Archbishop Scicluna defends the Maltese Directive
As a dear priest said to me very recently, it's always the way in the Church- or so it seems- that it is those who espouse a liberal attitude who are the most virulent and need their Storm Troopers to enforce their will on the faithful, while so called "Trads" like Benedict XVI just quietly get on with the work of deepening & explaining the faith by example.
I often think how hurtful it must have been to have Bugnini's dreadful modernisms foisted on the post concilliar Church - the stories I have heard are just dreadful. But while those who have never been particularly concerned with following the teachings of Christ praise Pope Francis for his daring attempt to engage with the world, the true casualty of this dreadful papacy will be the credibility of Catholic teaching. For what authority has any organisation which teaches hard truths about human realities like marriage, for a thousand years or so, if it can then dispose of them in a single, verbose and deliberately confusing Apostolic Exhortation. Hundreds of years of careful investigation into the nature of divine, revealed truth flushed down the toilet by one man, determined to enforce a practice which contradicts Christ's own words in Scripture in the name of mercy.
But mercy to who? Surely not those wives abandoned by their husbands who have lived out single lives, raising their families on their own because they trust and believe in the Church. What mercy is shown them? Or those betrayed by their spouses, who are now, it seems, free to enter into second marriages and continue to attend Mass and receive the Sacraments condoned by the Holy Father himself!
If the truths revealed by Christ are so malleable, tell me please why anyone would refuse IVF, choose to abstain from sexual intercourse outside of marriage, or even avoid an abortion if they were so minded? After all, Jesus never even mentioned these things, if Church teaching can change on stuff He did actually mention, how much more so on things He didn't mention?
Of course, the Pope has said no such thing explicitly. Nor could he. If he was to contradict Scripture- the Ipsissima verba- he would be a heretic and automatically forfeit his office. So he needs Storm Troopers, fore-runners, useful idiots to do his bidding for him. First came the bishops of Buenos Aires, who proposed the narrowest path possible, and something quite far from Cardinal Kasper’s original proposal. But now, the bishops of Malta have gone much further, suggesting, in direct contradiction to the Magisterium (see here for an examination of this) that conscience is king, and as long as you're OK with God, it's all good.
The Pope has not corrected them. There's silence from Rome on this and even those pushing in this direction seem to have absolutely nothing to go on theologically. Pope Francis' documents lack Magisterial references and tend to be extremely self-referential and nowhere is any reference made to the principal magisterial document on the moral life since the Council of Trent, namely Veritatis Splendor.
The Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, appeared on local Church radio. RTK on 24th January in order to defend this scandalous directive. In this interview, he affirms that what the Maltese directive asserts is what Pope Francis wants, and that Pope Francis’comments to Argentine bishops last year on allowing Holy Communion for some civilly remarried divorcees was the blueprint for the Maltese bishops own controversial guidelines on interpreting Amoris Laetitia.
