Scholar critiques Amoris Laetitia

An Australian expert on the Church Fathers, Anna M. Silvas, a member of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church, has penned a critique of Amoris Laetitia that is interesting. Sandro Magister has posted it at his site.

She writes:

Like a deafening absence, the term “adultery” is entirely absent from the lexicon of “Amoris Laetitia”. Instead we have something called “‘irregular’ unions”, or “irregular situations”, with the “irregular” in double quotation marks as if to distance the author even from this usage.

“If you love me”, says our Lord, keep my commandments (Jn 14:15), and the Gospel and Letters of John repeats this admonition of our Lord in various ways. It means, not that our conduct is justified by our subjective feelings, but rather, our subjective disposition is verified in our conduct, i.e., in the obediential act. Alas, as we look into AL, we find that “commandments” too are entirely absent from its lexicon, as is also obedience. Instead we have something called “ideals”, appearing repeatedly throughout the document.

Other key words I miss too from the language of this document: the fear of the Lord. You know, that awe of the sovereign reality of God that is the beginning of wisdom, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in confirmation. But indeed this holy fear has long vanished from a vast sweep of modern catholic discourse. It is a semitic idiom for “eulabeia” and “eusebia” in Greek, or in Latin, “pietas” and “religio”, the core of a Godward disposition, the very spirit of religion.

Another register of language is also missing in “Amoris Laetitia” is that of eternal salvation. There are no immortal souls in need of eternal salvation to be found in this document! True, w e do have “eternal life” and “eternity” nominated in nn. 166 and 168 as the seemingly inevitable “fulfillment” of a child’s destiny, but with no hint that any of the imperatives of grace and struggle, in short, of eternal salvation, are involved in getting t here.

How important is it for a papal document to show evidence of concern for eternal life, for eternal salvation?  How important is it for a papal document to show evidence of a “fear of the Lord” ?

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

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One Response to Scholar critiques Amoris Laetitia

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    From your quotation: Like a deafening absence, the term “adultery” is entirely absent from the lexicon of “Amoris Laetitia”. Instead we have something called “‘irregular’ unions”, or “irregular situations”, with the “irregular” in double quotation marks as if to distance the author even from this usage.

    It is important to remember that a so-called “irregular” marriage situation is not necessarily a situation that is contrary to divine law. Rather, it is a situation that, more broadly, does not conform to the norm of current Catholic practice. When your congregation and several others were preparing to come into the Catholic Church, for example, this term was applied to those who had divorced and entered into second marriages while their former spouses were still alive, the first attempt at marriage never having gone before a Catholic tribunal. When a Catholic tribunal issues a decree of nullity, that act does not render the supposed marriage null. Rather, it is a definitive determination that there was some material defect at the time of the exchange of vows, the consequence of which is that there never was a (sacramentally) valid marriage. Most non-Catholic denominations have a much simpler process whereby the pastor makes the determination personally, often with standards that are much more lax. Thus, the Catholic Church required those seeking to come into the ordinariates who were in “irregular” marriage situations to go to the tribunal of the local diocese to resolve those irregularities before their reception.

    Persons baptized in the Catholic Church also can fall into so-called “irregular” marriage situations through a variety of circumstances. One of the more common is so-called “lapsed” or non-practicing Catholics, often poorly catechized, who never took the faith — including the doctrine of marriage — seriously. Such individuals often give the right answers during marriage preparation so they can have a church wedding, even though they don’t believe what they are saying — then, when the relationship fails, decide that the process of obtaining a decree of nullity is too tedious, painful, costly, or protracted, blow it off and attempt a new marriage through either a civil wedding or a wedding in a church of another denomination instead. If such individuals come to real faith, the situation is substantially the same: the church required that they go through the tribunal process to resolve the irregularity before returning to the sacraments.

    But what happens when people have grown older and there are serious difficulties in bringing the matter before a tribunal? Often witnesses are gone from the area or even deceased, the other party to a previous attempt at marriage — who has an absolute canonical right to participate in the proceedings since a decree of nullity affects both parties — has disappeared to parts unknown, relevant records have been destroyed or lost, etc., making it impossible for a tribunal to conduct an adequate review and come to a meaningful verdict. The fact that a tribunal cannot grant a decree of nullity in such situations does not mean that there was in fact a valid marriage. There are longstanding canonical provisions to resolve this type of situation, but there has been extreme reluctance on the part of many diocesan bishops to invoke those provisions. The pope is saying, in part, that bishops and other pastors should be more willing to employ those provisions when there is no other way to resolve a case.

    Also from your quote: Other key words I miss too from the language of this document: the fear of the Lord. You know, that awe of the sovereign reality of God that is the beginning of wisdom, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in confirmation. But indeed this holy fear has long vanished from a vast sweep of modern catholic discourse. It is a semitic idiom for “eulabeia” and “eusebia” in Greek, or in Latin, “pietas” and “religio”, the core of a Godward disposition, the very spirit of religion.

    In other words, our church is broken: many parishes are going through the motions of worship and some pretense of preaching the gospel while failing to instill real faith in their parishioners — and the same may be true of a significant number of Catholic seminaries. Too many pastors have set a very low bar, and the norm is to do the minimum rather than to commit one’s life and one’s very being totally to the Lord. The lack of spiritual commitment results in a lack of good discernment before a wedding and in a lack of commitment to the other party and to the relationship after the wedding, with the consequence that so many attempts at marriage result in failure. But in such cases, there never was a valid marriage, and the only way to fix this problem is to fix the problem of the lack of faith and lack of spiritual commitment.

    You asked: How important is it for a papal document to show evidence of concern for eternal life, for eternal salvation? How important is it for a papal document to show evidence of a “fear of the Lord” ?

    These issues cut both ways in the matter at hand. According to the gospels, our Lord chastised — aye, condemned! — the Pharisees on more than a few occasions for being too legalistic and unduly harsh in their application of the law. When pastors are too harsh and lacking in mercy, unwilling to bend when it has become impossible to resolve an “irregular” situation through the normal means or even imposing processes that are unduly burdensome in one way or another, they face the same condemnation. It is their own salvation that is at stake.

    A papal encyclical is a document by which the pope expresses his personal opinion rather than a decision of the magisterium on a matter. Such documents usually address what the pope perceives to be the immediate issue or problem rather than presenting a complete theological treatise on the respective subject.

    Norm.

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