Cardinal-elect Farrell tweets
If you find Pope Francis “confusing”, you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I quite agree, although not in the way he would like. I’ve never found Pope Francis “confusing”. Certainly, if one tries to parse individual sentences according to the rules of grammar and logic, one can often show them to be nonsense, but it’s always pretty clear what he’s getting at. Namely, something completely inimical to the way of holiness preached by Jesus Christ.
Willed incomprehension is a Catholic hobby. Once dissenters would say silly things such as that the real teaching of Catholicism on homosexuality is “unclear” and could only be unearthed by the esoteric arts of heterodox academics. Today, it’s the conservatives who affect to be “confused” or who misunderstand statements of the Pope that are, in themselves, quite clear. For example, Jeff Mirus and I have at various times tried to “explain” the Pope to be teaching that Catholics who commit adultery may be engaging in venial sin if the difficulties in abstaining are too great. (Mirus refers to a woman having sex to keep a man around for their children. I was willing to be even more indulgent and consider that giving into lust can be a venial sin if one is at least putting up a fight.) In fact, Amoris laetitia says nothing of the sort. Recall the key paragraph.
Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.
This is, in fact, admirably clear. The couples engaging in adulterous sex are not sinning at all, not even venially, because God Himself does not ask that they comply with the 6th commandment, meaning it is in fact not a moral requirement at all in their case. The text clearly claims that the human conscience possesses at least two capabilities. First, it is able to come to a knowledge of the moral law, and above this of the “overall demands of the Gospel” and also to recognize the applicability of one of these “overall demands” to one’s own situation. Second, conscience contains within itself some sort of faculty for recognizing that one is personally exempt from these demands in a particular case. This is indeed an astounding claim. I admit that I have never sensed in myself the operation of this faculty for knowing which of God’s universal rules do and don’t apply to me personally, as opposed to my well-honed sense of when a particular rule is going to be inconvenient for me and my imperfect will to obey. One could argue that this position is philosophically confused, in that the norm against adultery is at once universal and not universal. (If it is not universal, but adultery is only wrong under certain circumstances, then there would have been no need to posit this hitherto-never-noticed operation of the conscience. One could simply say that conscience can refine its understanding of the demands of the gospel, and given the more precise demands see that one is not in violation, at least “for now”.) However, whether it is defensible or not, His Holiness has stated his position clearly.
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