Recently I signed the petition, available at lifesitenews.com, in support of the letter four Roman Catholic Cardinals have addressed to Pope Francis, asking “for clarity regarding his Apostolic Exhortation—Amoris Laetitia.” On account of that document, many Roman Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are asking whether Pope Francis intends for the Roman Catholic Church to embrace a humanly fabricated “moral theology,” which appears to substitute flexible and subjective human consciences, owned and operated by each individual, for the moral faculty of conscience informed by God’s will?
Throughout the Roman Catholic, and indeed the entire Christian, world—particularly in countries that have historically identified themselves as part of “the West”—Amoris Laetitia has led some people to accuse other professed members of the body of Christ of merciless intransigence, simply because they stand by conclusions grounded in the Scriptures, and time and again affirmed in centuries of reasoning in good faith, by clergy and laity alike.
Pope Francis seemed to take this accusatory approach in a radio address last June, when he asserted that “the Church never teaches us ‘or this or that.’…This is not Catholic, this is heretical.” This harsh judgment aligned with his earlier criticism of those he called ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics. At that time, he decried ‘fundamentalism’ as “a sickness that is in all religions. We Catholics have some—and not some, many—who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, disinformation, and doing evil.”
He went on to claim that fundamentalism “lacks God.” Yet what is more fundamental than the acknowledgment of God? Roman Catholics may reasonably be excused for adhering to the Catechism’s view that “God Alone Satisfies”; That “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end” so that “no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” Are not these Catechetical affirmations clear statements of foundational (and therefore fundamental) truths?
When Christ said, “And whither I go you know: and the way you know,” the Apostle Thomas pleaded ignorance, saying “… how can we know the way?” Jesus did not reply, “consult your own consciences.” Rather he said plainly “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:4-6) Surely, in light of these words, any Christian must be forgiven for taking the view that Christ represents the only way to God. And since “human life remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end,” how can it be sustained, or that end achieved, but in and through Christ Jesus?
Are not Christ’s words, affirming His special role in our relationship with God, fundamental to our faith? And does not the Apostle instruct us still today when he writes “as for you, let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If that abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning, you also shall abide in the Son and the Father. And this is the promise which He has promised us, life everlasting.” (1 John 2:22-25)
Is it sickness, then, to hold fast to the truth that Christ shared with us about Himself, or the truth the Scripture affirms about who is of Christ, and stands worthily in communion with God through Him? Does steadfast adherence to these fundamental truths cut us off from the body of Christ? Or, to the contrary, does it make manifest our life within Him? For Christ himself said:
Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:47-49)
It is indeed true that discernment is needed to walk steadfastly in Christ’s way through all the vicissitudes of life. But discernment is all about distinguishing one thing from another, as truth from falsehood, good from evil, right from wrong. Can we rightly divide the objects of God’s Creation without taking account of His Word? Can we rightly discern the boundary line between them except by letting Christ wield the sword that distinguishes one thing from another—true thought from false, true good from evil, true life from death and perdition? For Christ plainly commanded us “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
How can we be of moveable faith, if we are as the Apostle said “come to Jesus the mediator of the new testament” or if we
refuse him not that speaks… saying: yet once more: and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also.” And in that he says, Yet once more, he signifies the translation of the moveable things as made, that those things may remain which are immovable.
“Therefore,” the Apostle concludes, ‘receiving an immovable kingdom, we have grace: whereby let us serve, pleasing God with fear and reverence.” (Hebrews 12: 24, 25, 26-28)
Christ said to Simon, “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church.” The authority of each successor to Peter depends on that foundational affirmation. Is it sick fundamentalism and heresy to believe that that authority persists, immovable, along with the responsibility to uphold the immovable basis, in Christ and God, of the hope for true life which Christ represents to us? It is a sign of deep respect for that foundational authority that the four Cardinals now turn to Pope Francis, trusting that he will respond in the Holy Spirit of God by which Christ lives and moves, even now, His living body.
Christ also said that “if a house be divided against itself that house cannot stand.” What then becomes of an authority that rejects and seems poised to cast away those who regard as fundamental truth the account of Christ’s words and ministry, in virtue of which that grant of authority has endured, from generation to generation, for more than 2000 years? If fundamentalism is indeed a sickness, is the Pope’s authority likely to survive the proffered cure?
These thoughts lead me to believe that the Cardinals speak from a heart of good will toward Pope Francis and the Church, when they ask him to address the confusion that now threatens to obscure the Church’s understanding of the meaning and requirements of conscientious respect for God’s written and Incarnate Word. People of faith, in my country (the United States) and elsewhere, are being threatened with harsh persecution because of their conscientious obligation to stand for God’s truth against evils like abortion and the denial of God’s intention for procreation in the institution of marriage.
Will the Vatican embrace a moveable standard for Christian conscience? If it does, won’t this seriously undercut the defense of the God-endowed right of conscience against the specious and humanly fabricated “right” to abortion, or so-called “marriage” for homosexuals? Indeed, if claims of right arise from no authority higher than willful human passion, what objective standard will remain around which to rally the defenders of human right and justice against human powers unjustly bent on destroying them both?