In a Blog post which may be found here, Father John Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS asserts that Francis probably will not respond to the five dubia over Amoris Laetitia.
In her own day, St. Catherine of Sienna found much corruption within the Holy Church. Homosexuality and many other deeply rooted problems were found among the clergy and Our Lord spoke to this Doctor of the Church about these problems (pride, loss of sacred identity, loss of faith, worldliness, and sensuality). These conversations were laid out in St. Catherine's book entitled "Dialogue," and most especially in that portion of the book labelled "The Mystical Body of Holy Church."
While St. Catherine cautions her readers not to engage in blanket condemnations aimed at the clergy in general (using scandals as an excuse to denigrate priests in general), and refers to such people as "irreverent persecutors" of the clergy, still, she was told by Our Lord that those who will not receive correction and those who will not give it are like the limbs of a body beginning to rot.
In our sacharrin society, medicinal rebuke is often mistaken for a "lack of charity" when in actuality such constructive criticism aids in healing. In his excellent work entitled "Liberalism is a sin," Fr. Felix Sarda Y Salvany writes:
"If the propagation of good and the necessity of combating evil require the employment of terms somewhat harsh against error and its supporters, this usage is certainly not against charity. This is a corollary or consequence of the principle we have just demonstrated. We must render evil odious and detestable. We cannot attain this result without pointing out the dangers of evil, without showing how and why it is odious, detestable and contemptible. Christian oratory of all ages has ever employed the most vigorous and emphatic rhetoric in the arsenal of human speech against impiety. In the writings of the great athletes of Christianity the usage of irony, imprecation, execration and of the most crushing epithets is continual. Hence the only law is the opportunity and the truth.
But there is another justification for such an usage. Popular propagation and apologetics cannot preserve elegant and constrained academic forms. In order to convince the people we must speak to their heart and their imagination which can only be touched by ardent, brilliant, and impassioned language. To be impassioned is not to be reprehensible----when our heat is the holy ardor of truth.
The supposed violence of modern Ultramontane journalism not only falls short of Liberal journalism, but is amply justified by every page of the works of our great Catholic polemicists of other epochs. This is easily verified. St. John the Baptist calls the Pharisees "race of vipers," Jesus Christ, our Divine Savior, hurls at them the epithets "hypocrites, whitened sepulchers, a perverse and adulterous generation" without thinking for this reason that He sullies the sanctity of His benevolent speech. St. Paul criticizes the schismatic Cretins as "always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies." The same apostle calls Elymas the magician a "seducer, full of guile and deceit, child of the Devil, enemy of all justice."
If we open the Fathers we find the same vigorous castigation of heresy and heretics. St. Jerome arguing against Vigilantius casts in his face his former occupation of saloonkeeper: "From your infancy," he says to him, "you have learned other things than theology and betaken yourself to other pursuits. To verify at the same time the value of your money accounts and the value of Scriptural texts, to sample wines and grasp the meaning of the prophets and apostles are certainly not occupations which the same man can accomplish with credit." On another occasion attacking the same Vigilantius, who denied the excellence of virginity and of fasting, St. Jerome, with his usual sprightliness, asks him if he spoke thus "in order not to diminish the receipts of his saloon?" Heavens! What an outcry would be raised if one of our Ultramontane controversialists were to write against a Liberal critic or heretic of our own day in this fashion!
What shall we say of St. John Chrysostom? His famous invective against Eutropius is not comparable, in its personal and aggressive character, to the cruel invectives of Cicero against Catiline and against Verres! The gentle St. Bernard did not honey his words when he attacked the enemies of the faith. Addressing Arnold of Brescia, the great Liberal agitator of his times, he calls him in all his letters "seducer, vase of injuries, scorpion, cruel wolf."
The pacific St. Thomas of Acquinas forgets the calm of his cold syllogisms when he hurls his violent apostrophe against William of St. Amour and his disciples: "Enemies of God," he cries out, "ministers of the Devil, members of antiChrist, ignorami, perverts, reprobates!" Never did the illustrious Louis Veuillot speak so boldly. The seraphic St. Bonaventure, so full of sweetness, overwhelms his adversary Gerard with such epithets as "impudent, calumniator, spirit of malice, impious, shameless, ignorant, impostor, malefactor, perfidious, ingrate!" Did St. Francis de Sales, so delicately exquisite and tender, ever purr softly over the heretics of his age and country? He pardoned their injuries, heaped benefits on them even to the point of saving the lives of those who sought to take his, but with the enemies of the faith he preserved neither moderation nor consideration. Asked by a Catholic, who desired to know if it were permissible to speak evil of a heretic who propagated false doctrines, he replied: "Yes, you can, on the condition that you adhere to the exact truth, to what you know of his bad conduct, presenting that which is doubtful as doubtful according to the degree of doubt which you may have in this regard." In his Introduction to a Devout Life, that precious and popular work, he expresses himself again: "If the declared enemies of God and of the Church ought to be blamed and censured with all possible vigor, charity obliges us to cry 'wolf' when the wolf slips into the midst of the flock, and in every way and place we may meet him."
Fraternal correction is key to our spiritual growth. In the words of
Monsignor Charles Pope, in a meditation last year:
￼The gospel from Sunday (John 15:1-8) presents us with an important meditation on the difference between love and kindness. Perhaps some further reflections from this gospel are in order today.
