuous insofar as it tends to restrain evils. (ST II-II, q. 108, a. 3)
  • All mortal sinners are worthy of eternal death as regards the future retribution, which is according to the truth of the divine judgment. But the punishments in the present life are rather medicine (than retributive). And therefore the death penalty is only inflicted for those sins that result in grave harm to others. (ST II-II, q. 108, a. 3, ad 2)

Consequently, to consider retribution alone, or to punish merely to "pay someone back" for a crime committed, is an insufficient reason to punish, and therefore to punish in this way would be unjust. Again, to impose a greater punishment than necessary in order to attain the goals of healing the evil, and/or preventing or restraining future evils, is inappropriate and therefore unjust.

The goals of punishment set certain limits to what punishment may be suitable and just for a given crime, but also provide guidelines: the suitable punishment will depend on the nature of the crime, how voluntary the crime was and how set the wrongdoer's will is on wrongdoing, how prone people in general are to such a crime, whether the deed tends to be attractive or abhorrent, etc. I will return to this point in a subsequent post.

(Update August 8, 2018: two more citations from St. Thomas Aquinas added)

Living like a king (or queen)

You don't need to go out and buy an expensive stone castle. In fact, you probably don't need to do anything, you're already living like a king or queen, or even better than one! In almost every area of life, pretty much all of us (in the first world) can enjoy things that for most of human history, were the privilege of kings, queens, and wealthy businessman, or were merely the stuff of dreams. A few examples from the top of my head:

A car: whether you own one (or two, or three), or can rent one a few days a year to travel on vacation, with a car we can travel faster than was possible till the 19th century even for for the wealthiest who owned many horses, and easily remain comfortable and dry while travelling in rain and ice; many cars also have the luxury of air-conditioning.

Spacious houses with central heating: the majority of us in the west can heat our houses or apartments to a level of comfort that in prior centuries only the wealthy could afford (in those regions where central heating was a thing at all — elsewhere you would usually have either a small living space or a drafty and cold one.)

Phones, cell phones, computer, internet: we can deliver messages across the world orders of magnitudes faster than was possible through most of human history, and that cheaply (even in the USA, where telecommunications is more expensive than in many third world countries (!!), it is far cheaper than employing high-speed dedicated couriers or special manned messaging systems, as in the past was necessary for long-distance quick communication). With little effort, we can pick up this little thing in our pocket, and immediately see and talk to family, friends, or colleagues 5,000 miles away, the stuff of dreams, fantasy, or science fiction!

Freezer, refrigerator, ice cream, etc.: formerly available in the summer only to those wealthy enough to cart in ice from the mountains, or to own a dedicated ice storage house/room to store large quantities of ice through the entire summer, we can enjoy cold drinks, ice cream, and preserve food by freezing with hardly a second thought.

Electric light: for a few cents per day, we can light a room brighter than was possible by any number of candles or oil lamps, without their smell and flickering.

Medicine and medical treatment: The price or availability of health insurance, the cost of treatment (not covered by insurance) can cause a certain amount of anxiety. But in the larger perspective, most of the treatments or medicines we have access to were formerly not available at any price, even to royalty.

No worries about daily needs from year to year: as a result of stronger nations and of globalization, we don't need to worry about starving as a result of a year or two of poor harvests. In fact, pretty much the only likely situation that could arise where there would be a risk of starving to death would be in the event of a civil or world war.

A high degree of security: Unlike kings, or queens, who had a quite significant risk of being murdered, we enjoy a high degree of safety, in no small measure due to the greater overall wealth; when everyone enjoys the kind of relative wealth that you do, you'll less likely to be murdered for your money; and here violent criminals have proportionally more to lose, less than gain, than in poorer centuries or parts of the world.

All of us are incredibly rich, even when it comes to material good. So don't waste time thinking about the things your neighbors, coworkers, famous actors, or others have that you don't. Enjoy your royal, luxurious life! Or rather, and a much better thing to do, count your blessings and thank God!

Indeed, there are two even greater levels of blessings we've received. For of much greater value than this wealth of material things with which we've been blessed, are family and friends. And still more, the gift we've received of God's love. He loved us so much that he brought us into being out love, sent his own Son for love of us, to redeem us and to lead us to the fullness of life.

Beyond all material blessings, we want to thank God for this love, and in this thankfulness, to be good stewards of what we've received, and ready to share this bounty with those in need.

(This post is somewhat freely adapted from thoughts expressed in a homily last Sunday, September 10, 2017, for a Mass in thanksgiving for the harvest.)

Theologians' Appeal for Clarification of Apparent Errors in Amoris laetitia – disobeying divine law without sin

‘It is [sic] 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.’ (AL 301)
The theologians claim that this statement understood as meaning that a Catholic believer "can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action", is heretical.
Amoris Laetitia seems to suggest, at least with the second part of the hypothetical "A subject may know full well the true, yet… be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin" that an individual may, due to being obligated in conscience to act a certain way ("does not allow him or her to act differently… without further sin"), not bear grave guilt in the violation of the "rule" that puts them in an "irregular" situation.
In this hypothetical, Amoris Laetitia is envisioning somewhat who is caught between two (perceived) obligations: the obligation of the rule in question, and the obligation of another rule that applies in this particular circumstance. For example, some one who married for a few years, without children, was divorced by the first spouse, has civilly remarried in ignorance of the fact that divorce cannot dissolve a valid marriage, been living in this civil marriage for many years and had children with the second partner, may come to learn of the indissolubility of marriage and the consequent obligation of fidelity to the first spouse, yet at the same time believe themselves bound by the grave obligation of justice to their second partner (including sexual giving of self to the partner). Such a person, caught between two apparent divine obligations, may discern in conscience that their greater obligation is to the current partner; the argument of Amoris Laetitia implies that such a person does not thereby necessarily commit a mortal sin.
One might quibble about whether such a person really knows "full well" the rule, but that is more an argument about words than a substantial argument about the matter in question.
The two major points one might raise are: is it possible, without grave fault, to believe that one divine law obliges one to break another divine law? In general St. Thomas Aquinas held that ignorance regarding divine law was culpable, and so, in speaking about the case of a perplexed conscience, which obliges a person to do something contrary to divine law, he argues that a person, so long as they are in that ignorance, sins by disobeying their conscience, since they do not follow the divine rule as it is presented to them by their conscience, and likewise sines by following their conscience, since they do not follow the divine rule that they should have know. He does make exceptions for insane persons, who are not capable of any moral action, but it is not clear whether he would make any further exceptions. However, considering the various external factors that lead someone to accept something as a moral obligation, it seems necessary to admit that in some cases, ignorance regarding divine laws may be not gravely culpable. If this is true, someone who erroneously believes that he is bound by a "higher" (as far as he perceives it) divine law to disobey another divine law, would be inculpable. One may not be obliged, by catholic Faith, to believe that there are such cases. But it is not in the least heretical to hold that there are; and indeed, this very statement of Amoris Laetitia provides a reason, based on church authority, to hold that there are, even if a small reason considered in itself.

