+Scicluna, +Grech & The Pope
Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo has posted a podcast in which he speaks about the highly controversial Maltese directive I posted about here. The speech is in Maltese, but my dear friend Marie-Claire Kaminski, a fellow student of Theology, has taken the time to translate this extraordinary speech into English to afford us the opportunity to gain greater insight into the bishop's motivation and thinking. We have added some of our own thoughts in red.
A week ago, together with Archbishop Scicluna, we published the guidelines to show how, in the name of Christ, we can break the jar of ointment on the wounds of those persons who are having great difficulties in their love-life (affective life); and which is affecting their relationship with Jesus. [In the Gospel, the jar of ointment was used by the sinful woman to anoint the feet of Jesus (Mt 26:7; Mk 14:3; Lk 7:37) as a sign and gesture of total repentance and contrition for her sins. Jesus, of course, welcomed her and forgave her. Bishop Grech here gives that beautiful story a totally distorted - and misleading – interpretation. The jar of ointment is a symbol of the human heart, and the gesture actualises the faith and trust of the sinner – even the greatest and most depraved – in Christ’s saving love. The Church has always offered healing balm for the wounded heart in the sacrament of Penance. It Is nonsense to say that only now are these wounds to be dressed.]. Amongst these we mention those who have lost their first marriage and are now in a second relationship. [The term ‘first marriage’ in the Gospel is only used when that marriage is ended by the death of one spouse; (cf Lk 20:27-40). Otherwise the ending of marriage is termed ‘divorce’ and is condemned by Christ. Subsequent ‘second relationships’ are termed by Him to be adultery (Mt 19:8).].
I appreciate the trust which the great majority have in us bishops, but at the same time it pains me when I notice that, among the flock, there are those who are not only rigid (strict) towards themselves, but would also be rigid towards others, and so are confusing you. Indeed, they would say that it is us, the bishops, who are confusing you! If you want a guarantee that our teaching is that of the Church, I assure you that myself and the Archbishop are in complete unity with Pope Francis. [My emphasis- if this is true, it has huge repercussions for the Church & the papacy as well as making the imminent formal correction of the Holy Father all the more urgent! ] In the Church, to be in communion with the Pope has always been, and remains, a criterion which offers a guarantee that a teaching is authentic. [Not quite; this is an ultramontanist’s view of the papacy. Of course, the Pope’s role is to preserve and maintain the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles, but the dogma of infallibility only applies when the Pope declares a doctrine on faith or morals ex cathedra and in union with the Church’s Bishops. On his own, the Pope may even pronounce heresy; as happened when John XXII, one of the Avignon popes, denied that the blessed in Heaven enjoyed the Beatific Vision before the Final Resurrection although he recanted from that position before his death in 1334. Hence only to be ‘in communion with the Pope’ does not, of itself, guarantee authenticity of doctrine if that doctrine is contrary to what has been taught in the Magisterium. It does show the Pope's direction up for what it really is though- in contradiction to the Magisterium and in need of urgent correction!] The fact that the criteria which we issued a week ago were published in the newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, confirms that the doctrine given by us bishops, is not opposed to what is known as the Magisterium of the Church. [Publication in L’Osservatore Romano is no confirmation that a doctrine is in accordance with the Magisterium, although it may mean that the Pope approves of their position. To guarantee authenticity, a document (or teaching) must refer to previous teachings and be in accordance with them. No such guarantee is given here as no previous teachings, such as Casti Connubii (1930), Familiaris Consortio (1981) or Veritatis Splendor (1993) – two of which are Encyclicals, and as such, documents of higher magisterial value than Amoris Laetitia which is an Exhortation – have been referred to.]. Whoever criticises us bishops – and criticises roughly and with lies – has a problem with Pope Francis; they are trying to hit us in order to get at him. [Or they are concerned that bishops are teaching error for some political reason and are following the commands of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17]. I understand that these criteria, taken on their own, are not enough. But in order that one may assimilate them properly there is need for further reflection, study and prayer. [Veritatis Splendor would seem a good place for the Bishops to start, or perhaps they could explain why the Polish Bishops, and Bishop Egan of Portsmouth, have offered interpretations which are wildly at variance with what the Maltese bishops teach in their directive?]. This is not addressed only to the laity, but also to priests. I’ll give you a small piece of advice: don’t content yourselves with what is written in the media. There are those whose intention is to communicate half of the truth. But, I invite you to read the criteria as they are and, when you encounter some difficulty, seek advice (counsel). I know that we have many priests, religious, even laity, who are well-versed, who are quite capable of advising (accompanying) you. Also myself; I’m quite ready (disposed) that where a congregation is truly seeking the will of God, I will help to enlighten your consciences regarding this teaching.
