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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Which Topsy and Tuptim Take a Field Trip and Discuss the Infamous Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia

Chapter Eight Paragraphs 291 - 312
Footnote? What footnote was that?
Topsy and Tuptima navigate the traffic in downtown Washington, D.C. passing the Smithsonian and the Capitol building, turning on North Capitol St. heading toward the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Topsy's alma mater, Trinity College. 

Tuptim: Remind me again, why we're here.

Topsy: (Giving her a look)...You need to eat coconut oil to help with your memory.


Tuptim: (Sardonically)...Very funny. Really,...you've told me many times that being scandalized at Trinity led you to stop practicing the faith for awhile. So why did you want to come back?

Topsy: It was reading Chapter Eight. Almost every page reminded me of my Sophomore moral theology class with Mr. Reilly. It was nothing but brainwashing in situation ethics and moral relativism. We read Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics, Harvey Cox's The Secular City. We didn't read a single encyclical or Church document on morality. The big focus was on that one moral absolute -- L...U...V.

Tuptim: Gosh! At a Catholic college back then? Isn't Trinity run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur? St. Julie Billairt must be rolling over in her grave.

Topsy: No doubt! The nuns relaxed the habit while I was there and abandoned it altogether the year after I left.They also went back to their birth names so when I went back for a concert I didn't recognize a single nun. (Shrugs)...But they started abandoning the faith long before they abandoned the habit. Not all, of course, but enough to change the course of the college. It's Catholic in name only these days. In fact, there are so few Catholics on campus, they hold Sunday Mass in a small chapel in Main Hall instead of in the beautiful Notre Dame chapel. Not surprising. Their idea of being Catholic is favorite grad and self-proclaimed "devout Catholic", Nancy Pelosi.

Tuptim: You've got to be kidding!

Topsy: I wish.

Trinity University's Main Hall
As they turn right on Michigan Ave. the red-tiled roof of Trinity's Main hall comes into view. Topsy pulls into the driveway and parks in one of the spots in front of the library.  Then they walk over to Main Hall to visit the Trinity Deli and get coffee and a sandwich. They take their food and saunter around the campus before choosing a bench in front of Cuvilly Hall and eating al fresco. 

Tuptim: (Unwrapping her sandwich) ...So, how does it feel to be back? It's a lovely campus.

Topsy: (Looking around) Kind of weird. I lived here in Cuvilly for my Junior and Senior years. It was a crazy time. My roommate and I walked down to Catholic University the day Fr. Charlie Curran did his Martin Luther act after Humanae Vitae was released. We just went down to see the action, but I suppose we got lumped in with his supporters.

Tuptim: (Laughing)...Wow! Let me touch you. You're a bit of living history.

Topsy: (Giving her a withering look)...It does make this an appropriate place to discuss Chapter Eight's assault on the faith. Rebels like Curran and the 500 other theologians who signed the Statement of Dissent published in the New York Times were deep into moral relativism. (They eat for a few minutes in silence.)...And moral relativism seems to me to be the strategy in this exhortation. From chapter to chapter the format seems the same. Chapter Eight, for example, starts out with the ideal of marriage and immediately undermines it with talk about "concrete situations" that can't meet the ideal and "gradualness." The document implies that gradualness means the gradual conversion from sin bit by bit. But the law of gradualness in Catholic morality really means growing in holiness AFTER conversion -- that we don't become saints overnight, but work toward holiness gradually overcoming our sins and faults.

Tuptim: I noticed that too....It treats all the reasons for cohabiting and NOT getting married sympathetically including that weddings are too expensive. And then here....(reading)...paragraph 296..."there is a need to 'avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations' and 'to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition.'" Well, duh...sin IS a distressing condition.

Topsy: (Pointing to a highlighted paragraph in her copy)...and look at paragraph 298...(reading)..."The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations...." There's that word again.....(continues reading)..."a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment." God forbid we should pigeonhole sins in a box labeled sins.

Tuptim: (Pensively and putting out her left hand)...On the one hand a pastor ought to encourage a couple in a sinful situation not to lose hope. (Pauses and puts out her right hand)...On the other hand, he also ought to be urging them to fix that situation and be giving them counsel on how to do it.