The first part of the hypothetical "may… have great difficulty in understanding 'its inherent values'", I find harder to interpret, and potentially more problematic. But whatever exactly is meant by understanding "its inherent values", it seems to imply at any rate not really having "full knowledge" of a divine law in a morally relevant sense. I may come back to this, if I think I have something enlightening to say about a relationship between "knowing a rule" and "understanding its inherent values".

Theologians' Appeal for Clarification of Apparent Errors in Amoris laetitia – sinning by obeying divine law

‘It is [sic] 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.’ (AL 301)
The theologians claim that this statement understood as meaning that "a person with full knowledge of a divine law can sin by choosing to obey that law", is heretical.
Taken as an ordinary person would take it, this is most certainly not heretical. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas and, after him, most moral theologians, recognize the case of someone obliged by their conscience to do something contrary to a divine law; this is in fact a classic case of a "(qualifiedly) perplexed conscience". (E.g., in de Veritate, q. 17, a. 14, objection 8 and response, Aquinas considers the case of someone whose conscience obliges him to commit fornication, and in Quodlibetal 3, q. 12, a. 2, of a heretic obliged in conscience to preach against the Catholic faith.) While some theologians of his time argued that such a person was not obliged to obey their conscience, St. Thomas Aquinas argues that such a person is obliged to obey their conscience, and sin if they do not, at and the same time, they sin if they do obey their conscience, by acting on an erroneous conscience that they should have corrected. Aquinas notes that such a person is not absolutely forced to sin, only conditionally, so long as they do not correct to conscience. Just as, so long as someone accepts a false principle as the basis of his thought, he cannot avoid error, so, so long as a person persists with an erring conscience, he cannot avoid sin. (ST I-II, q. 19, a. 6, ad 3) This teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas is taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself." (CCC 1790)

One could say that the theologians' claim is technically correct, since, if a person's conscience tells him that he is obliged to do something incompatible with obeying a certain divine law, though he will sin if he disobeys his conscience and obeys that divine law, it would not be by choosing to obey that law that he sins, but by disobeying the law that his conscience puts forth as the reason why he is obliged to do something else. But, if our concern is with what Amoris Laetitia intends to say, or with how an average reader will take it, this technicality seems not to be really relevant. Under the given circumstance, if he chooses to obey that divine law, he will be sinning.

The Joy of Love – by Josef Seifert – couples in marriages of conscience?

Continuing the translation from Josef Seifert's article in German, released under the Creative Common's License with Attribution CC BY 3.0). Complete translation on a single page: The Joy of Love – Joys, Anguish, and Hope – by Josef Seifert.

2.1.4 Are there divorced and remarried Catholics, who considered outwardly do not live in a sacramental marriage and have not received certification from an ecclesial court of the nullity of their marriage, and therefore cannot celebrate their marriage in the Church, but who have entered a marriage of conscience, which count be reckoned by the Church as the sacrament of marriage and justify their admission to the sacraments?

A fourth answer to the question, which "irregular couples" should be admitted to the sacraments, could be seen as compatible with the constant teaching of the Church and even with the truth of the first answer. It concerns couples who at least "outwardly considered" are in "irregular situations". AL 298 (as well as FC 84) refers to them:

"the case of 'those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid'" [FC, 84] (AL 298)

This fourth group of cases, in which the admission of such "couples in irregular situations" could seem to be a good, if dangerous thing, can be illustrated with three concrete examples, which are also cited in Amoris Laetitia.

1. The first example would be that of couples who are honestly (and in accordance with the truth) convinced that their first marriage was invalid, but who, on account of external circumstances, cannot celebrate a second church marriage, because they have no access to a church tribunal (or even to a Church). This inability to present their case to a church tribunal possibly is based on the fact that they live in a country in which the Church doesn't exist or is severely persecuted, or on an island, on which there is no Church or priests, etc.

The impossibility of having recourse to a church tribunal can also arise among the extremely poor, who cannot afford the costs of a long trip for a hearing before a church court or of a ecclesial annulment process, who however are honestly and for the strongest reasons convinced of the invalidity of their first marriage, after a sincere examination of conscience and, if possible, a conversation with a confessor. (Pope Francis has already to a large degree redressed this case of the poor, in proposing a gratuitous offer of ecclesial investigations of a suit claiming nullity.) This merciful law redresses the injustice that under certain circumstances, only those who could pay the considerable sums were able to obtain a certification of the nullity of their marriage. Despite the pope's generous support of such couples there can be cases in which a person is not in a position to convince the Church judges and therefore is dependent on the expensive services of a lawyer, since the Church cannot everywhere offer free attorney services, as in some dioceses. In such cases, when there is a large amount of objective evidence and a high degree of subjective certainty about the invalidity of the first marriage, it could seem justified to lay claim to the aforementioned exception from the sacramental discipline and, without a certification of nullity, to enter a "marriage of conscience." Such couples "in irregular situations," one could think, should be admitted to the sacraments.

