|Take the key of repentance and
unlock the treasury of mercy
Editor's Note: I thought the insights and comments in this article were interesting enough to deserve a separate post. I hope my readers agree. Repentance is the key that unlocks the treasury of mercy. When was the last time you went to Confession?
by Catherine Donner
This article is in response to your post from Friday, May 5, 2017 entitled ‘This Disastrous Papacy and the Big Question!’ However, my comments will not address your Big Question.
My first comment is on your quotation from EWTN: ‘This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra…’ Surely the important word here is authentic. The current pope frequently makes statements contradicting the perennial teaching of the church. How can these be regarded as authentic?
This comment is made just in passing and the second of my comments is the real object of this missive. You ask, perhaps rhetorically ‘How many other doctrines have been undermined by this pope in his other statements and writings?’ I shall attempt to provide a very non-rhetorical answer.
My answer does not directly involve doctrines. While Amoris Laetitia (AL) disastrously undermines the three sacraments of Eucharist, Confession and Matrimony, my analysis is altogether much more serious for the Pope had effectively subverted the entire mission of the Church before AL appeared. Many have noted the lack of requirement in AL for repentance. But this lack is first found in Francis’ Misericordiae Vultus (MV), the Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year of Mercy. Mercy is mentioned 164 times in the text, but repentance only once [Section 17]. Confessors, we are told, must always embrace the repentant son just like the ‘father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance’ in the parable of the prodigal son. The implication of this that the father runs out to embrace the son without knowing whether or not he is actually repentant. The word repent does not appear anywhere in MV and nor does either contrite or contrition and nor does the idea of any purpose of amendment. This is not just the elephant in the room, but so big it appears that no-one has noticed.
Before you assume I have become completely bonkers, may I note that it is not my idea and two great saints have taken the same view. Now to my saints: St Augustine and St Thomas More. It concerns Genesis 3 and the story of the Fall, and in particular the chronology.
Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent, or rather Eve is tempted first and succumbing to the devil’s wiles, she tempts Adam who also eats the fruit. They remain in the garden, making fig leaves for themselves and hide when the Lord God walks in the garden. God asks them why they are hiding, Adam replies that they hid because they were naked. When God asks who told them and asks whether they had eaten of the tree in the middle of the garden, they both make excuses, but they are still in the garden. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent: the original blame game. Neither repent. God tells the serpent of his fate to be cursed, etc and of the enmity between him and the woman. God proceeds to tell Eve of her woes in childbearing and subjection to her husband and Adam of his destiny of labour and toil. It is only after this that God casts Adam and Eve out of paradise. It is only after they have not only failed to repent but also have failed to take personal responsibility for their actions that they are banished. They did not receive unconditional mercy for they did not repent.
We all hear so much about these days about the God of Mercy, but if mercy can be obtained without contrition, repentance or any purpose of amendment, then why did God not extend that mercy to Adam and Eve? The simple answer is that God does indeed require repentance, amendment, contrition, etc and that its lack is what determined the fate Adam and Eve and the rest of us. But if God, like an indulgent grandfather giving sweets [you in the USA call it candy] to the grandchildren regardless of their behaviour during the previous week, dishes out mercy here, there and everywhere, what is the point of the Incarnation, Our Lord’s Passion, the mission of the Church, the priesthood, the sacraments, prayer or virtue, etc? Mercy without repentance/contrition/amendment is a complete impossibility and this attack in Misericordiae Vultus is on the nature and foundations of the Church. (Never mind the God of Surprises!)
I originally found this in the works of St Thomas More (whom I am studying for a postgraduate degree) and both he and St Augustine state the same: that Adam & Eve’s excuses made the original disobedience worse. More observes that it was at the point immediately after God enumerated the woes that would fall to mankind that their banishment from Paradise occurred, while St Augustine says that their excuses do not excuse but, on the contrary, accuse. Excuses and justifications rather than repentance led to Adam & Eve’s expulsion from the garden. If a lack of repentance or even admission of guilt did not work then, it is not going to work now.
Either I am mad or this is such an enormous problem that, apparently, no one sees it.
I hope this is useful, and not too long. For your information: the reference to St Augustine is from The City of God, Bk 14, Ch 14. The references to Adam & Eve made by St Thomas More are to be found in A Treatise upon the Passion, which is Volume 13 in the Yale edition of The Complete Works of Thomas More. The page numbers are 18/6-8; 22/27-30; and 53/14-20. [This is the only available edition.] There is another reference in More’s Dialogue concerning Heresies, Volume 6 of the same edition, page 405/6-7; and one reference in More’s Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, page 308/32-309/2. One reference unconnected with Adam & Eve, but on the same topic is: Imitation, Bk I, Ch 2, No 1: ‘We often do amiss, and then do worse by excusing ourselves’.