Heretic Fran­cis?

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - RAUL NIDOY

Is Pope Fran­cis a heretic, as some con­ser­va­tives in the Church claim? To set­tle that ques­tion, or any other ques­tion, a rea­son­able ap­proach for a layper­son is to look for the most com­pe­tent ex­pert in the type of ques­tion. An ex­pert has a com­pre­hen­sive grasp of all is­sues, and can eas­ily spot mis­takes.

Since this is a the­o­log­i­cal ques­tion, who is the most in­tel­li­gent, most com­pe­tent the­olo­gian, with the grace of state of sacred epis­co­pal pow­ers? This per­son is, in my opin­ion, Bene­dict XVI.

When Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope and took the name Bene­dict, a car­di­nal quipped: He has the in­tel­lect of 20 Ger­man the­olo­gians and the sim­plic­ity of a child re­ceiv­ing first com­mu­nion. Be­fore he was elected, he was ac­knowl­edged as a tow­er­ing ex­pert in the his­tory of the­ol­ogy.

And he is not just any bishop, with sacred pow­ers to teach; he is pope emer­i­tus.

Two months af­ter the re­lease of the bone of con­tention, “Amoris Laeti­tia,” Bene­dict told Fran­cis: My true home is your good­ness. There I feel safe. Thank you for ev­ery­thing. We hope that you will con­tinue to go forward with all of us on this road of Di­vine Mercy, show­ing us the way of Je­sus, to­ward Je­sus, to­ward God.

By re­fer­ring to Di­vine Mercy, Bene­dict was re­fer­ring to the the­o­log­i­cal prin­ci­ple be­hind the new pas­toral di­rec­tions of “Amoris Laeti­tia.” (Just to be clear, when there was a mis­un­der­stand­ing of Bene­dict’s at­ti­tude, his clos­est aide, Arch­bishop Ge­org Gän­swein, used very harsh words, “stupid peo­ple,” to cor­rect those who “try to use the pope emer­i­tus in an anti-Fran­cis tone.”)

Un­doubt­edly, in declar­ing that he feels safe and thank­ful for ev­ery­thing Fran­cis has done, and in en­cour­ag­ing Fran­cis to go forward “with all of us” on his road of mercy af­ter two months of re­flect­ing on “Amoris,” Bene­dict is also telling the Church that we are safe in the boat cap­tained by the Pope.

A wide­spread but false read­ing of “Amoris” says that even un­re­pen­tant di­vorcees and re­mar­ried peo­ple can take Com­mu­nion. In “What if we’re wrong about ‘Amoris’ all along?” Fr. Matthew Sch­nei­der re­calls the in­tent of the doc­u­ment of not cre­at­ing new rules, which means it is in unity with tra­di­tion. It quotes texts, such as “dis­cern­ment can never pre­scind from the Gospel de­mands as pro­posed by the Church” and “flaunt­ing an ob­jec­tive sin ... sep­a­rates from the com­mu­nity.” It con­cludes that “[c]on­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, the text of ‘Amoris Laeti­tia’ does not al­low those fla­grantly or in­ten­tion­ally hav­ing mar­i­tal-like re­la­tions in a ‘sec­ond mar­riage’ to re­ceive ab­so­lu­tion or Com­mu­nion. How­ever, Fran­cis em­pha­sizes mercy for those who are ei­ther ig­no­rant, or who in­tend to ab­stain from sex­ual re­la­tions but oc­ca­sion­ally fail.”

To fur­ther give light, we can also look for the great­est the­olo­gian of all time. Surely, St. Thomas is a key choice for this ti­tle.

One quote from St. Thomas, that Pope Fran­cis “earnestly” pleaded to be in­cluded in all pas­toral dis­cern­ment, says: “In mat­ters of ac­tion, truth or prac­ti­cal rec­ti­tude is not the same for all, as to mat­ters of de­tail, but only as to the gen­eral prin­ci­ples… The prin­ci­ple will be found to fail, ac­cord­ing as we de­scend fur­ther into de­tail.”

Also, St. Thomas teaches: “What is most per­fect in all na­ture—or in all re­al­ity—is the per­son.” Thus, the good of any per­son is worth dy­ing for, and there are, as Bene­dict XVI quipped, as many ways to heaven as there are per­sons! As the first teacher, Je­sus Christ, said: The Sab­bath is made for man, not man for the Sab­bath.

Clearly, a per­son has to be in the state of grace to be able to re­ceive Com­mu­nion, but to be in mor­tal sin re­quires that the act is on a grave mat­ter, with full knowl­edge and full con­sent. And there are end­less com­bi­na­tions of par­tial con­sent and par­tial knowl­edge based on the cir­cum­stances of each per­son.

Thus, when ap­ply­ing the truth of moral laws to the de­tails of other per­sons, we have to be ex­tremely un­der­stand­ing, to put our­selves in their shoes, as Pope Fran­cis is help­ing us to do in “Amoris Laeti­tia.”

———— Raul Nidoy has a doc­tor­ate in the­ol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Navarre. He­works for Par­ents for Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion and the Univer­sity of Asia and the Pa­cific, and chairs Pro-Life Philip­pines.

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