My friend and long-time fellow student of Theology, Marie-Claire Kaminski, has translated the interview and I offer this transcript of some of the most pertinent parts:
The Pope himself, Pope Francis, who in his document Amoris Laetitia asks the bishops to help priests to accompany couples and persons in complex situations by the bishops giving guidelines to their priests. We, the bishops of Malta & Gozo, are not the first group of bishops to issues these directives. A very important case – because it had the direct approval of the Pope himself – was the group of bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, Argentina [emphasis mine] to which Pope Francis belonged when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. These bishops who know the Pope very well – not just personally, but his mind and heart – published directives in September last, and sent these to the Pope. The Pope sent a letter, signed by himself, saying ‘I welcome and thank you for the interpretation you offered…there is no other interpretation’. [my emphasis] And with this letter, the Pope wanted to give an indication of how we bishops must proceed when we too prepare our own guidelines. So we bishops, myself and Bishop Mario, did not just read chap 8 of AL – and who reads our criteria will realise that more than half the words themselves are taken verbatim from the Pope’s document, because…we’re not the Pope! We’re just trying to help our priests welcome the Pope’s indications – but we also looked at the document issued by the Argentinian bishops which had that direct approval of the Pope with a personal letter from him. So on all the questions which are causing most problems, we didn’t just look at chap 8 of AL but also at the interpretation approved by the Pope. [Note that there is no Magisterial justification for the contradiction of moral doctrine here. ++Scicluna seems to think that if the pope wants it- that's it. I don't know what religion that is, but it ain't the Catholic religion!] What are we doing, we bishops? We are providing our priests with an instrument by which they may understand what the Pope desires and at the same time help our people. [Really, who cares about the Pope's desires? Isn't his job to encourage us to fulfil God's desires? To inform us of what Christ desires?] We are saying, who can’t understand, who can’t even, accept, almost, these criteria….may they engage in dialogue with us. We’re not going to beat each other with sticks or throw stones at each other! We simply need to dialogue. A very beautiful thing the Pope said recently, ‘We just need to dialogue…… there is a need to dialogue, not to throw a stone and hide; whoever throws a stone and hides his hand is a delinquent’ [Tell that to the Order of Malta, or the FFI, or il quattro cardinali, or any of us who would really like the Pope to ANSWER THE DUBIA!!!!!]
We need to understand, as the Pope says, that not every person who finds themselves in these situations is because of wickedness.[Absolutely, but that fact cannot change truth, cannot change the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Marriage!]
In AL, the Pope also talks about difficult situations. In this chapter, chapter 8, where the Pope talks about situations in marriages which are complex, or irregular, he gives us certain criteria on how we help people. The fundamental criterium is: that nobody, NOBODY, in whatever circumstances they are, should feel themselves excluded from, or outside of, the Church; no matter what happened to them, or no matter what they did. I’m not saying that I’ll be distributing tickets for Holy Communion to whoever comes in front of me. We’re going to start a process of discernment. What does this mean? It means, I examine myself and my conscience. What is conscience? Conscience is; where you find yourself, alone with God. When you find yourself alone with God, you can neither fool yourself nor God. You can fool the bishop or even the Pope or even the priest… but if you want to be true and sincere with yourself – and there are many people who will tell you, myself, if I don’t know how I stand before God, I won’t take that step [of receiving Communion]. [How I wonder, does this fit with Cardinal Muller's latest word's on Amoris Laetitia:
"For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it." my emphasis.].
Conscience, to be truly conscience, must listen to the Word of God, and the Law of that Word, and be enlightened by these. We ourselves, the bishops, felt that we needed to say this. That conscience needs to be formed and enlightened. What does formed mean? Not what I, myself, feel! Because conscience is not lettuce! Who walks on lettuce, slips! [This is a pun on the word ‘feel’, since ‘felt’ is the same word as ‘lettuce’. The Archbishop wants to make the point, which he learnt in seminary, that conscience is not formed by personal/subjective feeling, as that will certainly cause a fall]. Conscience is not how I feel. True, we say, ‘you feel…’, but in fact we say ‘you recognise and you believe’ we don’t even say ‘you feel’; ‘to recognise and to believe oneself to be at peace with God’ not ‘feel’, it’s not a question of sentiments….No, conscience needs to be formed and enlightened. Why then do we need to be accompanied? Because we find it easy to deceive ourselves. I need someone to guide me, even on how to form my own conscience. And a true conscience is enlightened by God’s Law. So, whatever we do, even if the priest should say, ‘Friend, I am leaving things to you because you are responsible, but your situation is not according with God’s Law’….
Q. Regarding discernment, this could even take two years… could this mean that even after two years a person can be told they still can’t go to Communion?
A. And how, of course, because discernment is not a foregone conclusion. It is not an automatic recipe. And we say the same, we bishops, that this is not a method, as it were, to say, look we’ll start moving and I will inevitably bring you to that point [of receiving Communion]; because you might then tell me, look in my present circumstances, I’m still not at the point where I may be in a fit state to receive the sacraments.