Indeed one could argue that in such a case the Church could not only allow access to the sacraments, but could presume that despite the merely civil marriage, or marriage altogether outside the civil order that took place on an island, a valid and sacramental marriage has taken place between a baptized man and a baptized woman. Admittedly one could argue: in order that such an "irregular marriage" not be an act of disobedience against the Church, but a valid marriage according to canon law, one could change canon law and adapt it to these cases. Advocates of this four way of interpreting couples in "irregular situations", who, according to AL should be admitted to the sacraments, could perhaps argue that, in a certain sense, making such a change to canon law and so "canonizing" an "irregular marriage" according to canon law, would restore the original discipline of the sacrament of marriage in canon law, when the Church recognized a sacramental marriage that arose simply through the exchange of marital consent between a man and a woman. The many canonical rules for an (a) licit and (b) valid catholic marriage, as well as (c) the rules of the ecclesial process of annulment were added in the course of history to hinder abuses, but are not unchangeable. For, according to this view, if the Holy Father, for specific, very precisely described conditions, revised church law and understood a valid marriage only according to its unchangeable essence and freed it from its historic ballast, this would be a truly good contribution of the teaching office of Pope Francis, always on the supposition of clarity and precision of teaching and canon law. On this view, a similar value would be had by adaptions to canon law for the two following cases of couples in "irregular situations," to whom the Church could grant access to the sacraments.

2. The second case is that of persons who for objective reasons are convinced of the invalidity of their marriage, but who have no objective proofs of the truth of their statement regarding the grounds for the invalidity of marriage (e.g., the absolute "no!" of their partner to children before the moment of contracting marriage), and whom the church court does not believe. This mistrust of the ecclesial judges is possibly caused by a lack of credibility of the claimant in the eyes of the judge, or in his lack of eloquence, or in the fact that his partner lies and is a distinguished and emotional speaker, who convinces the court of her lie, or in a thousand other reasons. In this case it could seem good to allow a "marriage of conscience" and to think that admission of such couples to the sacraments would be no sin, although they could not publicly celebrate a church wedding. One could go further and say that such a union is a valid and sacramental marriage outside of the normal order of the visible Church.

3. The third second is that where a partner, likewise sincerely convinced of the invalidity of a marriage, waits for a long time for the decision of a church court, and despite the rule that a judgment of the first instance in an annulment process should be made within a year, this judgment does not come in 2, 5, or 10 years, or even only after 18 years (as happened to a famous comedian poet in the 19th century.) One could argue that in this case that it would be legitimate for a couple on the basis of the judgment of the conscience to have a civil divorce and enter a new marriage, indeed, that the Church could consider this marriage as a sacrament and admit the couple to the reception of the sacraments, even if their wedding only took place civilly, or in a situation apart from the civil order (e.g., on a remote island), but on the basis of a conscious and mutual marital consent. At the same time one could warn, that the Church should only consider such couples as sacramentally married and admit them to the sacraments, after it has changed canon law and adopted clear regulations (e.g., that such a marriage of conscience may only take place after a certain number of years without a decision of the Church court), on the basis of the conscience of the person who seeks the declaration of nullity. In this case the Church would recognize such a marriage as a possibly valid and sacramental marriage, and from that point in time, when it would recognize the marriage as such, would declare it as such. The church process of annulment would, consequently, have to be aborted at the time when such an "irregular" marriage was recognized. (For if, in such a case, the church process continued in parallel, a possible contradiction between the judgment of the church tribunal and the judgment of conscience would lead to further grave conflicts and aporias.) Could we therefore say, that in this and similar situations couples "in irregular situations" could return to the reception of the sacraments and enter into a "marriage of conscience" in good conscience? And that not only are they by reason of their subjective conscience are in a state of grace, but that their marriage is objectively a sacramental marriage? In this way it would be possible for divorced (without an ecclesial annulment) and remarried persons return to the sacraments. Does, we may ask, AL by this good and merciful innovation give many couples a genuine gift of mercy, and is it for us an occasion for joy?

This fourth answer to the question, who are those couples "in irregular situations," who could be admitted to the sacraments, does not, on first sight, contradict the first. One could think (as I did): to grant divorced and (without a church annulment) remarried persons of this fourth kind access to the sacraments would simply grant to the moral conscience of the individual in very clearly delineated cases the same right as that which normally only the Church court has: to declare a marriage as invalid. Thereby these couples would only be "seemingly irregular", but in reality "regular in an extraordinary mode," to put a name to it. Are there such "irregular regular couples"?

2.1.4.1 Admission to the sacraments of the fourth type of "couples in irregular situations" contradicts the clear teaching and dogma of the Church as well as the manifest reason grounds of this teaching

One could think (I myself thought it until recently), that none of these three cases of the fourth class falls under the strong reasons for which the cardinals cited, together with FC, think that the prohibition from admitting divorced and (without a church annulment) remarried persons to the sacrament is not a matter of a mutable positive law, or a merely pastoral decision, but of a church practice that is based in the Gospel itself. So, the admission of the aforesaid couples and the church recognition of their marriage seemed to me to be a merciful step and a legitimate simplification of the annulment process or an acceptable solution in the case of a negative judgment of the church court.

But despite these apparent beautiful and liberating aspects of AL, that open access to the sacraments to these or similar couples, there are serious objections that justify the conclusion, that the admission of these couples to the sacraments is not compatible with the teaching and unchangeable practice of the Church. Why?

1. The Council of Trent condemns the opinion that the conscience of an individual (the internal forum) could be judge over the invalidity of the first marriage, when it says, in session XXIV: "Whoever says, matters pertaining to marriage do not belong before church judges, let him be anathema."

