Then we have the "hermeneutic of continuity" approach which postulates that any ambiguity in the exhortation must be interpreted in the light of tradition. Catholic teaching on the matter at hand goes right back to the words of Our Lord and therefore it is not possible to change it. Here we have the likes of Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Philip Egan and others whom I deeply respect. The book under review follows this line.
We also have a traditionalist approach. Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said that an ecclesiastical authority that issues norms that provides admission to Holy Communion for those living in adultery arrogates to itself a right that God has not given it.
In our assessment of the current situation, we need to pray that we do not fall into the varied and iniquitous traps of Modernism, Sedevacantism and Pharisaism. By Pharisaism, I mean those people who have tried to circumvent the commandments by use of "pastoral" solutions. In my view, Cardinal Kasper and the bishops of Malta have fallen into this trap.
There are also those liberal Catholics who claim that we are bound by obedience to every word
of the Holy Father. This is laughable since these very same individuals spent years ridiculing Pope John Paul's
magisterial declarations on sexual ethics and "women priests." As for those tempted by Sedevacantism,
we must remember that the Church has had weak popes throughout her history. The Holy Father is not entirely to
be blamed for receiving his Jesuit formation at a time when the Jesuits were and are undergoing their worst crisis.
There is certainly the "smell of the sheep" about his approach, alas with more than a whiff of moribund
Having said all of this, it is essential to remind ourselves that there are much greater problems in the Church than whether we should be giving or not giving Holy Communion for the divorced and "re-married.".The authors of this important work have stated that "nowadays the main difficulty is not divorced persons living in a new union and asking for the sacraments, but rather the large number of couples who have utterly crossed off marriage as a prospect for life. Marriage rates have decreased sharply in Western cultured countries, and the Church has not yet been able to respond to a pastoral problem of such vast proportions." When the exhortation examines this broader aspect, it has much going for it. This is surely where our primary focus needs to be. The authors note: "The greatest infirmity lies in the fact that people getting married very often have a sentimental, romantic idea of love that is highly superficial and little Christian." They have an immature understanding of the vocation of marriage and they desperately need accompaniment. That is, those who have pastoral care over them need to meet them where they are at. This graduality of approach has nothing to do with bending the moral law to suit their personal circumstances. To quote the exhortation, they need "pastoral care...centred on the marriage bond."
The authors note that integration for some may be a "difficult journey." But there
is a real difference between proceeding down that difficult path and staying put in adulterous unions while believing
that the commandments are "ideals" that can never be achieved in this life. This view has more than a
whiff of Calvinism about it. It is an error to teach that the commandments are impossible to follow. But in order
to do this, we need God's help. Many readers of Amoris Laetitia
have noticed that the word "grace" is not exactly at the forefront. In a given situation, we always need
discernment. But the process of authentic discernment can never contradict the commandments.
A good priest told me that there is much that is good in Amoris Laetitia. We should just ignore the controversial parts. I was reminded of Fr Thwaites's observation that one should not eat a slice of cake, however delicious, if there is even a tiny amount of poison in the middle! In order to be possessed by "laetitia" our "amoris" needs to be in complete harmony with "veritas." I do not believe that the Holy Father has achieved this project as yet.