Monday, November 13, 2017

Francis, Mueller and the so-called internal forum solution approach...

The AP is reporting that:

"Pope Francis on Saturday reaffirmed the 'primacy' of using one's conscience to navigate tough moral questions in his first comments since he was publicly accused of spreading heresy by emphasizing conscience over hard and fast Catholic rules.

Francis issued a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his controversial 2016 document on family life, 'The Joy of Love.' The document has badly divided the Catholic Church, with some commentators warning that it risked creating a schism given its opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Francis told the conference that priests must inform Catholic consciences 'but not replace them.' And he stressed the distinction between one's conscience — where God reveals himself — and one's ego that thinks it can do as it pleases.

'The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which must always be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of an individual with respect to his or her relations,' Francis said.

Francis reaffirmed the centrality of 'The Joy of Love' as the church's guide to Catholic couples today trying to navigate the ups and downs of complicated family situations.

When it was released in April 2016, 'The Joy of Love' immediately sparked controversy because it cautiously opened the door to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.

Church teaching holds that unless these Catholics obtain an annulment — a church decree declaring their first marriage invalid — they cannot receive the sacraments since they are seen as committing adultery in the eyes of the church.

Francis didn't give these Catholics an automatic pass, but suggested that bishops and priests could do so on a case-by-case basis, with the couples' 'well-formed' consciences as the guide.

Conservatives accused the pope of sowing confusion and undermining the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Four prominent cardinals formally asked for a clarification to five "dubia," or doubts, they said had been spawned by the document.

More recently, a group of traditionalist and conservative priests and scholars formally accused Francis of spreading heresy.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, whom Francis recently removed as the Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog, didn't join the four 'dubia' cardinals or the heresy accusers. But he warned in a recent book preface that 'schismatic temptations and dogmatic confusion' had been sown as a result of the debate over the document. He said such confusion was 'dangerous for the unity of the church.'

Mueller sought to offer his own interpretation — that 'The Joy of Love' can only be read as a continuity of the church's traditional teaching on marriage — offering what he said was his own 'contribution to re-establishing peace in the church.'"

Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics on a case-by-case basis with the couples "well-formed consciences" as the guide represents "a continuity of the Church's traditional teaching on marriage"?

How so Your Eminence?  The Church has already addressed the so-called "internal forum solution" proposed by Francis.  Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained that:

"By the way, as far as the 'internal forum solution' is concerned as a means for resolving the question of the validity of a prior marriage, the magisterium has not sanctioned its use for a number of reasons, among which is the inherent contradiction of resolving something in the internal forum which by nature also pertains to and has such important consequences for the external forum. Marriage , not a private act, has deep implications of course for both of the spouses and resulting children and also for Christian and civil society.  Only the external forum can give real assurance to the petitioner, himself not a disinterested party, that he is not guilty of rationalisation.  Likewise, only the external forum can address the rights or claims of the other partner of the former union, and, in the case of the tribunal's issuance of a judgment of nullity, make possible entering into a canonically valid, sacramental marriage." (Ratzinger, "Church, Pope and Gospel").

The problem with letting couples using their consciences as a guide is that there is often a tendency to rationalize sin. Likewise, couples committing adultery will often be tempted to rationalize their situation when considering whether or not to approach Holy Eucharist which is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1395).

As Dr. Germain Grisez explains, "The practice of the so-called internal forum approach lies in trying to reduce a problem about the validity of a marriage (or one's right to receive Holy Eucharist, my note) to a private problem of individual conscience, even though marriage is ineluctably social as a human reality and ineluctably ecclesial as a saving mystery.  The practice of so-called internal forum solutions also is pastorally disastrous. Even though someone whose problem has been dealt with in this way may really believe he or she is not living in sin (such as receiving Holy Eucharist unworthily because one is living in adultery, my note), the practice itself cannot reasonably be expected to being about that state of conscience.  For it invites self-deception and rationalization, and peace of conscience attained by such means is not a reliable sign of freedom from the guilt of grave sin (See CMP, 3.C).

As I explained in a previous post:

"For all too many people today (including sadly, many Catholics) the conscience has become a "mighty fortress" built so as to shelter one from the exacting demands of truth. In the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "In the Psalms we meet from time to time the prayer that God should free man from his hidden sins. The Psalmist sees as his greatest danger the fact that he no longer recognizes them as sins and thus falls into them in apparently good conscience. Not being able to have a guilty conscience is a sickness...And thus one cannot aprove the maxim that everyone may always do what his conscience allows him to do: In that case the person without a conscience would be permitted to do anything. In truth it is his fault that his conscience is so broken that he no longer sees what he as a man should see. In other words, included in the concept of conscience is an obligation, namely, the obligation to care for it, to form it and educate it. Conscience has a right to respect and obedience in the measure in which the person himself respects it and gives it the care which its dignity deserves. The right of conscience is the obligation of the formation of conscience. Just as we try to develop our use of language and we try to rule our use of rules, so must we also seek the true measure of conscience so that finally the inner word of conscience can arrive at its validity.

For us this means that the Church's magisterium bears the responsibility for correct formation. It makes an appeal, one can say, to the inner vibrations its word causes in the process of the maturing of conscience. It is thus an oversimplification to put a statement of the magisterium in opposition to conscience. In such a case I must ask myself much more. What is it in me that contradicts this word of the magisterium? Is it perhaps only my comfort? My obstinacy? Or is it an estrangement through some way of life that allows me something which the magisterium forbids and that appears to me to be better motivated or more suitable simply because society considers it reasonable? It is only in the context of this kind of struggle that the conscience can be trained, and the magisterium has the right to expect that the conscience will be open to it in a manner befitting the seriousness of the matter. If I believe that the Church has its origins in the Lord, then the teaching office in the Church has a right to expect that it, as it authentically develops, will be accepted as a priority factor in the formation of conscience."

Cardinal Mueller apparently has not considered these truths.  Nor has Francis.

What a shame!

1 comment:

M. Prodigal said...

I certainly have known and do know people who are either in immoral situations or support immoral causes who say their conscience is clear, etc. This includes some of my relatives. With 'the church' in so many places having not catechized the people in the few for decades, many consciences are dead. Mine was when I was in mortal sin for years. The so called conscience cannot trump true longstanding Church teaching.

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