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My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write today, after some thought as a testimony of my position, I still support the Pontificate of Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ. There are many opinions in regards to his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, and sadly not enough clarity on the matter, but I believe there to be good reasons to give him still the benefit of the doubt.

As noted by the National Catholic Register:

None of the passages of Amoris Laetitia cited by the correction explicitly denies that a person who knowingly and willingly commits grave evil cuts himself or herself off from God’s grace.

Amoris Laetitia does explore the possibility that a person who commits grave evil may in some cases not have full knowledge or deliberate consent when doing so, but precisely insofar as they lack full knowledge and/or deliberate consent, such a person is not necessarily committing mortal sin.

 The position is consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

The fact is that it is true that there are possibilities for someone to be in a relationship that from the outside may appear to be gravely sinful; however if that particular person does not meet the three requirements for a mortal sin then they are less culpable. Pope Francis should not be criticized for attempting to bend—not break– understanding as an example of God’s mercy. The National Catholic Register also reminds Catholics to recognize the authority of the Catechism of the Catechism by citing Fidei Depositum 3. As of now, faithful Catholics should understand the exhortation under the precepts of the established teachings of the Catholic Church. Of course, this is the understanding also of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:

“Archbishop Chaput, on July 1, issued pastoral guidelines for his archdiocese on the Pope’s exhortation. He said the document is best understood when read “within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life.”[1]

My own Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, a known orthodox Catholic bishop–who has brought back the Latin mass to the diocese, restored the St. Michael Prayer to all masses, withheld communion from Senator Dick Durbin, performed an exorcism on the Illinois House—has written in support of Amoris Laetitia:

There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document, as Pope Francis explains, “If we consider the immense variety of con­crete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (n. 300). Rather, the Holy Father says, “In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur” (n. 307).

 Pope Francis himself notes that it is a lengthy document. “Consequently,” the Holy Father writes, “I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if at­tention is paid to the parts dealing with their spe­cific needs. It is likely, for example, that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chap­ter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for ‘families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity’” (n. 7).

 Following the Holy Father’s request, I encourage Catholics and all people interested in strengthening marriage and family life to read the entire Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis “patiently and carefully.” As Pope Francis so frequently requests, please pray for him and for all those called to the vocation of marriage and family life as well as those who minister to them.

So I ask that for those among us not to misconstrue my words. I still believe it to be prudent and the duty of the Pope to still clarify his teachings on the matter of his exhortation, but I refuse to frame the Church in a myopic political language of left vs. right or Traditional Catholics vs. Vatican II Catholics—these are the seeds of division. There is only the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. I believe Pope Francis should also answer the scholars who have attached their name to the Filial Correction.

I believe it prudent for the Pope to give a proper answer within the context of the deposit of our faith because I believe that the author of the Filial Correction, Professor Claudio Pierantoni,  makes a fair point of the ramifications of no such answer:

It’s very difficult to say, but I believe they haven’t issued it yet because they fear a schism. But I think the opposite is true: that if they don’t do it, there will be a schism. To not speak of the true doctrine, to not correct errors, for fear of schism is a contradiction. Only truth can unite. If error spreads it will cause a split, from parish church to parish church, from bishop to bishop, from country to country. It would be a practical schism, which in fact already exists, but if the correction doesn’t take place, it will get much worse.

I fully believe that some squabbles between Catholics are completely silly. I would almost surmise that some Catholics have been wanting to leave the Church for some time, only waiting for some excuse to do so because of so-called heresy. In many ways, we’ve forgotten to love our brothers and sisters in the Church. Naturally, I think to myself, if we cannot get our own house in order, how can we convince our fellow protestant Brothers and Sisters in Christ to come to the Church? In the wake of these “scandals” and “heresy,” I cannot stop but think of Christ priestly prayer:
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.[2] 

 

Philip Augustine

“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

[1] http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/bishop-paprocki-archbishop-chaputs-amoris-laetitia-guidelines-are-certainly

[2] Jn 17:20