PopeWatch: Familiaris consortio



PopeWatch is used to looking for loopholes.  A source for Father Z looks at what was wrought by the Synod and is concerned that the Kasper proposal to give communion to Catholics in adulterous marriages has been enacted by the backdoor:j


Here we go…

>First, my source supplies his own (accurate) rendering into English of the controversial paragraphs of the Final Report. Here it is:

Synod of Bishops, Final Report, 24 October 2015

84 The baptized who are civilly divorced and remarried should be more integrated into Christian communities in different possible ways, avoiding thereby every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they not only know that they belong to the Body of Christ, which is the Church, but they can also have a joyous and fruitful experience of it. They are baptized, they are brothers and sister, the Holy Spirit bestows upon them gifts and charisms for the good of all. Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services: it is therefore necessary to discern which forms of exclusion that are currently in practice in the areas of liturgical, pastoral, educative, and official responsibilities can be eliminated. These individuals not only must not feel themselves to be excommunicated, they should be able to live and grow as living members of the Church, feeling Her as a mother who accompanies them always, who cares for them with affection and encourages them along the way of life and the Gospel. This integration is necessary also for the care and Christian education of their children who should be considered the most important of all. For the Christian community, taking care of these individuals is not a weakening of their faith and of the witness of the indissolubility of marriage; rather, the Church expresses its charity in just this care.

85. St John Paul II offered a comprehensive criterion that remains the basis for the assessment (valutazione) of these situations [civilly divorced and remarried Catholics]. “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). It is therefore the responsibility of priests to accompany such persons on the way of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the directives (orientamenti) of the Bishop. In this process it will be useful to make an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved toward their children when their marriage entered a crisis; if there have been efforts at reconciliation; what is the situation of the abandoned partner; what are the consequences of the new relationship on the rest of the family and on the community of the faithful; what example this new relationship offers the young persons who must prepare for matrimony. A sincere reflection can strengthen confidence in the mercy of God that is not denied to anyone.

Furthermore, it cannot be denied that in certain circumstances “the imputability and responsibility of an action can be diminished or nullified” (CCC 1735) on account of diverse constraints (condizionamenti). As a consequence, the judgment about an objective situation must not be carried over to a judgment about “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration of 24 June 2000, n. 2a). In defined circumstances people experience great difficulty in acting in a different way. For this reason, in addition to upholding a general norm, it is necessary to recognize that the responsibility with respect to certain defined actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, in addition to taking into account the rightly formed conscience of individuals, must also take these situations into account. Moreover, the consequences of actions carried out are not necessarily the same in all cases.

86. The pathway of accompaniment and discernment leads these faithful to conscientiously reflect on their situation before God. A conversation with a priest, in the internal forum, leads to the formation of correct judgment concerning that which bars the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on those steps that may favor it and enable it to grow. Given that there is no graduality in the law (cf. Familiaris Consortio 34), this discernment can never be detached from the exigencies of truth and the charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. In order that this may happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidentiality, love for the Church and its teachings must be guaranteed in the sincere search for the will of God and in the desire to arrive at a more perfect response to it.

That’s my source’s translation of the controversial paragraphs.  Anything wrong?  See anything?

Now for some of his edited analysis (which right now I can’t much improve on, but I can add emphases and comments):

The Synod Final Report was approved in its entirely by a “qualified majority” (2/3 of the voting members of the Synod).

I have translated into English Sections 84-86 which concern the pastoral care of the civilly divorced and remarried. A little while ago, Edward Pentin tweeted that these sections just squeaked by with the necessary two-thirds majority. [NB] Pentin added that without the 45 members of the Synod personally appointed by the Pope these sections would not have received the qualified majority. This means that it was the Pope’s personal appointees who secured the necessary margin of victory.

When you look at my translation (done quickly), you will see that I have highlighted certain words and sentences in yellow. [I made those GREEN to be legible.] These are the words and phrases that in my view the German-led liberals wanted. The terms and phrases highlighted in blue represent those terms that I think represent the conservatives. So you’ll see just how much of these sections I think came from the Germans and their allies.