Souls falling into hell...
Topsy: Absolutely! But to give them the "Church is a field hospital" speech and tell them they can go to confession and Communion while continuing to live in sin is....well, at the risk of being politically incorrect....from the devil. Think about what sacrilege does to the soul who receives Communion in mortal sin. I sure wouldn't want to risk it!

Tuptim: (With mock shock)...Oh c'mon. Does anyone believe in the devil these days?  After all, as Bishop Barron says, we have a reasonable hope that all men will be saved." And the pope obviously agrees. In paragraph 297 he says, "No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel."

Topsy: (Shaking her head)...Well then, I guess Jesus was just kidding when he warned people about falling into Gehenna. A person can have that hope, but I don't think it's very reasonable. And neither did my favorite theologian, Fr. Hardon. He says there's a limit to God's mercy, that He won't be mocked.

Tuptim: So what's the limit?

Topsy:  "Man's willingness to return to God. Hell is what happens to a person who resists God's mercy." And the Blessed Mother confirms it. At Fatima she showed those little children a vision of hell with souls falling in "like snowflakes." She said many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray or sacrifice for them. So if you believe all are saved, you have to believe Our Lady is a liar. Sorry, hell is real and I sure don't want to go there by the sin of presumption.

Tuptim: One paragraph that disturbed me very much was 301 when it said those in "irregular" situations, (in an aside)...Don't you love the scare quotes?... can't be said to be living in mortal sin even if they aren't ignorant of the seriousness of what they're doing. And then the next statement was that it might be necessary because of their "concrete situation" not to act differently without committing a further sin. (Rolling her eyes)...Keep sinning because if you don't you're sinning.

Topsy: Wow! That sure sounds like convoluted reasoning. If everything is "open and dynamic" like the document says, where's the rock? We can all make excuses for continuing a sinful situation if that's what we want to do. I can think of lots of situations in my youth when I rejected God's grace in favor of my own sinful rationalization. 

Tuptim: (Laughing)...Okay, no true confessions here.

Topsy: (Giving her a look)...Not to worry. I save that for the (pause)..."torture chamber." I'll have to ask my confessor if he enjoys torturing me..

Tuptim: What about the infamous footnote 351?  That's what Fr. Z called it.

Topsy: I don't see how it can be read as anything other than allowing pastors to absolve couples from the requirement to amend their lives before returning to Confession and Communion. And did you see where the pope didn't remember the footnote? Did he even read the document? He urged reporters to see what Cardinal Schonborn said at the press conference. There's absolutely no doubt that the document will be used to change the practice and allow those in invalid marriages to return to Communion. The dissenters are all chortling that changing the practice will ultimately make people ignore the doctrine even though there's no formal change. In fact there can't be. The document is just the pope's opinion, but that won't prevent people being led into sin by it.

Tuptim: I feel like we've gone back to the '60s. Follow your badly-formed conscience and don't worry
about those rigid rules. God is so nice, He will never call you to account. In fact, the Pillsbury Dough Boy will be there on Judgment Day with frosted cinnamon buns.

Topsy: I know what you mean, but in my wildest dream I never thought I'd see it coming from the pope. (Stops to think)...But, after all, why not? There've been lots of bad popes throughout history.
St. Athanasius

Tuptim: Well, I guess the answer is to pray and study the faith and listen to the sound voices. There are still a few of them in the Church.

Topsy: Thank God! I'm reading Bishop Athanasius Schneider's evaluation of both the Synods and the pope's exhortation. What a difference from AL. The papal doc is confusing and ambiguous; Bishop Schneider is as clear as a bell.

Tuptim: He's certainly well named. St. Athanasius fought heresy and we need an army of heresy hunters today.

Topsy:  (Clearing up the trash from their lunch)...Let me show you the Notre Dame Chapel. It's beautiful. Gorgeous marble!  (In a wry voice)...Unless it's locked. Wouldn't that be a metaphor for this university where the faith has pretty much been stamped out and replaced by the values of the modern world.

To be continued....

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