Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
An increasing number of laity, clergy and prelates, including such prominent Church leaders as Cardinal Carlo Caffarra and the respected Austrian theologian Wolfgang Waldstein, have signed a declaration of faith to counter what they see as continued ambiguities over key moral Church teachings on marriage and the family.
As of Sept. 28, over 1,800 Church figures, including many priests, pro-life leaders, and eminent scholars, had added their name to a “Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline”.
The declaration, made public on Sept. 27 with an initial 80 signatories, was drawn up in response to “the confusion” over the Church's moral teachings and practice that the organizers say has “only grown after the two Synods on the family” in 2014 and 2015, and the subsequent publication the Pope’s controversial summary document on the synods, Amoris Laetitia.
Behind the document are members of the Supplica Filiale (Filial Appeal) association who collected nearly a million signatures between the two synods, asking Pope Francis to clarify the Church’s teaching on “key issues of natural and Christian morality.”
In a Sept. 27 statement, the organizers of the declaration said there is an “urgent moral duty to reaffirm the immemorial teaching of the Catholic magisterium on marriage and family and the pastoral discipline practiced for centuries with regard to these basic institutions of a Christian civilization.”
“This grave duty,” they added, “becomes even more urgent in view of the growing attack that secularist forces are unleashing against marriage and the family.” Catholic doctrine and practice, they continued, no longer appear to be “the accustomed barrier” against such an attack, at least in terms of how they are now being presented.
The appeal document, backed up by the Church’s “crystalline and indisputable teaching”, centers around 27 statements “upholding those truths explicitly or implicitly denied or rendered ambiguous in the present ecclesial language.”
According to the signatories, what is at stake are “unchangeable doctrines and practices” concerning such crucial areas as “faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the respect due to this Sacrament”; the impossibility of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist “in a state of mortal sin”; the conditions of “true repentance that enable to receive sacramental absolution”; and the “observance of the Sixth Commandment” not to commit adultery.
Also at stake, the signatories continue, is the “most serious obligation not to give public scandal and not lead the people of God to sin or to relativize good and evil”; and the “objective limits of consciousness when taking personal decisions.”
The declaration comes after 45 Catholic scholars appealed to Pope Francis in July to “repudiate” what they see as errors in Amoris Laetitia. Other prominent scholars, such as philosophy Professor Josef Seifert, have also criticized parts of the apostolic exhortation which they argue could not only "easily lead to misunderstandings and consequently to abuses" but also are "opposed to God’s Word" and the Church’s moral teaching.
Let marriage be honored among all” (Heb. 13: 4)
Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline
Errors about true marriage and family are widespread today in Catholic circles, particularly after the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods on the family and the publication of Amoris Laetitia.
In the face of this reality, this Declaration expresses the resolve of its signatories to remain faithful to the Church’s unchangeable teachings on morals and on the Sacraments of Marriage, Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and to Her timeless and enduring discipline regarding those sacraments.
In particular, the Declaration of Fidelity firmly upholds that:
I. Regarding chastity, marriage and the rights of parents
- All forms of cohabitation more uxorio outside of a valid marriage gravely contradict the will of God;
- Marriage and the conjugal act have both procreative and unitive purposes and that each and every conjugal act must be open to the gift of life;
- So-called sex-education is a basic and primary right of parents which must always be carried out under their attentive guidance;
- The definitive consecration of a person to God through a life of perfect chastity is objectively more excellent than marriage.
II. Regarding cohabitation, same-sex unions and civil remarriage after divorce
- Irregular unions can never be equated to marriage, deemed morally licit, or legally recognized;
- Irregular unions radically contradict and cannot express the good of Christian marriage, neither partially nor analogously, and should be seen as a sinful way of life;
- Irregular unions cannot be recommended as a prudent and gradual fulfilment of the divine law.
III. Regarding Natural Law and the individual conscience
- The conscience is not the source of good and evil, but a reminder of how an action must comply with divine and natural law;
- A well-formed conscience will never reach the conclusion that, given the person’s limitations, his remaining in an objectively sinful situation can be his best response to the Gospel, nor that this is what God Himself is asking from him;
- People cannot look at the Sixth Commandment and the indissolubility of marriage as mere ideals to strive after;
- Personal and pastoral discernment can never lead divorcees that are “remarried” civilly to conclude that their adulterous union can be morally justified by “fidelity” to their new partner, that withdrawing from the adulterous union is impossible, or that, by doing so, they expose themselves to new sins;
- Divorcees that are “remarried” civilly and who cannot satisfy the grave obligation to separate, are morally obliged to live as “brother and sister” and to avoid scandal, in particular any display of intimacy proper to married couples.
IV. Regarding discernment, responsibility, state of grace and state of sin
- Divorcees that are “remarried” civilly and who choose their situation with full knowledge and consent of the will are not living members of the Church, as they are in a state of serious sin that prevents them from possessing and growing in charity;
- There is no halfway point between being in the grace of God or being deprived of it by mortal sin. Spiritual growth for someone living in an objective state of sin consists in abandoning that situation;
- Since God is omniscient, revealed and natural law provide for all particular situations, especially when they forbid specific actions “intrinsically evil”;
- The complexity of situations and the varying degrees of responsibility among cases do not prevent pastors from concluding that those in irregular unions are in an objective state of manifest grave sin, and to presume in the external forum that they have deprived themselves of sanctifying grace;
- Since man is endowed with free will, voluntary moral acts must be imputed to its author, and such imputability must be presumed;
V. Regarding the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
- The confessor is bound to admonish penitents regarding transgressions of God's Law, and to ensure they truly desire absolution and God's pardon, and are resolved to re-examine and correct their behavior;
- Divorcees that are “remarried” civilly and remain in their objective state of adultery, can never be considered by confessors as living in an objective state of grace and entitled to receive absolution or be admitted to the Holy Eucharist, unless they express contrition and firmly resolve to abandon their state of life;
- No responsible discernment can sustain that admission to the Eucharist is permitted to divorcees that are “remarried” civilly and live openly more uxorio, under the claim that, due to diminished responsibility, no grave fault exists, because their outward state of life objectively contradicts the indissoluble character of Christian marriage;
- Subjective certainty in conscience about the invalidity of a previous marriage is never sufficient, on its own, to excuse divorcees that are “remarried” civilly from the material sin of adultery, or to permit them to disregard the sacramental consequences of living as a public sinner;
- Those who receive the Holy Eucharist must be worthy to do so by being in the state of grace and, therefore, divorcees that are “remarried” civilly and lead a public sinful lifestyle, risk committing a sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion;
- According to the logic of the Gospel, men who die in the state of mortal sin, unreconciled with God, are condemned to hell forever;
VI. Regarding the Church’s maternal and pastoral attitude
- The clear teaching of the truth is an eminent work of mercy and charity;
- The impossibility of giving absolution and Holy Communion to Catholics living manifestly in an objective state of grave sin stems from the Church’s maternal care, since She is not the owner of the Sacraments, but a faithful steward;
VII. Regarding the universal validity of the Church’s constant magisterium
- The doctrinal, moral and pastoral questions concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Marriage shall be resolved by interventions of the Magisterium and, by their very nature, preclude contradictory interpretations or the drawing of substantially diverse practical consequences from it;
While the plagues of divorce and sexual depravity spread everywhere, even within the life of the Church, it is the duty of bishops, priests and Catholic faithful to declare, with one voice, their fidelity to the Church’s unchangeable teachings on marriage and to Her uninterrupted discipline, as received from the Apostles.