Thursday, February 09, 2017

"To Hell with Accompaniment"

Douglas Farrow, "To Hell with Accompaniment" (First Things, March 2017, via Abyssus Abyssum Invocat, February 9, 2017):
Is the pope Catholic?” used to be an answer, not a question. Alas, it has become a question; or rather it has become five questions, in the form of the dubia put to Pope Francis by four of his cardinals. In good Jesuit fashion, Francis seems to be making his reply by other means—since responding directly to dubia is apparently distasteful, as even the Prefect of the Holy Office Gerhard Cardinal Müller has now said. Thus far, the replies (comments about pharisaical doctors of the law, and that sort of thing) are not very reassuring. Actually, very little one hears from the Vatican these days reassures.

This leaves those of us who are struggling with “discernment of situations” (to use the phrase from Familiaris Consortio that was taken up by Amoris Laetitia) in some perplexity, not so much in the matter of marriage and family life as in the life of the Church herself. Reckoning with a pope whose own remarks seem somewhat erratic is one thing. But how are we to reckon with a situation in which the administration of the sacraments, and the theology behind their administration, is succumbing, with his blessing, to regionalism? In other words, how are we to reckon with a situation, nicely timed to the quincentenary of the Reformation, in which being Catholic begins to look quite a lot like being Protestant?

The trauma of the two synods on the family, which led to Amoris and to the dubia, is a trauma for which Francis himself is largely responsible. The ongoing rebellion against Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor is something that he has permitted, if not encouraged. And the flaws in Amoris are of his making. His unwillingness to respond directly to the dubia is not, then, a matter of taste only. In any event, the very fact that the dubia have been put—and they have been well put, whether or not they should have been put publicly—has carried the whole difficulty beyond matters of taste. Cardinal Müller’s denial that there is a doctrinal problem here is unconvincing.
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