Q. Paragraph 2 says it is important to show them that they are part of the Church, that they are not excommunicated. The words ‘they are not excommunicated’. Up to now, this is how they were understood to be, because they couldn’t receive the sacraments…
A. No, no you don’t need to tell me more…cos I was always obviously researching, reading….something I didn’t know …because when I studied Canon Law, it being the new Law of the Church [ie the revised Codex 1983] which we are using… the old one [can’t quite understand because the interviewer interrupts]…I worked on my thesis [on Canon Law] with Cardinal Burke too, well not studied as such, I studied with Cardinal Navarrete, but he was my supervisor. But before, in the olden days, whoever was guilty of adultery was excommunicated; it was a proper excommunication. [This is just nonsense, and makes less sense in a canonical context, as Canonist Ed Peter's demonstrates here:
Having looked back, now, nearly 150 years and having found no evidence that adultery was canonically punishable by “a proper excommunication”, I have to wonder whether the archbishop really meant “adultery” when he said “adultery” (or did he mean perhaps “divorced-and-remarried” instead of “adultery”, two related but distinct phenomena?); whether he really meant “excommunication” when he said “excommunication” (or did he mean perhaps “withholding holy Communion” instead of “excommunication”, two significantly distinct phenomena); or whether he really meant “Church’s law” when he said“Church’s law” (or did he mean perhaps “particular legislation”, two rather distinct phenomena)?]
But now, in the Church’s law this is not so any longer; however there still remains that feeling… that if you’ve something really bad, well, now please don’t come near the church, we don’t want you… The Pope is saying, this talk must stop, even the way we tend to label people as it were putting a label on the back of their jumper or jacket, pointing them out… The Pope is saying, let us stop throwing stones at each other; a ‘stone’ can be a hard word, or a label, or a judgement, or anger, or lack of respect. The Pope is saying to these brethren of ours, ‘Come in’. It may be that in these circumstances they cannot approach the sacraments, but let us not compel them to feel like outcasts, in the peripheries, as if we’ve cast them aside. [I don't understand this really. They've never been outcasts and the Church is the mechanism instituted by Christ to provide the balm of healing to His people. All we need to do in order to receive that balm is to turn to Him, recognise that we need forgiveness and ask].
No, not only forgiveness, because there are also requirements of justice which must be respected. Whoever who makes a decision will also have to face the subsequent consequences. In other words, this isn’t, as it were, a cheap street… Grace doesn’t come cheap. And also, forgiveness means that the evil I committed, I must do my best to amend it.
Everyone has their cross… It could be too, that this [hypothetical] couple [were one or both come from a previous, failed marriage] never expected that they might have a case for annulment. So when the dialogue [for annulment] begins, and there is this question: ‘but are your [respective] marriages valid?’ One must have the courage to ask this question…. Because we identify two different possibilities [why a marriage may be invalid]; either the marriage is null, or it was never consummated.
The Pope, when the marriage is not consummated, can dissolve the marriage.
Q. Where an annulment was sought and not given, what happens? Can the case be reopened?
A. The Archbishop insists that it’s not that things will become easier; ‘It’s not that Pope Francis has given a medal to present in church and you receive Communion immediately.
Pope Francis is a true shepherd who doesn’t give discounts from the Gospel of love and marriage as taught by Jesus Christ. But, what did Pope Francis do? He changed the procedures of nullity to make them speedier for whoever is seeking the truth. Not so as to invent a nullity where it doesn’t exist. But for instance, he said, one verdict is enough. Before you had to have two verdicts; you sweated blood! Then if one sentence was ‘yes’ , the other ‘no’, you had to have a third. Whereas the Pope said that one sentence is enough for one to be free to marry. [Well I don't know about you, but I'm glad this is so much better and clearer than what we had before! I'm sure no one will find this difficult or confusing at all!!!]
