Reading Church documents written in progressive jargon requires a lot of attention, patience, and analysis. That is because ideas in these documents are not expounded clearly and logically but rather with circumlocutions and contradictions; they are more suggested than affirmed. In addition, one must keep in mind the principles and methods of Modernist and Neo-Modernist heresy (“New Theology”) and Situation Ethics.1
Without these requisites, it becomes difficult to understand statements like the February 9 speech by Blase Cardinal Cupich at the Von Hügel Institute, St. Edmund College, Cambridge, England, titled “Pope Francis’ Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity.”2
Paradigm Shift or Cultural Revolution?
The Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago tries to sustain and develop the thesis presented by the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, that the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“AL”) represents “a paradigm shift,” a “new approach!”3
However, before delving into Cardinal Cupich’s commentary, it is well to recall that Pope Francis also spoke recently of “a radical paradigm shift,” which he defined as “a bold cultural revolution.”4
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A Shift “Nothing Short of Revolutionary”
Cardinal Cupich explains that this “new approach, this new paradigm for family ministry,” is necessary because of the family’s new situation today. He anchors this new paradigm in the Gaudium et Spes statement that the Church must be “truly linked with humanity and its history by the deepest of bonds.”
According to the Cardinal, in AL the Pope proposed new principles to interpret the family. He comments:
“These principles of interpretation, six in all, force a paradigm shift, allowing us to re-envision the Church’s engagement with couples and families and open a pathway for doing so.”
“[T]he core goal of formal teaching on marriage is accompaniment, not the pursuit of an abstract, isolated set of truths.”
“This represents a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary.”
Can the Church Change its Moral “Paradigm”?
In current usage, a paradigm is broadly speaking: “a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.”5
As for the expression “paradigm shift,” it is commonly understood as a fundamental change in the way we see the world and things:
“For example, the shift from earth to sun as the center of solar system, ‘humors’ to microbes as causes of disease, heart to brain as the seat of thinking and feeling.”6
Thus, in the current meaning of “paradigm shift” it is assumed that the old paradigm was defective because it was incorrect or at least inaccurate.
However, Catholic dogma and morals have as their paradigm that which God revealed through the patriarchs and prophets, and finally by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles directly inspired by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1; Gal. 1:6-9). This Revelation closed with the death of the last Apostle.7
Thus, divine supernatural Revelation, which constitutes the deposit of faith, cannot be altered, not even by a Pope:
“For, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth.”8
Progress in the understanding of dogma must take place “with the same sense and the same understanding,” according to the famous Instruction of Saint Vincent of Lerins.9
That is why Saint Pius X’s anti-modernist oath—to be taken by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries—declared:
“I accept sincerely the doctrine of faith transmitted from the apostles through the orthodox fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us; and so I reject the heretical invention of the evolution of dogmas, passing from one meaning to another, different from that which the Church first had….”10
Therefore, to speak of a “paradigm shift” in relation to the Church teaching in AL, which states that one can no longer say that irregular couples find themselves in the state of sin (No. 301) and which opens the gates for adulterers to receive Communion (note 351, No. 305)—which a growing number of bishops around the world has been accepting and implementing in their dioceses—strongly suggests that the faith of the Apostles, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is being abandoned.
Saint Paul teaches, however,
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9).
“The New Ways That the Lord Is Revealing to the Church”
In his speech, Cardinal Cupich continuously employs the expression “God’s self-revelation” without distinguishing between God’s natural revelation through creation (Rom. 1:19-23) and supernatural Revelation. The latter, according to Fr. Miguel Nicolau, S.J., “in the proper and strict sense of the word is understood as the manifestation God makes to man through a locution properly speaking (Denz. 1785, Heb. 1,1).”11
But this Revelation, as we have seen, closed with the death of the last Apostle.
Cardinal Cupich’s conception of divine self-revelation resembles the condemned Modernist tenet of a continuous divine revelation through historical events and individual consciences. In footnote 1 of his text, His Eminence makes clear the modernist notion of a continuing revelation that did not close with the death of the last Apostle when he states that “the flock likewise has an instinctive ability to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.”
These further statements made by the prelate also go along the lines of a continuing revelation in historical events:
“[F]amilies are a privileged place of God’s self-revelation and activity.”
“God’s self-revelation is not restricted to those who meet the Church’s marital ideals.”
“Pope Francis reminds us that the family is such a privileged place for God’s self-revelation that nothing can stand in the way of God’s grace.”
If “God’s self-revelation” takes place in a privileged way in today’s families, and if the latter have undergone such a change as to require a paradigm shift in relation to traditional Church doctrine, then divine Revelation also must change, or at least its understanding, to conform to historical facts.
This new conception of divine revelation is all the more disquieting and blasphemous in that God supposedly reveals Himself even in sinful unions, since, as we have seen, the Cardinal states:
“God’s self-revelation is not restricted to those who meet the Church’s marital ideals.”
Cardinal Cupich’s quotation of AL that “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (AL 301) attests to this change in the very deposit of faith.
A New, Non-Hierarchical “Synodal Church”
Another consequence of “God’s self-revelation” in the family is that the latter becomes the teacher of the Church rather than vice-versa. Although the cardinal’s text is confusing and contradictory—as he both affirms and denies things in different passages—the family’s role as teacher of the Church is the main idea one gets from statements such as:
“[S]ince the family is already itself a Gospel, the Gospel of the family [is a] contribution that families make to the Church’s understanding and proclamation of the Gospel.”