2. This teaching was solemnly confirmed by many other popes, up through Benedict XVI.

3. Marriage is also on the natural level a public relation with an effect on the life of the family; it is, moreover, the foundation of society. Therefore there are no "merely private" or "merely internal" solutions for the question of the existence of a marriage. This applies all the more to the sacrament of marriage.

4. Marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament. The reception of a sacrament is a religious, and never merely a private act. It is therefore the Church's task to judge the validity of the sacraments, according to objective criteria.

5. Moreover, leaving this question to the individual's conscience can easily lead to injustices. Consider a man who is tempted to commit adultery. He could easily, in a personal investigation, which is possibly based on an erring conscience, decided that his first marriage was invalid and that he is free to divorce and to marry a second woman.

6. Also individual priests cannot shed light on the truth of a marriage without carrying out a conscientious examination, for which a certain procedure is necessary. It is exactly this that is the task of a church court, whose function, therefore, is irreplaceable.

7. Moreover, the wife and the family have rights of their own. Therefore, the consequences of unjustified judgments about whether there is a valid marriage damage the integrity of the sacrament and easily lead to injustice to the wife, the children, and the entire community.

8. Finally, leaving the decision about the invalidity of marriage to the conscience of an individual partner in marriage or to an individual priest would bring about great chaos. If a marital partner or a priest rejects the invalidity of the marriage, while the other marital partner or another priest accepts it, or if a couple, that is not married, acts as though it were married, the life of the Church would be damaged through manifold confusion and scandal. (Footnote 31: All these teachings of the last popes are rejected pointblank by Cardinal Schönborn in his interpretation of AL: cf. Schönborn 2016 – July 6, 2016.)

If it thus clearly seems that also the described cases of "marriages of conscience" cannot be allowed or recognized by the Church as sacramental marriages, without contradicting the express teachings of the Church, some of which are even solemnly declared through anathemas of anyone who denies them, and if leaving it to the individual conscience to declare a marriage invalid is inadmissible, the only answer to our question which "irregular couples" can be admitted to the sacraments is the first one: none. Moreover, if this follows not from changeable decisions of the Church but from the Gospel and unchangeable Church teaching, not even a Pope can deviate from this doctrine and practice of the Church. Therefore, one ought to plead with the Pope that he retracts any statement that all or some couples in such "irregular situations" are to be admitted to the sacraments.

USA Presidental Election – Expected Outcomes of Votes

Many voters consider both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to be extremely bad potential presidents, yet consider one to be far worse than the other, and so think they should vote for Trump, to help ensure that Clinton isn't elected, or conversely, vote for Clinton, to help ensure that Trump isn't elected.

This attitude, I believe, fails to take into sufficient consideration the effect a vote in 2016 will have on the candidates in 2020, 2024, etc. Since we can expect be a presidential election in the USA to occur in those years as well, in assessing a vote overall, we have to consider the influence a vote made now has on what kind of candidates we will likely have in 2020 and subsequent election years.

Basically, a vote for either of the two major parties' (bad) candidates increases the likelihood that one or both of those parties puts forth similar (similarly bad) candidates in 2020, 2024, etc. Such a vote is a "vote" for the "system", so to speak — it not merely supports a particular candidate, but supports one or both of those major parties in putting forth in the future the kind of candidates they have this year.

In more detail: Assuming the vote between Trump and Clinton is close: a vote given for either of these two candidates (rather than a third party candidate significantly better than either of them) is a strong support for having two similar candidates to the current ones in 2020 (and in 2024, and 2028). For, to the degree that the major parties get more votes, they have little motivation to change significantly.
Assuming that one candidate, e.g., Hillary wins by a large margin: a vote for that candidate (rather than a third party candidate or for the other major party candidate) is a slight opposition to having a republican candidate similar to Trump in the future, and a slight support to having a candidate similary to Hillary in the future.

By "support" for a future outcome I mean that an action in fact increases the probability of a given outcome, and by "opposition" to a future outcome I mean that an action in fact decreases the probability of that outcome.

So, the more likely your vote might be the deciding vote between Trump and Clinton, to that extent your vote is simultaneously a vote (i.e., supports) having two candidates similar to them in 2020 (and in 2024, and 2028, etc.)
The less likely that your vote is unlikely to be the deciding vote between Trump and Clinton, to that degree your vote for one of them is less likely to affect the future major party candidates in 2020. (In addition, one influence of your vote in this respect is good, the other bad.) Consequently, to that degree does the value of a vote for a third party in supporting major party candidates in 2020 different from the current ones, outweighs the positive value of a vote for one of the major candidates.

To sum up, whether or not the race between Trump and Clinton is close, a vote for either one of them rather than for a third party candidate who would be significantly better than either of them, has a much greater expected negative value due to its expected probable influence on the 2020 (and 2024, 2028) candidates, than the expected positive value in hindering the "worse evil" 2017-2020.

The rigorous game theoretical proof of this is left as an exercise to the reader.

The Joy of Love – by Josef Seifert – some couples allowed to receive?

Continuing the translation from Josef Seifert's article in German, released under the Creative Common's License with Attribution CC BY 3.0). Complete translation (still in progress), on a single page: The Joy of Love – Joys, Anguish, and Hope – by Josef Seifert.

2.1.3 Some few (or many) "irregular couples", who live in objectively sinful situations — only after an examination in their personal conscience (with a priest's help or alone)?

According to this third interpretation of AL, that put forth by Rocco Buttiglione and others, the couples meant by AL as those who could receive the sacraments would be: couples who live in adultery or other grave sins, but who, on account of their limited ethical understanding or weakness of will “good adulterers”, or, put more generally, those who are “only objectively, but not subjectively sinners”, who indeed by reason of their subjective state are “sinners in a state of grace”. For such couples the sacraments could be a help on their journey in the spirit of the Gospel. In this case the invitation to receive the sacraments would be limited to certain, perhaps few couples in “irregular situations.”

