Maltese Muppetry

The problem with Amoris Laetitia is that it subtly opens the door to being interpreted in contradiction to Familiaris Consortio. However many have pointed out that there is a more problematic dimension to the Apostolic Exhortation, namely it's failure to reference Veritatis Splendor, Pope St John Paul II's authoritative Encyclical which addresses the fundamental technical questions of Moral Theology and condemns utilitarianism and relativism. This encyclical, on the foundations of Catholic moral teaching, is the principal magisterial document on the moral life since the Council of Trent. As Fr de Souza pointed out recently:
"Ignoring Veritatis Splendor is like writing about the nature of the Church and not making reference to the teaching of Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium."
Perhaps of most import in this context is the third part of Veritatis Splendor which is entitled “Lest the Cross of Christ Be Emptied of Its Power”. Therein, Pope St John Paul II warns precisely against the view that the demands of the moral life are too difficult and cannot be lived with the help of God’s grace. Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia appears to be exactly what St. John Paul II had in mind in writing Veritatis Splendor. It does appear to empty the cross of Christ of its power.

Veritatis Splendor is a reflection 'on the whole of the Church's moral teaching' (VS 4:2), presented because of 'an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine' (ibid). So the encyclical sets out to address problematic anthropological and ethical presuppositions.

The aim of the author is stated in the document:
I address myself to you, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who share with me the responsibility of safeguarding "sound teaching" (2 Tim 4:3), with the intention of clearly setting forth certain aspects of doctrine which are of crucial importance in facing what is certainly a genuine crisis, (VS 5:2)
The crisis referred to came about post-Vatican II, when there was a concerted attempt to reverse the casuistic trend of moral theology, coupled with a facile openess to modern thought which led to an abandonment of natural law theory and an attempt to conform the Church's moral teaching to post-modern philosophy. In embracing these thought patterns there was a real danger of total disintegration of Catholic moral theology; one cannot embrace the mutually opposing ideas of a unifying natural moral law which is written on the hearts of all men by God Himself (CCC 1776) and a philosophy which gives primacy to the existential decision (Freud), historical evolution (Darwin), or social struggle and cultural pluralism (Marx) and sets aside universal, stable, human nature (because these are ideas which seek to subdue nature and do not understand it as an interior rule to follow).

Pope Francis rails against Fundamentalism and contrary to Veritatis Splendor, seems to constantly assert that there is no black and white, rather everything must be understood in shades of grey. Mind you, he himself is never completely clear on this (how can he be, if he was, he would plainly contradict the Magisterium). The Magisterium teaches that truth allows us to be free—freedom does not inform us of the truth!
Truth, like love is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings (cf Caritas in Veritate, 34:1). 
This is what post-modern man fears—the imposition of something upon him. Why is this fear found throughout the so-called "developed" world? I would argue that it comes from a loss of the wonder of what it means to be, and with this a loss of any sense of the goodness of God. How could God be good if He allows me to suffer? Modern men and women have decided God cannot be good, and so any claim that something is given by goodness itself is rejected as an authoritarian, imperialistic act of domination. The rejection of the truth about man is directly connected to the truth about God and so to the truth about truth itself (see Dignitatis Humanae, n.2).

Amoris Laetitia appears to capitulate completely to the interpretation of conscience which was a source of so much tension and confusion up until the publishing of Veritatis Splendour. This is an interpretation which suggests that the individual conscience alone can ultimately decide whether an act is right or wrong. Pope St John Paul II addresses this directly in VS, explaining that although we need to be creative in finding our ways out of moral dilemmas, conscience does not create the moral law, it does not decide what is right or wrong. VS also teaches that freedom exalted to the point of idolatry leads to a creative understanding of moral conscience which diverges from the teaching of the Church's tradition and her Magisterium (VS 54). What is being taught is that in conscience, an individual can consider a moral norm in the context of their own pressing circumstance and in dialogue with their conscience, and ignore the norm...In fact, there aren't any norms! Pope St John Paul II directly addresses misinterpretations of Gaudium et Spes n. 16, "there he is alone with God" is distorted and misinterpreted when it is taken to mean that man does not have to follow the objective good.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth Diocese reads Amoris Laetitia in this Magisterial context and states this in his message regarding the apostolic exhortation from April where he reasserts the Magisterial teaching:
"Christians always see themselves first and foremost as belonging to Christ, as members of His Body, the Church. They live ‘under’ the Word of God. So a Christian’s conscience is never ‘What I feel’ or ‘What I think’ but a conscience informed by Catholic teaching, which seeks to apply authentically the teaching and principles of Jesus to daily life and concrete situations." -Bishop Philip Egan
And what else can a Bishop do? Why did he feel the need to do this one wonders, unless he recognised the errors therein, and the need to reassert the constant teaching of the Church?

Well now there is a concrete contradictory position being taught from the unlikely location of Malta, an island nation which has long been considered a bastion of orthodoxy and Catholic life. Last week, in a document which embraces all the errors condemned in Veritatis Splendor, the two Maltese Bishops asserted that the remarried may receive Holy Communion 'if they feel at peace with God'.

Given the reported position of Bishop Mario Grech in 2011 when it was reported:
In a veiled reference to the choice Catholics will have to make in the divorce referendum, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech has warned that those who do not follow Christ’s teachings should not receive the Eucharist.
In a homily on Sunday at the St George’s parish church in Victoria where teenagers received the sacrament of confirmation, Mgr Grech spoke about the sacraments and directly referred to marriage on more than one occasion.
In what was possibly the closest reference to the impending divorce referendum, Mgr Grech said: “If we want to find the right door, shortly [sic]… and adults, understand what I am trying to say… do not make a mistake, there is only one door.”
In his homily, Mgr Grech warned the faithful of “brigands”, who, he said, were trying to lead Christ’s flock astray. “They are going after marriage and then other things will follow,” he cautioned the congregation.
In an obvious reference to the recently set up Catholic pro-divorce group, the Bishop urged people to “beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
“And the wolf is now saying he is Catholic. This is a falsity, this is deceit. I am ready to dialogue with everyone but do not be false, do not lie. You cannot not be loyal to Christ and say you are a Christian or a Catholic.”
It was at this point that Mgr Grech made it clear to those present that people who did not follow Christ’s teachings could not expect to receive the Eucharist.
One can only wonder how on earth he has managed to justify a complete 180 on this issue? Irrespective of the academic gymnastics required, we now have a situation where two bishops have stated that a proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is that Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried is allowed.

In fact, Archbishop Scicluna said:
He also said that the bishops' main concern was not to add anything to Pope Francis’s exhortation that they felt was not already apparent. “What we did was put the arguments in order so that they could be followed logically, making it easier for priests to understand what the papal exhortation was asking of them,” he said.
See Edward Pentin's report in the National Catholic Register.

When the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship suggested it might be a good idea to have a little more reverence in Mass, the Pope immediately shot him down in flames. However, he has remained completely silent on the Maltese directive. What, then, are the faithful to make of it?

Worrying anecdotes abound, but as Father Z notes, the plural of anecdotes is data. If the motivation behind Amoris Laetitia is revealed, is now the time for faithful priests and bishops to stand up and be counted?


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