Q. Is it the case that a previously negative verdict might now be changed to a positive? Is there this idea?
A. You will be appearing in front of different judges. The judges of this world are not infallible! One can see things in one way, and one in another. But then, however, whatever the judge decides, the Church will approve. And then we all believe and we trust that the judges who have been well-trained will give their best possible service. Apart from this, today psychology has made great advances; also studies on difficulties that used to exist in marriage…. For example the Pope, two days ago spoke to the judges of the Roman Rota, the Pope’s Marriage Tribunal. He said, ‘we want to avoid that people go in for the sacrament of marriage but do not believe. Because if one isn’t a believer, then a doubt arises on whether that sacrament is valid. There must be the conviction of ‘I want to celebrate the sacrament’ not, ‘I couldn’t care a fig about what I’m doing’.
Q. So, to prepare for marriage there is almost nothing done, and then in order to have my marriage annulled one sends for psychiatrists..
A. Oh, one has to sweat blood..
Q. Yes, so in order to get tied there is nothing, and then to loosen the tie…
A. I agree with you completely that there is a disproportion.
But, when you read Pope Francis’ AL, how he talks about the preparation of the young for marriage, you realise that we still have a lot of work to do.
It is not an unjust discrimination, but there is a distinction, it’s true. We’re saying there’s a situation and a [different] situation. In other words, the journey of discernment, you must begin it where the person is situated. I mean, that it doesn’t follow that just because someone has recently been divorced or has just separated, you don’t listen to them. But it’s different to the person who has been brought up in faithfulness, in generous giving, Christian living, bringing up the children properly even as regards marriage….a person who has carried the cross of life, even in the second marriage. This is a different situation from one who is newly-separated, the wounds are raw, the pain is still fresh… you have to accompany them in a different way. We are saying this to the priest; you have to open your eyes to each situation, one has more steps to take then the other.
Q. These guidelines throw responsibility on the priest. There are those who will follow them enthusiastically, whereas others who are perhaps a bit conservative, or ‘rigid’, who have always followed the Commandments and who prefer not to give an opinion.
A. Yes, well, whoever finds themselves in difficulty has a right to say, listen, I’m… as for instance when you go to a doctor and he says, look, this is not my area, you’d better go to a consultant.
Q. What about the new priests, those just out of seminary, are you going to prepare them for this?
A. First of all, this is the duty of us bishops.[God help us!!] That we ourselves – well it’s not simply just about publishing the document. The document is published, yes, and it goes around the world, as it has. But then you must meet with your priests; and this is something the Pope tells the Argentinian bishops, his colleagues, in that letter when he said ‘I approve of your letter…’ ; he said: ‘Take care of the priests!’ Because for a bishop, charity is first of all to take care of his neighbour, and the bishop’s first neighbour is the priest…. We shall draw up a schedule of meetings with priests, not large groups, so that we can have frank discussions. And myself, as bishop, I will explain the Criteria and I will strengthen my priests to understand that ourselves, as Church, we need to walk in the steps that Pope Francis is indicating to us.
Q. After the couple has made this discernment, they can approach the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. They can even be God-parents. The Church has always taught that...forgiveness of sins, firm purpose of amendment…Even Christ, told the adulterous woman, ‘go and sin no more’. So is Christ’s word going to change?
A. No, it is not. And it remains for us, as it were, the Star that leads us. And in fact, that’s why we repeat, in No. 7 [of the Criteria] what the Pope teaches; that there are circumstances where culpability is either decreased or is absent. And sin is not what is seen on the surface: sin means that I’m at fault and I persist in it. If I am not at fault, then I have no sin. You could tell me, yes but on the surface there seems to be sin. But sin is not what’s seen on the surface, it’s what’s inside. And that is discernment. This is the teaching of the Pope, when he says…. I don’t think it’s difficult to understand… And this is why we also say, as the Pope says, that we must change our way of thinking, that we… Not like before, in medieval times, when they would paint the doors of thieves, or brand them… We are saying, this is not the Christian way…
We [the bishops] are saying that in order to go to Communion, you mustn’t be in a state of sin. We are not saying that sin has now become non-sin. We are saying, there are circumstances – this is the teaching of the Pope – where there is no fault. Where there is no fault, there is no sin. [But it is the Catholic duty to inform your conscience, so does the priest not correct them?] And therefore, we are not cheapening grace, we’re not saying every case is the same. On the contrary, we’re also saying that our people, we must teach and help our people to change their attitude which is traditional, which many times moves only by what is seen… And this is what the Pope in Evangelii Gaudium calls ‘the pastoral conversion’. It’s not an easy term, because this doesn’t happen with a click of the fingers either; [or because it is nonsense, perhaps?] this needs time. Which is why it’s very important that we work together so as to have this pastoral conversion which will bring us to the Heart of Jesus.