2.1.3.1 A logical fallacy that we need to avoid

We could see a certain logical fallacy in Amoris Laetitia and in certain of its defenders, such as Rocco Buttiglione and Rodrigo Guerra López, concerning the assumption that many “couples in irregular situations”, who objectively live in grave sin, could for subjective reasons be inculpable. We could formulate the fallacy as follows:

  • 1. To commit a grave sin presupposes the knowledge that what one is doing is a grave sin.
  • 2. Many divorced and remarried persons do not know that they commit a grave sin when they (without the annulment of the first marriage) marry again.
  • 3. Therefore, many divorced and remarried persons do not commit a grave sin in marrying again.
  • 4. (Therefore, they live, if they have not committed another grave sin, in the state of grace and we should admit them to the sacraments.)

The fallacy is based on an equivocation regarding the expression „knowledge“ in the first and the expression „do not know” in the second premise, as well as the fallacy of a tacit (false) presupposition.
The tacit false presupposition is that one cannot be guilty, indeed gravely guilty for one’s lack of knowledge or one’s ignorance and for one’s own moral blindness, and that therefore no one who doesn’t recognize his own sin as such commits a grave sin.

Certainly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says is true:

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.

But the same number 1859 of the Catechism continues:

Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart [Cf. Mk 3:5-6; Lk 16:19-31] do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.

Among these things are adultery, murder, etc. Therefore we cannot assume an inculpable ignorance of the evil of murder or adultery, because there is no such thing as inculpable ignorance of the moral law that God has “written on the heart”, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Nr. 1860) says.

Consequently, the second premise of the syllogism is false, since a man, under normal circumstances (if he is not psychically gravely ill or something similar), in an original intuitive knowledge always knows about the moral evil of adultery, since the natural moral law is “written” (belongs to man’s natural moral reason) on the heart / conscience of man. There is a kind of deep, not always reflectively known, and often repressed knowledge, that is enough to make a man gravely guilty, even if he does not consciously recognize this knowledge.

In reference to the sin of idolatry, which Paul describes as “inexcusable”, it is said in Romans 1:21-23:

“For although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.” (Rom 1:21-23).

Now we can recognize the aforementioned equivocation as cause of the error. If one (without guilt) does not know that one commits a sin, one cannot commit a sin. But if, e.g., because one has deadened one’s conscience by many unrepented murders, is blind to moral values and no longer recognizes the evil of one’s actions, this is no inculpable ignorance, that would acquit a man of grave sins.

Dietrich von Hildebrand proved this by profound philosophical analyses, distinguishing four kinds of blindness to moral values, which for various reasons are culpable, sometimes gravely culpable, when, for instance, they follow from repeated unrepented evil deeds, by which the sinner dulls his conscience (blindness of obduracy). Ethical blindness can also occur because someone has a strong affection for what is subjectively satisfying, and at the same time does not want to consciously sin, but has a limited will to act morally uprightly, which easily leads him into the blindness of classification, in which he doesn’t classify his own behavior as an instance of the adultery or murder recognized as per se evil.

Or he is subject to a partial actual value blindness, no longer recognizing as such moral demands that forbid his particular vices, etc.

Paola Premoli De Marchi, in an outstanding book, applied the results of these analyses and the roll of freedom in knowledge in an original manner to a “ethics of consent” and developed it substantially and uniquely.

For the aforesaid reasons can we in no way validly conclude that the many divorced and remarried persons, who are blind to their own sin, are inculpable or live “in the state of grace.”

2.1.3.2 Is this "discrimination" between "evil adulterers and homosexuals" and "inculpable/good adulterers or homosexuals" tenable and practicable?

Is such a differentiation a practicable solution? I believe that the attempt to put it into practice leads to insurmountable impossibilities and difficulties. With regard to the unequivocal cases of adultery and bigamy, who shall distinguish, on a case-by-case basis, the good and inculpable adulterers or homosexuals and the evil adulterers or homosexuals (those in a state of grace and those living in grave sin)? On what basis?

AL says (even if not unequivocally), the distinction between „subjectively good adulterers“ (in the state of grace) and „evil adulterers“ (who live in mortal sin and therefore, according to the code of canon law, may not be admitted to the sacraments, if they persist in their non-marital cohabitation) should take place with the approval of a priest or confessor.

Here is the question: How can that work? Should priests declare some couples who live in adultery guiltless and tell them that in their case the reception of the sacraments does not require conversion or giving up their adulterous relationships, and that they can receive sacramental absolution from their sins and living communion with the Church without repentance and without the resolve to amend their life and to live as brother and sister? And other couples, on the other hand, who were true adulterers, may in no event receive the sacraments without the firm resolve to distance themselves from sinful, adulterous relationships, and to live in complete continence? Is it not manifest the discord and the private and public scandal that would arise, when different adulterous, in concubinage, lesbian or homosexual couples get contrary answers from the same priest? Is it not moreover clear that only a priest who had the gift of seeing souls could undertake this work of distinction? Is it not, further, evident, that many couples in “irregular relationships” would seek a “merciful” priest, who would give them the sacraments, and if he did not give them permission, would report such a confessor or at least make a complaint against him and other “cruel” priests, “who sit on the chair of Moses”? Are not immediately evident the catastrophic pastoral consequences of such a discrimination and disunity among priests that would arise from such a “new order”, which Spaemann fittingly called “chaos as a principle”? So, since evidently priests cannot make such distinctions, shall we leave such judgment to the conscience of each individual couple? But to leave this judgment to each couple and each individual, who shall now be judge over themselves and their state of grace, although they knowingly live in grave sin, is that not a pastoral catastrophe?

2.1.3.3 Is there no risk of sacrilege, if couples in adulterous, bigamous or homosexual relationships receive Holy Communion or sacramental absolution of their sins without the intention to change their life?