In this document there is no new teaching, [???? If that's not confusing, I don't know what is!] but there is a new pastoral approach which addresses today’s problems. And just as Pope Francis does in the Exhortation “The Joy of Love”, so also in our document, we bishops have returned to the well-spring of the Gospel and to those principals of Moral Theology that were taught by great saints such as St Alphonsus of Liguori and St Thomas (Aquinas). [Although St Thomas talks about the Eucharist as ‘medicine’, he does so in terms of those who have repented and confessed their sins and ‘ought not to be given except to them that are quit of sin’ (ST, Tertia Pars, Q80, 4, ans, obj, 2).]. These principals were there but, what with their being difficult to apply and because we were living in a world built under the shadow of the bell-tower, perhaps we ignored them. [These principles are those that accompany the sinner to the way of repentance, conversion, amendment and a new way of life strengthened by the sacrament of Penance and frequent attendance at Mass. The practice of Spiritual Communion – an excellent way to encounter Jesus – has also not been mentioned in this document. As such, yes, these principles have been ignored also here.] And so, don’t lose heart; you are on the right road. This is a new wine that the Church would like to offer all to taste. New wine; but served in old barrels. The point of all this is not that we bishops want to be populist, or because we want to see the churches filled. [Surely, a bishop would love to see his church filled with people coming to worship the One, True, God?]. Our desire is only one; that we help you encounter Christ the Saviour. Nobody must be denied this meeting; not even the greatest sinner. [Nobody is denied meeting Jesus in the sacrament of Penance; nobody is denied meeting Jesus at the Sacrifice of the Mass.] It is the encounter with Jesus which brings about conversion, and order to one’s life; and not first we convert (repent) and then He meets us. [It is possible to meet Jesus and refuse to follow him, as happened to the rich young man. A true encounter with Jesus of itself causes conversion.] I firmly believe that when we once more give space to Christ, everything finds its place; even marriage and family. Peace be with you.
One of the outlying pastoral issues here, it seems to me, is the repercussions for those who have been faithful to Church teaching all their lives. These are the people who will most keenly recognise the shift in position in Amoris Laetitia. How will they feel about their personal sacrifices?
Beside the obvious problems for faithful clergy who have counselled parishioners in difficult circumstances, I feel deep pain for all those faithful Catholics who have lived out hard realities in their every day lives in love of the Church & fidelity to its' teaching. Where is the mercy for them in Pope Francis' mutilation of the constant doctrine of Mother Church?
Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith pointed out yesterday that:
"No Episcopal Conference can abrogate the teaching of Familiaris Consortio, let alone the constant teaching of the Church until now. In other words, faced with a choice between the teaching of St John Paul II, and the reasoning contained in these Criteria, one must go with the saint."
He also highlighted what every priest, deacon, bishop, religious and lay person who has studied Moral Theology knows:
"these criteria introduce a very serious theological problem. What does it mean when the bishops write: “a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God”? Isn’t this precisely what my moral theology professors at the Gregorian University in Rome warned me of when I was a student there? Namely that no man or woman can be a judge and jury in his or her own case? That we cannot ever practice self-absolution? And above all that morality is a matter of objective truth, not subjective feeling?"
I am left astounded at how the Maltese bishops thought this would just be accepted somehow? The arrogance and the carelessness of this document. The betrayal from Archbishop Scicluna, long considered one of the best men in the Church- working to eradicate the scourge of child abuse, Ratzinger's No. 3 at the CDF and with a doctorate supervised by none other than Cardinal Burke!
And yet the Pope says nothing.