What does ‘pastoral conversion’ mean? ‘Pastoral conversion’ means that from a judgemental culture, we choose to have a culture where we welcome anyone, and wherever they happen to be on their own road towards Jesus.
Q. So the Church’s doctrine is not going to change, no. What is changing is the attitude of the Church, or of the priests isn’t that right?
A….of the priests but also of the Faithful, you know.
Q. So, para. 14 says we must avoid all occasion of scandal. How?
A. First of all there is the scandal of the Hard Heart; but also that of laxness where you open the door to everyone without discrimination or discernment. This too is a scandal because you are cheapening grace and also being a stumbling-block to who is making an effort to be faithful. But then there is too the scandal of who is either black or white. The world is far more complicated than this.
To be honest, I was very surprised because after the Pope wrote to the Bishops of Buenos Aires, I felt that when the Pope tells you ‘there are no other interpretations’, one has to accept the interpretation that the Pope gives of his own documents. We adhered to Amoris Laeitita, we also followed the interpretation that the Pope approved, but evidently what we did was not liked everywhere. One can’t please everyone.Of course, one doesn't have to please everyone, one only has to please God. And to suggest that all that is needed to be faithful is to do what the Pope says, regardless of its moral rectitude or whether it makes any sense or not is an extraordinary case of extreme Ultramontanism.
But what I insist is that we have followed the Pope’s directives. Who doesn’t agree, can write to the Pope. [I think you'll find that's been attempted...And met with silence.]
So no explanations here really, all touchy-feely stuff without any sort of nod to doctrine. Talk about confusing nonsense! It appears, from the translation, that Scicluna is confused. Contradicting himself and basing his whole argument on Pope Francis' ideas and teaching in isolation. If the one's promulgating this nonsense are confused, what are the laity to make of it??
This self-evident confusion is lambasted by the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship today, who has finally broken his silence on the dubia, as Sandro Magister reports.
He is directly critical of fellow Cardinals (like Kevin Farrell and Blaise Cupich), Archbishops like Scicluna and bishops like Grech, when he states:
it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching. This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine. The magisterium of the pope is interpreted only by him or through the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. The pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the pope, this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church. To all these who are talking too much, I urge them to study first the doctrine [of the councils] on the papacy and the episcopate. The bishop, as teacher of the Word, must himself be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind.
....The task of priests and bishops is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity. One cannot refer only to little passages present in “Amoris Laetitia,” but it has to be read as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons.Cardinal Müller seems to accept that Amoris Laetitia has created utter chaos:
Q: How can one resolve the chaos that is being generated on account of the different interpretations that are given of this passage of Amoris Laetitia?
A: I urge everyone to reflect, studying the doctrine of the Church first, starting from the Word of God in Sacred Scripture, which is very clear on marriage. I would also advise not entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead. These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage. The task of priests and bishops is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity.
One has to wonder, given recent events, if we may well have new Prefect for the CDF in the next few weeks? Perhaps someone with a more Francis-centric view of things could take over the role? Kardinal Schönborn perhaps? Müller's home diocese of Mainz is vacant ...... so a move there could be sold with a positive spin.
Mind you The knights will be needing a new cardinal protector soon .... so perhaps Müller could be banished there?