If you look at #85 you will see a block quotation from84 that states that not every party in a divorce is as guilty for it as are other parties may be. This quote suggests that pastors should make distinctions concerning the relative culpability of the civilly divorced and remarried. [NB] HOWEVER, this section left out that part of FC 84 which stated that those who are civilly divorced and remarried must practice sexual continence in order to be admitted to the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion. Again, that part of FC 84 was excluded from #85 of the Final Report.

EWTN reported that the Americans argued that the omitted section should be included, but it wasn’t added in the end.

So what?

[IF] If the Pope decides to publish this section of the Final Report in whatever document he issues, and if he, too, leaves out that section of FC 84 that bars civilly divorced and remarried from Communion, then this section will become magisterial teaching. [Get it?] Will that mean that the civilly divorced and remarried can be admitted to Holy Communion without promising to live “as brother and sister”? In my view, …without the benefit of much time for reflection, it could very well mean that. IN OTHER WORDS the Kasper Proposal has come into the Final Report through the back door.

Thus endeth the analysis.

Go here to read the rest.  Actually PopeWatch comes to a different conclusion.  If the Pope does publish this it doesn’t make any difference that Familiaris consortio isn’t quoted in full.  Since it is quoted it is impossible to understand and interpret the quoted passage without reading it in pari materia with Familiaris consortio, especially since  Familiaris consortio is also magisterial authority.   Hence this passage from Familiaris consortio  controls the issue of communion for Catholics in adulterous marriages:

“However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.””

When it comes to magisterial authority, especially when referenced in another magisterial document, you simply cannot cherry pick from it.  Of course for Loose Leaf Binder Catholics, I assume that the only thing that is magisterial for sure is anything uttered by the current Pope.

In the days, weeks and months to come we should all recall this passage from Blessed Cardinal Newman:

6. Such passages, however, as these are too closely connected with the definitions themselves, not to be what is sometimes called, by a catachresis, “proximum fidei;” still, on the other hand, it is true also that, in those circumstances and surroundings of formal definitions, which I have been speaking of, whether on the part of a Council or a Pope, there may be not only no exercise of an infallible voice, but actual error. Thus, in the Third Council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defence of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives, not trustworthy, are introduced into the Seventh.

This remark and several before it will become intelligible if we consider that neither Pope nor Council are on a level with the Apostles. To the Apostles the whole revelation was given, by the Church it is transmitted; no simply new truth has been given to us since St. John’s death; the one office of the Church is to guard “that noble deposit” of truth, as St. Paul speaks to Timothy, which the Apostles bequeathed to her, in its fulness and integrity. Hence the infallibility of the Apostles was of a far more positive and wide character than that needed by and granted to the Church. We call it, in the case of the Apostles, inspiration; in the case of the Church, assistentia.

Of course there is a sense of the word “inspiration” in which it is common to all members of the Church, and therefore especially to its Bishops, and still more directly to those rulers, when solemnly called together in Council, after much prayer throughout Christendom, and in a frame of mind especially serious and earnest by  reason of the work they have in hand. The Paraclete certainly is ever with them, and more effectively in a Council, as being “in Spiritu Sancto congregata;” but I speak of the special and promised aid necessary for their fidelity to Apostolic teaching; and, in order to secure this fidelity, no inward gift of infallibility is needed, such as the Apostles had, no direct suggestion of divine truth, but simply an external guardianship, keeping them off from error (as a man’s good Angel, without at all enabling him to walk, might, on a night journey, keep him from pitfalls in his way), a guardianship, saving them, as far as their ultimate decisions are concerned, from the effects of their inherent infirmities, from any chance of extravagance, of confusion of thought, of collision with former decisions or with Scripture, which in seasons of excitement might reasonably be feared.

“Never,” says Perrone, “have Catholics taught that the gift of infallibility is given by God to the Church after the manner of inspiration.”—t. 2, p. 253. Again: “[Human] media of arriving at the truth are excluded neither by a Council’s nor by a Pope’s infallibility, for God has promised it, not by way of an infused” or habitual “gift, but by the way of assistentia.”—ibid p. 541.

