Ever since Amoris laetitia was published in April last year, I have been wondering what, if anything, it means. Not what it intends: that, unfortunately, was clear from the beginning. But rather, what mental propositions, if any, are expressed by sequences of words such as the following:

No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”; “A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding its inherent values, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin”;Conscience can 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” [etc.].

There seem to be four possibilities:

 

(1) These words have no meaning. An Argentinian priest said to me even before the publication of Amoris, that Pope Bergoglio does not see words as units of meaning which serve to express thoughts, but as tools to achieve ends. So one might hold that passages such as those quoted express no mental propositions, but are simpl tools used to achieve communion for the invalidly married, as another man might use a hammer to drive in a nail.

This is attractive, but I wonder if it is humanly possible not to intend to express some mental proposition when uttering well-formed sentences. Nonsense poetry is a sophisticated genre, which is no doubt why it didn’t emerge until the mid-19th century in England, which take it all in all was the richest period of English letters. Presumably the same is true of nonsense prose.

(2) These words are deliberately ambiguous, i.e. they are intended to express more than one mental proposition existing in the mind of the pope, at least one of which would be orthodox; and he intends that the reader be free to choose among them (though only as a means to the ultimate goal of communion for the remarried).

The trouble with this is that we normally say that an author is entitled to say what his words mean, if they lack clarity. Now the pope, by his subsequent statements, e.g. recommending the archbishop of Vienna as a guide to understanding Amoris, has indicated that he wants the words of the document to be interpreted as allowing communion for the remarried. So it seems that we would have to say this is the meaning of these words in the document, and hence that the text, though cloudy, is not ambiguous in the sense defined above.

(3) These words have only a heretical meaning. They express mental propositions in the mind of Pope Bergoglio which are contrary to revealed truths. This is easy to defend. But it is an unfortunate thing to have to say of what seems to be at least indirectly a magisterial document addressed to the whole Church (even though the pope has not declared these passages to be binding on the faith of Catholics).

(4) These words have 2 meanings because they express thoughts in two different minds. Literally speaking, the only mind in question is the mind of the pope. But it is a principle of the interpretation, and therefore of the meaning of magisterial documents, that they are to be read in the light of clearer and more authoritative documents, where possible. In that sense, we can speak of their expressing ‘the mind of the Church’. Now, as mentioned in (2), the pope has unfortunately shown that he interprets, and therefore presumably meant, these statements in way that is not orthodox. But it may still be possible that any of these statements, taken in the abstract, can be read, with a good deal of bending and stretching, in a way that is orthodox.

In other words, we could say that these statements in Amoris have two literal meanings: a Bergoglian meaning and a magisterial meaning. This is not quite the same as the hypothesis of deliberate ambiguity, since the pope has made sufficiently clear what he had in mind, in various non-magisterial ways. But precisely because he expressed himself in AL in such a cloudy way, we are entitled to interpret AL in a Catholic way. Yet that should not prevent us from resisting the heresies which, unfortunately, the pope has used it to vehicle.

Wow… Perhaps she could succeed Jacob Rees-Mogg as Prime Minister?

I came across this the other day when reading St. Thomas’ Commentary on Hebrews – the flesh of the high priests’s sacrifice on the Day of Atonement remaining uneaten signified that the saved do not partake of the Old Law. Fascinating!

“743. – Then when he says, We have an altar, from which they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle, he gives the reason, and it is quite subtle. For, as it is stated in Leviticus (chap. 16), on the tenth day of the seventh month the high priest entered with the blood of a heifer and a goat into the holies because of his own ignorance, and burned their bodies outside the camp. And because it was the priest’s offering, the flesh was not eaten. For whatever they offered for the sin of the priests they did not eat, but burned outside the camp. From that figure the Apostle draws a mystery. For the blood of Christ was prefigured by the blood, as was explained in chapter 9. The heifer and the goat prefigured Christ, because the heifer was the priest’s offering and the goat was immolated for sin. This prefigured that Christ would be immolated for sin: not for His own but for the people’s. Therefore, the immolated heifer and goat is Christ, the Priest, offering Himself for our sins. Therefore, the blood of Christ was brought into the holies and the flesh burned outside the camp. Two things were thereby signified: one, that Christ was immolated in the city by the tongues of the Jews; hence Mark says that He was crucified at the third hour, although He was raised on the Cross at the sixth hour. The other is that by virtue of His Passion Christ brings us within the heavenly holies to the Father. But the fact that the bodies were burned outside the camp, as to our Head, signifies that Christ would suffer outside the gate; but as to us, who are the members, it signifies that Christ is immolated for those who are outside the camp of ceremonies of the Law and of the external senses. For those within the camp did not partake of that flesh. This, therefore, is the figure which the Apostle proposes: first, therefore, he shows what is signified; secondly, he presents the figure (v. 11); thirdly, he draws the conclusion (v. 13).

744. – He says, therefore: Let us strengthen our hearts not with food, but with grace; for we cannot do otherwise, because we have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. That altar is the Cross of Christ, on which He was immolated; or Christ Himself in Whom and by Whom we offer our prayers. This is the golden altar spoken of in Rev (chap. 8). Of that altar, therefore, they have no right to eat, i.e., to receive the fruit of Christ’s passion and to be incorporated into Him as head, who serve the tabernacle of the ceremonies of the Law: ‘If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing’ (Gal. 5:2). Or they serve the tabernacle of the body, who pursue carnal pleasures: ‘Make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences’ (Rom. 13:14). For such persons received no profit: ‘He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgement to himself’ (1 Cor. 11:29). But the body is called a tabernacle, because we dwell in it as in a war against enemies and it remains a short while: ‘The laying away of my tabernacle is at hand’ (2 Pt. 1:14). Therefore, it should not be served.”

