First, I would like to reply to the claim of some dubia supporters that the Cardinals are simply asking questions and asking for clarification. What could be wrong with that? Read the questions below. These questions are not a humble request to be taught or corrected. They are leading questions, meant to rebuke the Pope and to accuse him of violating past magisterial teachings. The questioners clearly present themselves as if they understand Church teaching better than the Pope. And the wording of the questions indicates that they will accept no answer other than the answer they propose within each question.
“1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?”
My answer is that the divorced and remarried, who strive to live chastely, and yet who fall into grave sexual sin, can go to Confession and then receive Communion. Even if they strive and fall many times, as often as they repent, God will forgive them in that Sacrament. And then they can receive Communion.
And again, I will point out that most Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics also commit objective mortal sins, often of a sexual nature, and yet they receive Communion without prior Confession. The lines for Communion are long, and the lines for Confession are short. Yet we know that many Catholics have sex before marriage, use contraception in marriage, and that they commit many other grave sexual sins. Why are these Cardinals solely concerned with the divorced and remarried?
“2. After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?”
Yes, that teaching remains true. What the Dubia and the Filial Petition fail to acknowledge is the difference between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin. Some persons who commit objective mortal sin do not have the full culpability of actual mortal sin, so they might still be in the state of grace. Moreover, a person who commits even an actual mortal sin may repent, confess, and then receive Communion.
When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, He also dispensed the Mosaic death penalty. But this change in discipline in no way implied a change in the teaching that adultery is always gravely immoral. Discipline is not doctrine.
“3. After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?”
Yes, that distinction is still true. But we must always distinguish between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin. But the dubia errs by speaking as if only publicly known grave sins prohibit from Communion, and not also all the other grave sins that are so popular in sinful secular society today.
“4. After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?”
Yes. Veritatis Splendor rightly condemns intrinsically evil acts as always immoral, and certain intrinsically evil acts as always gravely immoral. But in many cases, circumstances can mitigate the knowledge and deliberation of the act, making an objective mortal sin not also an actual mortal sin.
“5. After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?”
Yes, that teaching is still valid. But conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity.
Regarding Amoris Laetitia 300 to 305, I do not find any serious error. Rather, the main problem is a lack of clarity on some points, and an absence of objective rules for who may receive Communion. Pope Francis is entirely right to distinguish between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin, and to acknowledge that subjective culpability varies. The divorced and remarried who are striving to live according to the eternal moral law and the teaching of the Church can sin gravely, go to Confession, and then receive Communion — just as anyone else can.
The main issue for reception of Communion is the fact that so few Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics ever receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness. My main criticism of Amoris Laetitia is the lack of emphasis on repentance and Confession.
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