But since the process of defining truth is human, it is open to the chance of error; what Providence has guaranteed is only this, that there should be no error in the final step, in the resulting definition or dogma.



More to explorer


  1. I still think that my metaphor of this synod’ is one that is reflecting, not the clear call of the faithful shepherd for concern about his sheep, but one with the planned ambiguity of Swiss cheese, where holes and nutrition occupy the same name, leaving the choice to each soul, lay of clerical, whether to chose either sustenance of starvation, and still refer to themselves as “Catholic.”
    In another sense, it’s a bit like “spiritual polygamy,” where one gets to choose disloyalty and fidelity, without any consequences.

    Perhaps, my ears are too sensitive to being tickled.

  2. I’m afraid you are too optimistic, Don. A teaching not reiterated is discarded. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the well-developed papal magisterium prior to V-2 not involving Rerum Novarum.

  3. I think there is a difference here Dale in that FC is directly quoted. That makes it very hard to ignore precisely what Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, although I have no doubt that some clerics will try. Other clerics however will not let them forget.

  4. We’ve reached a point in history wherein every occupation for which verbal agility is consequential – clergyman, teachers, lawyers, journalists, and politicians – is commonly composed of people who are deceitful and untrustworthy. About the only professional one is likely to deal with nowadays who can be counted on to be straight with you would be your pharmacist.

  5. Except that the citation leaves off the money language barring communion. Unless, of course, it’s somewhere else in this ambiguous pastiche of a document. Refusing to reiterate that language–verbatim–is itself a bad sign.

    Granted, the Pope’s tantrum of a final address offers some cause for hope. However, mischief thrives on ambiguity and omission, and the controversial paragraphs of this thing are chock full of them.

  6. I know the issue of the divorced and remarried is important (and active homosexuals) but I wish Church leaders would address the issue of receiving the Eucharist unworthily in general: those cohabiting whether single or previously married; abusive spouses; employers who cheat their workers (one of the sins that cries out to Heaven); employees who steal from their employers, abusive spouses, i.e, everyone who is in a state of habitual sin.

    As Fr Z says GO TO CONFESSION! We need Bishops and, I hope eventually a Pope who will be John the Baptist calling the world to repentance. Donald, you mentioned the novel “Vicar of Christ” which featured a fictional Francis I. I remember a dialog a scene debating the doctrinal v. pastoral argument and one of the Cardinals remarks, “A compassionate physician makes for a gangrenous sore.” Like Dr. Kasper.

  7. Yes, I agree with Tom C. I don’t think we should be at all surprised by the possible backdoor approach to Communion for the divorced/civil marriage crowd. Or active homosexuals. The Church already gives the nod to those on contraception, doctors who advertise/perform sterilizations, fornicators/cohabitators, allow abortionists to work at supposedly Catholic hospitals, politicians who openly support “choice.” And it has for a long time. Why single out the divorced/remarried/homosexual crowd?

  8. Let me rephrase- the hierarchy gives the nod on these things. The Church does not, but there seems to be few in the hierarchy (in the West) who will speak for Holy Mother Church.

  9. “the hierarchy gives the nod … The Church does not, but …. few in the hierarchy (in the West) who will speak for Holy Mother Church.”
    Interesting framing– I had not thought of before.
    Yes, of course- the hierarchy, even the Vatican- is not the Church….the tail is trying to wag the dog.

  10. The radical Kasper has stated his side has won. Of course,
    Kasper’s pagan theology for loons had to prevail when one
    takes into account a condemned secret society of excommunicated
    clergymen who plotted since 1996 to install a fanatical Mason or
    Jacobin at the highest level of authority for the purpose of radically
    transforming the Church to reflect the values of the modern
    world. I understand the next synod will take up the issue of
    welcoming active Sodomites and their unions into the Church.
    The Synodal Church intends to abolish sin.

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