It’s hard to keep up with all the moves being made during this pontificate. Many of the pronouncements coming from the Vatican seem to be intentionally ambiguous, allowing for the faithful to fib to themselves that nothing’s changed, and allowing the less heterodox among us to exploit the carefully constructed loopholes in documents like Amoris Laetitia. No doubt the end product of this month’s synod will produce whoppers of equal magnitude.
Then, of course, there are the outright moves of betrayal, such as the stunning agreement with the Red Chinese which effectively throws the Underground Church in China under the bus.
Even though many faithful Catholics are confused, perplexed, disturbed, and perhaps even outraged by the Pontiff’s moves, there are those whom we suspect would be quite pleased…
Regardless on which side of the Amoris Laetitia debate you find yourself, it’s undeniable that the promulgation of this document has produced considerable churn (understatement). Earlier blogs on this site have decried the way in which AL, by its ambiguity, produced such a wildly-varying degree of interpretations. Some bishops say nothing has changed; others see the opportunity to allow divorced & remarried Catholics to start receiving Holy Communion again. In one zip code, a divorced/remarried Catholic is an adulterer; in the next that Catholic is simply “on a journey” of some sort, and receiving the Eucharist might well be possible if an unspecified number of prerequisites are met.
Who are the winners and losers in all this?
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, says that AL represents “a paradigm shift, and the text itself insists on this, that’s what is asked of us — this new spirit, this new approach!” Factions favoring such a change refer to Amoris Laetitia‘s stress on the objective relevance of extenuating circumstances, the subjective conscience and discernment to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion and apply it to allowing use of artificial contraception in some cases (National Catholic Register, 11 Jan 2018).
Although it comes a few centuries too late, it makes me wonder if one of the “winners” might not be His Majesty, King Henry VIII. Wasn’t that all he was asking when he divorced Catherine of Aragon, dumping her in favor of Ann Boleyn? One can just imagine him insisting to Thomas Moore (perhaps while visiting him in the Tower of London), that there was a bucketload of “extenuating circumstances,” and that the King was perfectly clear in his “subjective conscience of discernment,” and surely the “extenuating circumstances” of no royal heir.