Amoris Laetitia and Moral Philosophy

Regarding the specific comments about Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholic not living as brother and sister, I’ve heard two comments that got me thinking. The first was that life is messy, therefore etc. The second was that the Holy Father in his Jesuit way is pushing the bounds to their utmost.

It is not as if a rigorous and brutally strict moral philosophy cannot address the messiness of life nor the utmost bounds that the Holy Father is pushing toward. Moral philosophy holds that adultery is intrinsically evil, that is evil everywhere and always. It is in the essence of adultery to be evil, regardless of circumstance, even messy lives.

Now given that fundamental truth we may make further distinctions. It may be the case that there are some acts that are materially adulterous, but not formally so. Nothing immediately comes to mind, especially under the circumstances the Holy Father is discussing.

Further, there may be circumstances wherein the act is formally adulterous, but the culpability is diminished. There may be such circumstances and this would relate to such circumstances that the Holy Father discusses. However, of eminent importance is to acknowledge that the act in itself is still evil, it is only the punishment due and blameworthiness of the act is diminished. A particular act may not be mortally sinful in light of the normal conditions, but it is sinful and evil nonetheless. Moreover, normatively and generally, adultery is mortally sinful.

The brevity that was given to possibility of cases where Holy Communion may be received by couples in ostensibly adulterous marriages seems dangerous. Most people lack the training or awareness of the distinctions of moral philosophy to work out the details. I’ve met many well educated people who could not distinguish between material and formal cooperation or how culpability may be reduced while an act remains intrinsically evil. I was one of the them for many years.

Given that lack of training, the effect of such a brief and ambiguous discussion is to dissolve the appropriate distinctions and make it appear as though adultery is not intrinsically evil or that receiving Holy Communion in a state of obstinate sin is permitted.

Moreover, if Cardinal Burke is correct and the document is a “reflection” rather than an act of the Holy Father’s ordinary magesterium (let alone an infallible statement), then it is not even binding upon the faithful. However, most Catholic are not well catechized to be aware of these distinctions either and then further confuse it as binding on the faith to see adultery as not intrinsically evil.

Hence, while the Holy Father may be pushing to the utmost bounds of the Catholic Faith, failing to reaffirm those bounds by responding to the cardinal’s dubia and not providing the necessary ground work to justify that push in light of what is known for certain is certainly dangerous and damage is already in process.

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