If the Holy Father Pope Francis wants to allow civilly remarried couples to receive the sacraments, why is there in AL not a single word of warning about the real danger of committing sacrileges, if adulterous, bigamous or homosexual couples receive Holy Communion? Why, in 260 pages, is the Word of Scripture not mentioned a single time, that “no adulterer shall enter the kingdom of heaven”? Why, in this context, is there not a single word confirming what Paul says, that “he who unworthily eats the Body and drinks the Blood of Christ, eats and drinks judgment unto himself”? Would it not be merciful to recall this truth to “irregular couples”, rather than telling them that they are “living members of the Church”? If a change in the sacramental discipline of the Church allows couples, who objectively live in so grave sin that until recently they were subject to excommunication, to receive the sacraments, then the complete silence regarding the real danger “to eat and to drink judgment unto oneself by the unworthy reception of the Eucharist” is beyond understanding. This very serious, horrible danger is certainly present, if couples who live in adultery or other grave sins such as concubinage or homosexual relationships, receive Holy Communion. And if the words of Sacred Scripture say that there is such a danger for souls, not to mention this with a single syllable or even point-blank to deny it, virtually invites couples, who live in objective contradiction to the Church, to persist in this contradiction. And if they, moreover, are assured that “no one will be condemned forever,” this is, I think, no act of mercy. What else could it be than an act of cruelty? Much crueler than it would be to leave a passenger boarding a ship in ignorance of the face that he will very likely soon die, since the ship has a large leak and could easily sink?

I therefore consider it necessary, for the sake of the holiness of marriage and the Eucharist, and for the sake of the eternal life of the faithful, for the Holy Father himself to remind us all that we should guard ourselves from this danger. Concerning the observation of Pope Francis, that not every divorced and remarried person is subjectively living in grave sin, but could rather, on account of his ignorance, have acted with a clean conscience and so live in the state of grace: I do not deny this. Much less do I deny that for such a person the reception of Holy Communion could be spiritually fruitful.

Nonetheless we should not lose sight of two things: (a) we cannot assume that this is the normal case of a divorced and remarried couple, and (b) it must be clear that neither a normal priest nor an individual person in this circumstance can know this or claim it with the least confidence to its being the truth. Therefore, everyone who objectively is living in grave sin should so live and act, as though he were subjectively living in sin.

2.1.3.4 Appeal to sinners to convert, or confirmation that they are living members of the Church?

It is certainly true and can be a great comfort, for these couples to know that God’s mercy is always present and ready to forgive them and to say to them: „Neither do I condemn you.” But we should not forget the following words of Jesus: “Go, and sin no more.” Besides, if the conversion from sins is absent, then a (evil) civilly remarried divorced person is no longer a “living member of the Church” and is not “on the way of life and the Gospel.” If he does not convert, the Father’s word about the lost son apply to him: “Your brother was dead,” although the way to confession and repentance always remain open to him. And for the one who chooses that way, the word applies: “Your brother lives.”

2.1.3.5 Why risk blasphemy and public scandal rather than teaching divorced and remarried faithful who are subjectively free of mortal sin and live in a state of grace the blessing of spiritual Communion?

Furthermore, to avoid the great evil of a sacrilege and a public scandal, without depriving divorced (and without certification of nullity) remarried persons of sacramental grace, one could teach couples who are perhaps by reason of the purity of their conscience in a state of grace, the possibility of “spiritual Communion.” They could inwardly ask God to grant them “spiritual Communion.” This proposal of Cardinal Kasper regarding spiritual Communion of divorced and remarried gave rise to a controversy. The argument made in this controversy, that everyone who can receive spiritual Communion, can also receive sacramental Communion, suggests the equation of sacramental and spiritual communion.

The controversy, and in particular this suggestion, demand clarification, which Johannes Stöhr, e.g., makes.

Without offering a refined theological explanation, which would be beyond my competence and exceed the limits and the goal of this article, I would just like to make the follow notes. Following Stöhr, we can distinguish:

  • 1. One meaning, which Stöhr calls the principal meaning of spiritual communion, consists in the abiding inner communion with Christ after the worthy reception of sacramental communion – perfection of sacramental communion together with lasting effects in the soul. That means, in turn, frequently repeated acts of devotion. I do not refer here to this meaning, since it is only applicable to couples who are allowed to receive the sacraments.
  • 2. Different from that is the desire of a Christian to receive sacramental communion when this is for compelling external reasons not possible, e.g., on account of sickness, professional duties, belated recollection of the law of fasting, etc. It means, however, not only not the same bodily nearness to Christ as the reception of the sacrament, but is, as a mere desire, not even like the sacrament, as our fourth kind of “spiritual communion” is.
  • 3. Sometimes what is meant is the desire to receive, although there is an objective impediment. In this connection one could have the unchristian notion, that spiritual communion in this case could be a substitute for sacramental communion, it could actually be possible for all. Stöhr is completely justified in criticizing this notion. To Stöhr's distinctions I would add further meanings of “spiritual communion” that seem to me to be the most important in our context.
  • 4. We could understand spiritual communion not as the mere desire for sacramental communion, when the latter is for external reasons not possible, but as a kind of spiritual-mystical communion, which doesn’t mean the real bodily presence of Christ of sacramental Communion, as Stöhr rightfully remarks, but that is much more than a mere desire. We can certainly not exclude that, even when the form and matter of the sacrament, that God effects and bestows a spiritual and quasi-sacramental union with Him, which bestows no less graces than are received by someone who receives communion with a lukewarm heart or out of routine. Indeed, according to the measure of love of the communicant, the opus operantis, more grace and a deeper union with God may be bestowed on such a “man of desire as Daniel” than on someone sacramentally communicating with a lesser yearning and love. And no man can determine the measure or the limits of the union, that God can bestow on one spiritually communicating in this way.

