Pope Francis has stressed that we should not focus on only single sentences of his teachings; rather, the whole should be kept in mind.
Concentrating on the stated passages is fully justified, in my eyes. It cannot be expected in a papal exhortation that people will rejoice in a pleasant text and ignore decisive sentences that change the teachings of the Church. There is actually only a clear Yes or No decision: to give Communion or not. There is no intermediary between them.
The Holy Father emphasizes in his exhortation that nobody may be allowed to be condemned forever.
I find it difficult to understand what he means there. That the Church is not allowed to condemn anyone personally — of course not forever (what she cannot do) thank God — is clear. When it concerns sexual relationships that objectively contradict the Christian way of life, I would like to know from the Pope, after what time and under which circumstances is objectively sinful conduct changed into conduct pleasing to God.
Is it, in your perspective, actually an issue of a breach with the teaching Tradition of the Church?
That it is an issue of a breach emerges doubtlessly for every thinking person who knows the respective texts.
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with this assessment: The question arises as to how it came to this.
It was already apparent that Francis views his predecessor Pope John Paul II from a critical distance when he canonized him together with John XXIII, even though a second required miracle was not attributed to the latter. Many felt this to be manipulative. It seemed as if the Pope wanted to relativize the importance of John Paul II.
The actual problem is an influential movement in moral theology, which holds a purely situational ethics and which can be found as early as the 17th century among the Jesuits. The quotes from Thomas Aquinas, which the Pope cited in Amoris Laetitia, appear to support this direction. Here it will be overlooked, however, that Thomas knows objectively sinful actions for which there are no exceptions. Among them is all sexually disordered conduct. John Paul II rejected situational ethics and condemned it in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor — as did Karl Rahner before him, in an essay in the 1950s that contained all of these essential and presently valid arguments. Amoris Laetitia also challenges Veritatis Splendor. With all of this, we cannot forget that it was John Paul II who centered his pontificate on the subject of Divine Mercy: His second encyclical was devoted to it, the diary of Sister Faustina was discovered in Krakow, and he later named her a saint. He is her authentic interpreter.
What consequences do you see for the Church?
The consequences are already foreseeable: uncertainty and confusion, from the bishops’ conferences to the small parishes in the middle of nowhere. A few days ago, a priest from the Congo expressed to me his perplexity in light of this new papal document and the lack of clear precedents. According to the respective passages from Amoris Laetitia, not only remarried divorcés, but also everyone living in some certain “irregular situation,” could, by further nondescript “mitigating circumstances,” be allowed to confess other sins and receive Communion even without trying to abandon their sexual conduct — that means without confession and conversion. Each priest who adheres to the until-now valid discipline of the sacraments could be mobbed by the faithful and be put under pressure from his bishop. Rome can now make the stipulation that only “merciful” bishops will be named, who are ready to soften the existing discipline. Chaos was raised to a principle by the stroke of a pen. The Pope must have known that he would split the Church with such a step and lead toward a schism — a schism that would not be settled on the peripheries, but rather in the heart of the Church. May God forbid that from happening.
One thing, however, seems clear to me: The concern of this Pope — that the Church should overcome her own self-referencing in order to be able to free-heartedly approach persons — has been destroyed by this papal document for an unforeseeable amount of time. A secularizing push and the further decrease in the number of priests in many parts of the world are also to be expected. It has been able to be observed for quite some time that bishops and dioceses with a clear stance on faith and morality have the greatest increase in priests. We must remember the words of St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8).
In your opinion, where do we go from here?
Every single cardinal, but also every bishop and priest, is called upon to preserve uprightly the Catholic discipline of the sacraments within his realm of responsibility and to confess it publicly. In case the Pope is not ready to make corrections, it remains reserved for a later pope to officially make things right.
Go here to read the rest. What is the traditional reaction of Catholics to a bad Pope? One is to pray for a better pope and better times. A braver route is to speak up. Herr Spaemann has chosen the braver course.