It has been 600 days since I last composed a blog post, but this is so important I am breaking my hiatus.
Almost exactly 1600 years ago, in the midst of the Pelagian heresy which threatened to engulf the Church, St. Augustine wrote that when Rome has spoken, the case is closed (paraphrased: “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”).
Today, precisely because the pope has not spoken, the Church is facing a crisis, and the case remains open.
I refer of course to the confusion surrounding how to interpret Chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia (AL) concerning Communion for the divorce-and-remarried.
This confusion escalated with the release of the directive of two bishops in Malta which says in plain English (emphasis mine):
If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).”
The bishop of San Diego and bishops in Argentina have taken a similar stance, but never in quite-so-plain terms.
Meanwhile, numerous other bishops, including Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Sample, following the teachings of Saint John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, and Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF in 1994, disagree that AL allows for Communion for the divorce-and-remarried, as Carl Olson writes.
There are now dozens of bishops across the world telling their priests contradictory things about what the Church holds when it comes to Communion for the divorce-and-remarried.
There are now thousands of priests around the globe who are telling the Catholic faithful contradictory things about this same disputed question.
There are now millions of Catholics worldwide who are living in a parish where there is a contradiction between what the pope has written recently about marriage and what is preached by the pastor.
As Cardinal Caffarra poignantly said, “only a blind man could deny there’s great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity in the Church.”
The fact that there is deep and widespread disagreement about what the teaching is represents a real and present crisis, because the truth matters, and only the truth will set us free.
Thus the Roman Pontiff has a responsibility to articulate the Catholic faith in a knowable way.
And as Cardinal Caffarra also pointed out, how can we be obedient if we don’t know what the teaching is?
That’s why we have to keep asking the pope to clarify what he means, and in the meantime share our own opinion about AL in whatever mediums are available to us.
Conversely, this is why Fr Antonio Spadaro and Austen Ivereigh are so wrong when they call for the debate over AL to end. It is impossible for this debate to end before the pope more clearly defines what he means.
I don’t understand why the “latitudinarians” (as I call the “reformers” who want to see the Church’s teaching interpreted with wide and inconsistent latitude) don’t want the pope to clarify his teaching. If they are so confident he shares the exact same beliefs as them, why hide this light under a bushel, or, in this case, a footnote?
Instead, the latitudinarians are focused on shouting down those who continue to ask questions.
That leads to my next point: I am dismayed that so many of the JPII-generation and Pope Benedict-loving Catholics remain silent on the sidelines. The debate over AL is, if not the most important, at the very least, the most contentious theological dispute of the past half-century …and yet so many under-40 Catholics have seemingly nothing to say or share.
If the pope is waiting to find out who is more passionate about forming the Church’s future, silence speaks volumes, and what those volumes say is not reassuring.
That’s why I’m urging more young priests, religious and theologians to speak up about AL.
You were formed under the papacies of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. You went to school for this. You serve as pastors, teachers and counselors. So, speak up!
My father, the canonist Ed Peters, wrote yesterday that the Maltese directive makes answering the dubia issued by the four cardinals even more urgent.
I would add that it makes our responsibility to speak up and ask the pope to clarify his teaching even more urgent as well, and to share our own opinion in the meantime.
So, I’m breaking my silence. Now it’s your turn.
* THOMAS PETERS
Thomas Peters, 31, grew up in Southern California and attended college in Michigan. He has two graduate degrees in theology. He began his award-winning American Papist blog in 2006, which went on to become one of the most popular Catholic blogs in America. He was one of a handful of Americans invited to the Vatican’s first-ever Bloggers’ Meeting in Rome. Peters has appeared in dozens of TV, radio and online media outlets over the years discussing the intersection of Catholicism and political activism, debating topics related to life, family and religious freedom, in addition to writing and speaking about the future of social media and online organizing. Since 2010, he has served as an advisor to CatholicVote.org. He and his wife Natalie live in Washington DC. You can follow him on Twitter @AmericanPapist.