According to the interpretation of AL made by Rocco Buttiglione, the persons meant by Pope Francis are first of all such as objectively live in a state of grave sin, but on account of the imperfection of their knowledge and will still live in a state of grace. And that there are such persons, who only outwardly fall into Stöhr's third category, while inwardly belonging to the second group of persons he names, who, in other words, despite their objective sinful actions do not inwardly live in grave sin, is, with AL (and Thomas Aquinas) indisputable. And it is these persons, and also the fourth group of persons I distinguish – those who by reason of a “marriage of conscience” live in “irregular situations” – that I mean, when I speak of the gift of spiritual communion, to which these persons can have access. A prerequisite, to be sure, is that they do not consciously and willingly commit grave sin, but for subjective reasons, despite their objective sin, are not subjective grave sinners. And such persons, who in my opinion one should still exclude from sacramental real Communion, can, if they truly live in the state of grace, receive the graces of a spiritual-mystical Communion (in the fourth sense) – entirely without the danger of sacrilege, that presupposes the physical-real presence of the Lord.

Otherwise, if divorced and remarried persons are objectively as well as subjectively living in a state of sin, one may not say that they are „living members of the Church“, without renouncing their sins of adultery or homosexual acts. Their sacramental Communion would cause public scandal and would decrease, for them, and for others, reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament. For these reasons, and the reasons given in the next section, we should ask the Holy Father to revoke the admission to the sacraments of couples who objectively live in grave sin.

Interview with Cardinal Schönborn – Islamic Terror and Debates in the Church

The following is excerpted from an interview given by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, published in the Austrian journal "The Standard" (Original German text).

STANDARD: Everyone is in shock over the attack in Nice. How do you explain such hatred?
Schönborn: For me the central question is: why does someone become a terrorist? What leads to someone getting into a truck and, with utterly no restraint, simply driving into a crowd and killing men, women and children? What is the source of this grave disturbance of humanity? Religious fanaticism can certainly give an impulse in that direction, but it cannot explain it completely. There is also a component of insanity.
STANDARD: What is the appropriate answer to such attacks?
Schönborn: Experience tells us: No one becomes a perpetrator, who wasn't previously a victim. For this reason, among all security measures that a society can employ to defend against terror, the most important are love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness. So that no more become perpetrators.
STANDARD: The terror attacks result in constantly growing reservations vis-à-vis Muslims. How can one mitigate this?
Schönborn: These are complex issues. At the current time terror has an Islamic label — justified or not. At any rate, it is not Christians, ex-Christians or men of other religions. It is Muslims. That is a big problem for Islam, which it must tackle. On the other hand, we should not forget that the majority of the victims of terror are Muslims. But certainly many are justified in looking for clearer statements from Islamic authorities.
STANDARD: Do you also look for a clearer statement?
Schönborn: Yes. Still, one has to be careful with the question, to what degree this terrorism has inner-Islamic roots. We also have, in the Bible, very many awful passages, which admittedly interpreted in a christian manner have to be read differently.

STANDARD: So said in another manner: Christianity has worked through the chapter of its history involving violence and has distanced itself from violence, and this is lacking in Islam?
Schönborn: Yes, that is so. But to be honest I have to add that the distancing of Christianity from antisemitism, from the excesses of wars of religion, etc., is not so very old. We ourselves went through a learning process. Without the terrors of the holocaust there probably wouldn't have been a clear confession against antisemitism.


STANDARD: On the Catholic Church: after difficult years with the coming to be known of cases of sexual abuse and the call to disobedience of pastors, it is at the present time strikingly quiet in the Catholic Church in Austria. Do you enjoy this holy harmony?
Schönborn: I cannot report a great deal of quiet. We currently have intensive inner-ecclesial debates — less in Austria than internationally. There is currently a very strong, significant inner-ecclesial opposition to Pope Francis that is very actively and vehemently involved. While Pope Francis finds a great acceptance in milieus that in general don't have much to do with the Church, there is a polarization within the Church.

STANDARD: So there are two camps?

Schönborn: It doesn't take the form of camps. The clear majority agree with the pope and are happy about what he does. But there are also many voices that are very concerned. Last week I had a talk with Pope Francis. Among other things, he said something that made a great impression on me: We have to try to lovingly win over the inner-ecclesial opponents.

STANDARD: How are the pope's opponents to be won over? Are meetings planned?

Schönborn: We are in the midst of a great debate within the Church — and it is good, that it takes places. We've gotten too used to there simply being the conservative and the liberals. Somehow we just resigned ourselves to that fact. But the Gospel is neither conservative nor liberal: it is challenging.

STANDARD: But this difficult situation puts the brakes on the Pope's desire for reform, doesn't it?

Schönborn: I believe that already much has happened. Pope Francis relies on processes. Things are started up, and things get moving. He did that for two years with the synod on the family. It is a journey, and a lot has to be discussed. Change doesn't happen at the end, but on the way. A simple example: in the 2014 synod the talks were incredibly abstract. A year later people spoke suddenly of reality, even bishops told of their situation with families. And, lo and behold, they didn't simply theorize abstractly. In a certain sense the journal is the destination, because it moves towards a goal.

The Joy of Love – by Josef Seifert – all couples allowed to receive?

Continuing the translation from Josef Seifert's article in German, released under the Creative Common's License with Attribution CC BY 3.0). Complete translation (still in progress), on a single page: The Joy of Love – Joys, Anguish, and Hope – by Josef Seifert.

2.1.2 All „irregular“ couples: divorced, adulterers, lesbian and homosexual couples?

Many persons interpret the couples, who materially are living in grave sin, but who now by AL shall be welcomed at the Lord’s table, in a form completely opposite to the first answer: “All divorced and remarried persons, adulterers, lesbians and homosexuals, bisexuals and other couples should be admitted to the sacraments without any restrictions.” Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines through its president, and many German bishops, but also US bishops such as the Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé Cupich, have interpreted AL in the same sense. The same applies to Cardinal Schönborn, who in an interview went so far as to say that Pope Francis, at least as regards the reception of the sacraments, had eliminated every distinction between regular and irregular couples. (cf. Schönborn, July 6, 2016)

This interpretation of the couples, who should be admitted to the reception of the sacraments and draw help and graces from them, not only contradicts Familiaris Consortio 84, is not only the negation of that which FC and many other documents teach. It is the radical, contrary and absolute opposite of the traditional teaching.

