The Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia, and his letter to the Bishops of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region confirming its implication for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, has engendered a number of doubts (or dubia) as to its Catholic orthodoxy. These objections have come from the all levels in the Church, not just formally from at least four Cardinals, but also:
- Lay Catholics on social media.
- Catholic commentators in traditional media.
- Catholic theologians and scholars in open letters.
While Pope Francis himself has not chosen to address all of these objections, there has been some attempt to address at least those posed by the four Cardinals by those who may be presumed to speak on behalf of Pope Francis, including Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Rocco Buttiglione.
However the wide array of objections raised by different people, which are both complex and sometimes inconsistent, has meant many have not been addressed. While some defenders of AL have suggested the authority of the Pope and the two Synods on the Family is sufficient to answer these objections, a document can’t be defended on terms which itself explicitly rejects (Amoris Laetitia 35):
“Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them”. [Emphasis added unless noted otherwise]
Accordingly, in light of Amoris Laetitia’s own call for a “responsible and generous effort to present the reasons”, this Apologia will instead provide in the words of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman “answers to objections brought against the actual decisions of authority” (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).
The most prominent objections which have been raised against Amoris Laetitia in the public debate, including but not limited the dubia of the four Cardinals, may be summarised under the following headings:
This Apologia will demonstrate, with reference to each of these objections, that Amoris Laetitia neither contradicts nor even develops the doctrine of the Church. It will further show that while Amoris Laetitia changes Church teaching, in the sense of its disciplines, these changes are of a purely pastoral nature which are within the authority of the Pope to alter.
Please note the response to each objection in this Apologia is self-contained. Therefore, it can either be read from start to finish, or a reader may without difficulty skip directly to a particular objection by clicking on the above headings.
Alternatively, for those readers who prefer an overview, a brief summary of the objections and this Apologia’s replies are provided at 9.0 Abstract and Conclusion.
Abbreviations and Sources
In this Apologia the following abbreviations are used for sources and key concepts.