There is an unfortunate tendency in our times to reduce love to kindness. Kindness is an aspect of love, but so is rebuke. It is an immature notion of love that reduces it merely to affirming, or that refers to proper correction as a form of “hate.”
We saw in yesterday’s gospel that proper care involves the Lord “pruning” us so that we bear more fruit. But in soft times like these, many would not consider pruning, which is painful, to be proper care. Any reasonable, mature, balanced assessment yields the truth that pruning is necessary and is part of proper care.
Though I am less familiar with grape vines, I know my roses. And while I feed and water them, treat their common diseases, and pull the weeds that seek to choke them, I also prune them—sometimes quite severely. At this time of year, my fall pruning vindicates itself as proper care—the first rosebuds and the luxuriant foliage are in glorious evidence! Through the year I will continue all my care, including pruning, cutting away diseased branches, and shaping the plants. Who of you will question me for what I do to my beautiful roses?
It is no less the case with us that the Lord must prune us. And who would question the Lord for this necessary work? Yet many in our times do question Him and His Body, the Church, for doing just this.
First of all, He does this by proclaiming His Word: You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you (Jn 15:3). In this proclamation is a kind of pruning of the intellect; our worldly thinking and priorities are pruned away by the truth of God’s wisdom and His Word, which is like a scalpel or pruning hook.
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (Heb 4:12-13).
The Word of God prunes away our error by shining the light of truth on our foolishness and worldliness; it exposes our sinfulness and silly preoccupations. It lays bare our inordinate self-esteem and all the sinful drives that flow from it: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. A steady diet of God’s Word prunes and purifies our mind, reordering it gradually.
Yet for many of us, the Word of God alone (while sufficient in itself) is not enough due to our stubbornness and tendency to rationalize our bad behavior and “stinking thinking.” Too easily we call good or “no big deal” what God calls sin and surround ourselves with teachers and “experts” who tell us what our itching ears want to hear (cf 2 Tim 4:3).
And thus further pruning is needed. Such further pruning can be accomplished in two ways: active and passive purification. Active purifications are things that we undertake ourselves such as fasting or other mortifications. These help to prune away what stunts healthy growth and the fruits of righteousness.
But honestly, none of us will ever really do enough active purification to accomplish what is really needed—not even close. Consider an analogy I have used before: could you perform an appendectomy on yourself? Of course not! First, you could not really see enough to be able do it properly. Second, you would never be able to inflict that much pain on yourself. Such things must be accomplished for us by others.
Therefore, since active purifications are not enough to prune us properly, we must also accept passive purifications. Passive purifications are those things that God does or allows in order to prune us. And frankly some of them are quite painful: serious losses or setbacks, struggles with our health, difficulties in marriage or other vocations, the death of loved ones, the end of relationships, humiliating occurrences, accidents, and so forth. Other passive purifications are less painful, involving minor irritations, disappointments, or discomforts.
And when these occur we cry out in pain. Pruning hurts. But it may well be just what we need. The honest truth is that we human beings are so gifted, talented, and capable that if we didn’t have a few things to keep us humble, we’d be so proud we’d just go to Hell.
So God prunes. And whether we like to admit it or not, it is a form of care. We need these passive purifications; we need the pruning that keeps us bearing the fruit of holiness and righteousness.
In soft times like these, when the application of limits or the use of the word “no” is deemed “unloving” or “hateful,” we who would be Christians and light to the world must become clearer ourselves about the need for pruning. Even in the Church there is a hesitancy to speak of this need or of anything considered “negative” or “challenging.” To all this we can only reply that it is necessary at times for the surgeon to wield the scalpel, the vinedresser to apply the pruning sheers, the Lord to use passive purifications. It is hard and painful at times, but there is no other way given our stubborn and sin-prone souls.
There is also a communal dimension to this that was mentioned in yesterday’s gospel: He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit (Jn 15:2). This is not the pruning of a single branch; it is the cutting away of any branches that do not bear fruit and thus sap energy from the others.
In these highly individualistic times it is harder for people to grasp the common good and why it is sometimes necessary for the Lord to wholly remove from His Body (the Church) those who refuse to bear fruit. But the common good really is the answer.
And now back to my roses: one of my rose bushes tends to go wild. In the last two years it has become gnarly, losing its shape. Its roses have lost their wedged-tulip shape and are becoming small and rounded. I have taken to pruning it severely in the hopes of saving it. So far this has yielded limited success. This year, if it does not respond and return from the wild side, I will have to remove it. This is not only due to my preferences; I am concerned that the other bushes will cross-pollinate with it and also lose their dignity and form. One wild rose bush tends to exert its influence on others. Who of you will question me for what I do to protect my roses?
And who of us should protest against God for what He does to keep His vine strong and Heaven pure?
Pruning is needed both to help us bear fruit and to save us. It falls to us, like a faithful remnant, to recover this notion and teach it without apology or embarrassment. God knows what He is doing. He knows what makes for good disciples and perfect souls. It is hard, though, and it’s OK to ask God to be gentle with us. But in the end, may God never do anything less than is necessary to prepare heavenly glories for us.