If instead of none, now all adulterous, homosexual, lesbian and promiscuously living couples shall be invited to the sacraments, there are truly no more limits, as Fr. Spadaro assures us. Why not administer the sacraments to couples, nurses and doctors, who through abortion or assistance thereto have been automatically excommunicated?

If one were to put the explanation and practice of the sacraments in line with this interpretation and its pastoral consequences, one would desecrate the holy temple of God, indeed one would transform it into a temple of Satan and a horrible site of every Eucharistic sacrilege and blasphemy. In view of such an interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, which stands in stark contradiction to the repeated papal request for Eucharistic adoration, I believe it is extremely urgent to clarify that this neither is nor can be what the Pope intends, but a completely false interpretation and a total misapprehension of the meaning of AL. It is quite clear from the text of AL that this is a false interpretation of AL.

Still, in view of the fact that this interpretation is advocated by Bishops’ conferences, Fr. Spadaro, cardinals and archbishops including Archbishop Cupich, who was recently promoted to membership in the Congregation for Bishops, a very clear papal explanation that this interpretation of the words of AL is a radical misunderstanding is urgently necessary and must be given as soon as possible, if one wants to prevent total chaos.
A further reason urges this, namely that the offering of the holy sacraments to all (even granted that this understanding of AL is incorrect, as I believe it is) seems to be supported by the following words of AL:

„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.”

When one, moreover, considers the Holy Father’s silence in reaction to this interpretation by the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and the fact that Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. was a close collaborator in working on the text of AL, it is difficult to call into doubt what he says about AL (unless the Holy Father explicitly excludes this interpretation, which all bishops and faithful should humbly ask him to):

„The exhortation, following the synod's concluding document, goes the way of examining individual cases, without setting any limits to integration, as was formerly the case.“

This silence of Pope Francis strengthens the false and scandalous second interpretation of who, according to AL, the couples are, who should be admitted to the sacraments, above all when one considers that it is in no way a general tendency of Pope France to let everything go its way, without making public corrections. Thus the Pope, a short time ago, immediately and publicly corrected the impression that had arisen with many persons, that the simple invitation of Cardinal Sarah, motivated by noble liturgical considerations, that priests, as a way of meditating on the deepest goal of the liturgy (the glorification of God), should more frequently celebrate ad orientem (versus Deum), announced a change of the liturgical norms of Paul VI, according to which the Holy Mass should normally be celebrated versus populum. (In reality this norm was never absolute, and moreover was in part modified by the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI on the right of all priests to celebrate Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Rite (sic)). This immediate and very public critical reaction (which I regret), by the Pope to a mere, very beautiful suggestion of Cardinal Sarah, which was completely in his area of competence and moreover only recommended something that is allowed to priests anyway according to the currently valid norms for liturgical celebration, gives the world all the more reason to believe that when the pope is silent regarding the scandalous second interpretation of “couples in irregular situations” (who objectively are living in a state of gave sin) who now should without distinction be invited to the sacraments, his silence indicates his consent to this interpretation.

The same thing applies to the pope’s silence regarding the newest interview of Cardinal Schönborn in Corriere della Sera, in which the Cardinal, whom the Pope declared to be the most competent interpreter of AL, made the unbelievable claim that Amoris Laetitia had completely eliminated the distinction between “regular” and “irregular” couples. (This corresponds exactly to the interpretation that according to AL there is no restriction on the couples who are to be allowed to receive the sacraments, and in addition imputes to AL, that it puts marriage on the same level as concubinage, adulterous and homosexual couples.)

Many persons must think that the papal silence regarding this interpretation is a sign of papal consent. Without the promptest reaction of the pope to these interpretations the whole world must be that Francis supports this second interpretation of “couples in irregular situations” (in a state of grave sin).

Pope Francis seems, moreover, to encourage this second interpretation of the couples who should be admitted to the sacraments, by his recent appointment of Archbishop Cupich as member of the Papal Congregation for Bishops. For Archbishop Cupich defends this second interpretation regarding the admission to the sacraments more radically than any other American bishop, indeed he publicly distributes the Sacrament of the Eucharist to politicians, who for their support of abortion are automatically excommunicated, and, to top it all, defends this interpretation of AL by calling this document a radical “rule-changer” and considers it a good thing to distribute Communion to public advocates of abortion, a crime punished by excommunication (and forbids the priests of his diocese to take part in a march for life and in public priests for the abolition of abortion laws).

I therefore call on all Catholics, urgently to implore the Holy Father in the name of God and of the souls deceived by such false and scandalous interpretations of AL, to very soon make such a clear statement, to hinder a spiritual catastrophe and sacrilege without end in God’s sanctuary and as far as possible, to stop a total confusion among priests and faithful.

It is impossible that the Pope teaches this. Still, I believe, that reducing the complete chaos that has arisen from this interpretation and its high ranking advocates in the church, presupposes that the pope himself exclude this second answer with the strongest expressions possible and publicly declares in a commentary to AL: “It is false to maintain that it is a correct interpretation of AL, that all who live in concubinage, adulterous, homosexual, lesbian, and all other “irregular” couples are invited to the Lord’s table before they convert!”

I believe that this interpretation of the text of AL is untenable, not only because it simply cannot be that a Pope should teach such monstrosities, but also because Pope Francis in AL speaks of a testing and an examination, ideally with a priest, which should precede the reception of the sacraments by such priests.

This brings us to the third understanding of those „couples in irregular and objectively gravely sinful situations,“ who now should be admitted to the Lord’s table: