Given the serious reservations and objections of many key Church public figures and Catholic layman to the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and given the growing confusion it is sowing in people’s minds regarding family moral issues, the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute (IPCO), the American TFP’s sister organization in Brazil, felt compelled to issue a public statement about its dangers to marriage and the family.
On July 16, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, it released a document titled: “Amoris Laetitia Opens the Gates of the Church and Society for a Programmed Demolition of Marriage and the Family: An Appeal to Silent Prelates and Movements.” The Institute, made up of lay Catholics, is outspoken for its defense of the family and Christian civilization.
The document recalls the nearly 900,000 faithful from around the world, including cardinals, archbishops and bishops, who signed a “Filial Appeal” to Pope Francis respectfully asking him not to allow “the relativization of the teaching of Jesus Christ” regarding the family. After the publication of Amoris Laetitia, this select group of Catholics experienced the bitter taste of disappointment. Pope Francis, so lavish in welcoming and embracing non-Catholics and even anti-Catholics from around the world, had not a word to say to these faithful.
Serious Break with Church Teaching, Relativization of the Decalogue
As a papal document devoted to the family, Amoris Laetitia should issue a warning about this very serious threat of relativization. Instead, an undisguised fundamental change in pastoral practice toward so-called “irregular couples” and particularly the “divorced and remarried” allows them to be absolved in Confession and to receive Holy Communion with the sole reservation that it be done according to a priest’s “discernment” on a “case by case” basis.
Authoritative figures of the Church and laity have denounced the fact that such a change is not only a matter of Church discipline but also involves a serious break with the traditional teaching of the Church. Many of these Catholics have therefore asked that Amoris Laetitia be revoked, a request that IPCO supports with its thorough and well-grounded analysis of the document. Meanwhile, progressive churchmen warmly applaud Amoris Laetitia. Cristoph Cardinal Schönborn, the official presenter of the text, celebrates the fact that it “overcomes” the division—which he deems “artificial”—between regular and irregular unions, i.e., lawful and sinful unions.
Indeed, for Amoris Laetitia, concubinage and adultery (words it avoids but the meaning is clear) might even be a “gift” to God (!) depending on the circumstances. The exhortation claims these situations can also show “signs of love” that “in some way reflect God’s own love.” This insidious language not only makes the Sixth and Ninth Commandments lose their practical validity but it also relativizes the whole natural and divine order summed up in the Decalogue by making everything depend on a subjective assessment of the circumstances.
A New, Anti-Hierarchical Family Model
Also seriously questionable is Amoris Laetitia’s proposed “community” family model. There are many negative and derogatory allusions to the traditional family based on parental authority. At the same time, there is an idyllic picture of an egalitarian family model which deprives the husband of his role as head of the family and weakens the principle of authority.
The precept of Saint Paul, “let women be subject to their husbands” (Eph. 5:22), is dismissed as the cultural expressions ” of the time. Such a position is contrary to Catholic doctrine masterfully explained in the Encyclical Casti Connubii of Pius XI, who teaches that the hierarchical order in the family is immutable.
Anthropological Evolutionism and Reversing the Order in the Purposes of Marriage
Both the relativization of adultery and the new family paradigm advocated by Amoris Laetitia are allegedly justified by a supposed “anthropological change” that would give rise to more “inculturated” solutions according to the degree of evolution of this change in each place. Walter Cardinal Kasper, Amoris Laetitia’s main inspirer, gives examples of this “inculturation” by showing the cultural dominance of sentimentality and subjectivism can be raised up as criteria for admitting “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments.
Such a model moves away from the traditional institutional model of marriage and draws closer to the contemporary individualistic model of marriage bond as a mere social and legal recognition of the couple’s mutual affection. Amoris Laetitia also enshrines a radical reversal in the hierarchy of the ends of marriage by claiming that “firstly” marriage would represent a “community of life and conjugal love.” This statement directly contradicts the magisterial teaching of the Church found in Casti Connubii that affirms marriage “has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature…are essentially subordinated to it.”
Thus, the IPCO document notes that while lowering the procreative purpose of marriage to second place and giving priority to a “public commitment of love,” even LGBT individuals may allege that they too “love” and thus request marital status!
Legitimate and Respectful Resistance—Appeal to Silent Prelates
Concluding its detailed and well-documented analysis, the IPCO points out that, in face of a text so conducive to disorient and weaken adherence to Church moral teachings among the faithful, “we are obliged to express publicly, as a duty of conscience and with all the respect due to the office and person of the Supreme Pontiff, the serious observations the document elicits from us,” and “loyally telling Pope Francis: in conscience, we cannot accept Amoris Laetitia’s statements, sacramental discipline and pastoral proposals, which we have questioned herein.”
On taking this step of “legitimate and respectful resistance” to the points in Amoris Laetitia that conflict with Church doctrine, IPCO members feel supported in the teaching of Saint Peter that, “We ought to obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29) and by the example of Saint Paul, who resisted the same Saint Peter “to his face” (Gal. 2:11) precisely on erroneous disciplinary measures that he proposed. Canon Law also supports this position in canon 212 § 3 that provides for the right, and sometimes even the duty, to expose respectfully dissent from ecclesiastical authority. The Institute document adds, “Given the similarity between situations, we adopt here this statement by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in the conclusion of his famous manifesto of resistance to the Vatican policy of detente with communist governments: ‘This explanation was imperative. It has the character of a legitimate self-defense of our Catholic consciences.’”
IPCO concludes by urging prelates and movements hitherto silent: “To dispel the dominant doctrinal confusion, we urgently exhort all the discontented but ‘silent ones’ to reaffirm publicly, and by all legitimate means at their disposal, the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Church on the divine and irreformable character of the institution of marriage, the indissolubility of the marriage bond, the primacy of procreation over the other ends of marriage, the hierarchical structure of the family, [and] the impossibility of giving sacramental absolution and Holy Communion to those who persist in living publicly in an objective situation of serious sin.”
See the full text of the study at: https://www.tfp.org/amoris-laetitia-opens-gates-church-society-programmed-demolition-marriage-family/.