“[F]amilies may reveal the presence and action of Christ to the Church.”
“Ministers must accompany families in a process of discernment…. learning from one another in seeking to understand the mystery of God together.”
For the Chicago archbishop, the Church is no longer hierarchical and magisterial but should “discern” and “accompany”—even in public adulterers—the doctrine that should be taught: “[T]he accompaniment also is an act of forming Church teaching.”
For Cardinal Cupich, in this New Church, which he calls a Synodal Church, there would no longer be a teaching hierarchy:
“Thus, in a genuinely synodal Church there is no hierarchical distinction between those with knowledge and those without.”
Here the distinction between the “Church teaching” (Ecclesia docens) and the “Church learning” (Ecclesia dicens) is abolished.
A Confused, Upside Down “Synodal Church”
Now this AL concept that the Cardinal puts forth conforms only too well to the proposition condemned and proscribed by Saint Pius X in the Decree Lamentabili Sane:
The “Church learning” and the “Church teaching” collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the “Church teaching” to sanction the opinions of the “Church learning.”12
It is important to note that the Decree Lamentabili Sane was the promulgation of the Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists.
The Cardinal insists that the Church learns by accompanying families, and with this apprenticeship, the Church abandons “the pursuit of an abstract, isolated set of truths.”
His Eminence acknowledges that “[t]his represents a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary.”
This modernist aspect of the Cardinal’s Cambridge speech was also pointed out by Prof. R. Jared Staudt, in an article in Crisis Magazine:13
“Notice how the shift occurs from families coming to the Church for forgiveness and to receive the Gospel to the Church coming to families to discern God’s will for the present moment. This teaching stands very much akin to what Pius related on conscience in Pascendi that the Church stands under the experience of God within the individual.”
“God’s Self-Revelation” Through Sin?
According to the commentaries of Blase Cardinal Cupich, the faithful receive the truths directly from God, who reveals Himself in their families and their consciences through the Holy Spirit. He affirms:
“The presupposition must always be that whenever there is a family striving to live together and to love one another, the Spirit is already present.”
“Their decisions of conscience represent God’s personal guidance for the particularities of their lives. In other words, the voice of conscience—the voice of God…”
It should be recalled that in Cardinal Cupich’s commentary, “God’s self-revelation is not restricted to those who meet the Church’s marital ideals,” therefore the Spirit would also be present in sinful unions, guiding these persons’ decisions and turning their wrongly formed consciences into the “voice of God.”
Therefore, God would also reveal Himself through sin, and sinful decisions would be the revelation and work of the Holy Ghost.
Indeed, this is a revolutionary paradigm shift.
But is this still the same Church—One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic—founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ and Who categorically affirmed: “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass” (Matt. 24:35)?
- Cf. Pius X, Decree Lamentabili Sane (July, 3, 1907), accessed Feb. 20, 2018, at http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius10/p10lamen.htm; Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi (1907); Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis (1950); Pius XII, various speeches against Situation Ethics or Morals; John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993). In this article, all emphases in quotes are mine.
- Blase Cardinal Cupich, “Pope Francis’ Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity,” La Stampa/Vatican Insider, Feb. 9, 2018, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://www.lastampa.it/2018/02/09/vaticaninsider/eng/documents/pope-francis-revolution-of-mercy-amoris-laetitia-as-a-new-paradigm-of-catholicity-skMox0lKtoX5szfKH6QgrL/pagina.html.
- “Card. Parolin: il 2018 di Francesco all’insegna di giovani e famiglia: Intervista al segretario di Stato vaticano sui temi forti del 2018 per il Papa e la Santa Sede,” Vatican News, Jan. 11, 2018, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://www.vaticannews.va/it/vaticano/news/2018-01/card–parolin–il-2018-di-francesco-allinsegna-di-giovani-e-fami.html#play; Cf. Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Parolin: Amoris Laetitia Represents New Paradigm, Spirit and Approach.” National Catholic Register, Blogs, Jan. 11, 2018, accessed Jan. 13, 2018, http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal-parolin-amoris-represents-new-paradigm-new-spirit-new-approach.
- Francis, Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium: On Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties, Dec. 8, 2017, n. 3, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_constitutions/documents/papa-francesco_costituzione-ap_20171208_veritatis-gaudium.html.
- “Paradigm Shift,” Merriam-Webster.com, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradigm shift.
- “Paradigm Shift,” BusinessDictionary.com, WebFinance, Inc., accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/paradigm-shift.
- Pius X, Lamentabili, n. 21.
- I Council of the Vatican, Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Denz. 1836, in Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1957).
- Saint Vincent of Lerins, in Vatican I, De Fide Catholica, Denz. 1800.
- Denz. 2145.
- Miguel Nicolau, S.J., Revelación Cristiana, n. 52, in Padres de la Compañía de Jesús, Suma de la Sagrada Teología Escolástica, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://www.mercaba.org/TEOLOGIA/STE/V1_T2_L1_Cap2.htm#Art%C3%ADculo%20I.
- Pius X, Lamentabili, Proposition n. 6.
- R. Jared Staudt, “Cardinal Cupich’s Modernist View of the Family,” CrisisMagazine.com, Feb. 16, 2018, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, https://www.crisismagazine.com/2018/cardinal-cupichs-modernist-view-family.