Last Friday, German parliament voted in favor of same-sex “marriage” with 393 of 623 votes (out of a total of 630 delegates).  Civil unions for same-sex couples had been possible since 2001. Nevertheless, the green party, social democrats and liberals had been campaigning for “more” – with the slogan “Ehe für alle” – “marriage for all” (surely they do not mean everybody must marry? yet if they mean everybody may marry whomever they want, we have a long way still to go, as marriage of e.g. your own sister or son is not yet legal even now).

Legalization of same-sex marriage had been a declared aim of the current junior coalition partner, the social democrats, during the last election campaign already. Nevertheless, they did not really pursue this during the current legislative period – until the next election loomed. Even then, the CDU/CSU would have been able to hold out, had it not been for a fateful interview of Angela Merkel with – of all things – a women’s magazine.

When a gay member of the audience asked her about the CDU/CSU stance on gay marriage, now that all potential opposition partners have made the legalization of it a prerequisite for any future coalition, she first deplored the politization of this topic and then said:

I find it is not appropriate for marriage –  and same-sex couples live the same values of commitment, after all – I find it is not really appropriate, to approach this in a helter-skelter way. And therefore we will pay very close attention to this question, given the current situation we have in Germany,  but in a different way.

I know within the CDU – and I include myself – many people who have thought a lot about this topic, who have long said that the same values are lived there, but who nevertheless, somehow, maybe grew up with the feeling that man and woman, that simply is marriage as we know it; and the other thing is an equally valuable partnership; and of course, certainly, for those who are affiliated with a church quite a number of other issues play a role; and for this reason I want to lead this discussion into a direction where it is more a decision of conscience, rather than forcing something through by majority vote. And I would wish that in spite of the election campaign this discussion is led with great respect, and with consideration for those who have problems with such a decision.

[My translation and emphasis; a video of this part of the interview can be found here; beware: this is a site of LGBT activists…]

The social democrats promptly pounced on this (through either sincere conviction or simple stupidity) and scheduled the vote for the last day parliament sat before the election. The social democrats plus the opposition would have had the required majority entirely without the CDU, but Mrs. Merkel made it a free vote for the CDU/CSU – and lo and behold, one quarter of their delegates voted in favour, too (including the CDU delegate of my constituency).

So, at the very same day that I was claiming to an US-citizen that our lesser evil at current elections was less evil than theirs, Germany finally fully joined the club of shame.

“O Florinus, this teaching is not that transmitted to us by the ancients, the disciples of the apostles. I used to behold thee at the side of Polykarp; though shining at court thou didst none the less seek to be pleasing unto him. I was then but a child, yet the things that happened at that time are more vivid in my recollection than those of yesterday; for indeed childhood’s memories form, as it were, a part of the very soul; they grow with her. I could point out the very spot where sat blessed Polykarp while he conversed with us; I could describe exactly his bearing, his address, his manner of life, his every feature, and the discourses he made to the crowd. Thou remembers how he used to tell us of his intercourse with John and the rest of those that had seen the Lord, and with what a faithful memory he repeated their words; what he had learnt from them respecting our Lord, his miracles, his doctrine, all these things Polycarp transmitted to us, as having himself received them from the very men that had beheld with their eyes the Word of life; all of what he told us was conformable to the Scriptures. What a grace from God were these conversations of his! I used to listen so eagerly, noting everything down, not on parchment, but on my heart; and now, by the grace of God, I still live on it all. Hence, I can attest before God, if the blessed apostolic old man had heard discourses such as thine he would have stopped his ears, saying, as was his wont: ‘O God most good, to what sort of times hast thou reserved us!’ Then would he have got up quickly, and would have fled from that place of blasphemy.”

~ St. Irenaeus, Epist. ad Florinum

If we are willing to believe in virgin births, resurrections, and multiplications of loaves, then why not the transmission and preservation of the Gospel in an unwritten form?

Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!

“He that is signified by the shepherd is also meant by the woman. Jesus is God; He is the Wisdom of God. And because good coin must bear the image of the king upon it, therefore was it that the woman lost her groat when man, who had been created after God’s image, strayed from that image by committing sin. But the woman lights a lamp; the Wisdom of God hath appeared in human flesh. A lamp is a light which burns in a vessel of clay; and Light in a vessel of clay, is the Divinity of our flesh. It is of the vessel of His Body, that this Wisdom says: ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd’ (Ps XXI. 16). For, just as clay is made hard by the fire, so His strength was dried up like a potsherd, because it has strengthened unto the glory of His resurrection, in the crucible of sufferings, the Flesh which He (Wisdom) had assumed…Having found the groat she had lost, the woman calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me! because I have found the groat which I had lost. Who are these friends and neighbors, if not the heavenly spirits, who are so near to divine Wisdom by the favors they enjoy of the ceaseless vision? But we must not, meanwhile, neglect to examine why this woman, who represents divine Wisdom, is described as having ten groats, one of which she loses, then looks for, and again finds. We must know, then, that God made both angels and men, that they might know Him; and that having made both immortal, He made both to the image of God. The woman, then, had ten groats, because there are nine orders of angels, and man, who is to fill up the number of the elect, is the tenth groat; he was lost by his sin, but was found again, because eternal Wisdom restored him, by lighting the lamp, that is, by assuming his flesh, and through that working wonderful works, which led to his recovery.”

~ Homil. XXXIV. in Evangelia

Is there anything more inspiring than the Fathers commentating on Scripture (other than St. Thomas, of course)?