BOSTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A major conference opens in Massachusetts Thursday to discuss the implementation of Amoris Laetitia in the United States, and its members are well-known liberals in the Church.
Organized by Cdl. Blase Cupich of Chicago and Boston College theologian Fr. James Keenan, the two-day gathering will bring together two cardinals, 12 bishops and 24 other prominent theologians and clergy.
"Amoris Laetitia: A New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice" will feature five panel discussions examining how U.S. bishops might harness — and channel — the "new momentum" Amoris Laetitia promises to provide diocesan pastoral programs.
The purpose of the conference, Jesuit Fr. Keenan has announced, is to "fortify and further the ongoing reception of Amoris" in the United States.
The conference features prominent figures from the Catholic Left. In addition to Cdl. Cupich and Fr. Keenan — both endorsers of homosexualist Fr. James Martin — attendees include:
Malta Abp. Charles Scicluna — He approved Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Scicluna has threatened to expel seminarians who disagree with his interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. He is known for ambiguous statements on contraception and for suggesting he would have no objections to teaching Catholic students Islam. Scicluna offered weak resistance in the lead-up to Malta's legalization of same-sex "marriage" in July and even endorsed "civil unions" as "a service to the dignity" of same-sex couples.
San Diego Bp. Robert McElroy — Pro-gay prelate who in defiance of Church teaching was the first bishop to publicly state that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion. In September, McElroy blasted faithful Catholics as a "cancer" in the Church. In 2016, he called for the Church to drop the terms "intrinsically disordered" and "intrinsic evil" from its vocabulary, arguing they're "judgmental."
Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro — Vatican advisor and editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, who in July penned an article attacking Church Militant and faithful Catholics for our muscular defense of Church teaching, arguing such are a component in a growing "ecumenism of hate."
Richard Gaillardetz — Boston College professor of Catholic Systematic Theology who denounces new media defense of authentic Catholic teaching as "digitally manufactured rage." Gaillardetz also laments the recent disinvitation of homosexualist Fr. James Martin and Dr. M. Shawn Copeland (who has written "Jesus is queer") from speaking engagements at Catholic universities owing to faithful Catholics rallying to protest these scandals.
Additionally, the dissident "Catholic" publication National Catholic Reporter has been selected to cover the event — one of only a handful of outlets allowed to do so.
"Amoris Laetitia: A New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice" is being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, a New York philanthropy that devotes particular attention "to work that rethinks what theology is and reimagines its contemporary significance."
Widely regarded as the most controversial papal document since Humanae Vitae, Amoris Laetitia has provoked confusion and debate throughout the Catholic world.
The heart of the furor is the document's suggestion that Church teaching on "irregular" unions — for example, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — should no longer be regarded as absolute.
"It ... can no longer simply be said that all those in any 'irregular' situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace," wrote Francis.
"It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual's actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being," he reflected.
"Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. ... By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God."
The pope also wrote that it is possible that people living in "an objective state of sin ... can be living in God's grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity while receiving the Church's help to this end."
This passage closed with a footnote, suggesting that in some cases, the Church's help "can include the help of the sacraments."
Church liberals are interpreting this to mean that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are now permitted to receive Holy Communion, free of incurring further mortal sin.
Since the document's release, bishops in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Malta and the pope's native Argentina have lifted the ban on Holy Communion for those in mortally sinful unions, using Amoris Laetitia as their justification. Bishops in Poland, meanwhile, have opposed this rejection of Church teaching.
Amid the eruption of controversy, Cdl. Raymond Burke, former chief of the Vatican Supreme Court, reaffirmed that Amoris Laetitia is not a magisterial — and therefore, not an infallible — document.
Because of the troubling doctrinal aspects in Amoris Laetitia, six interventions have been made to the Holy Father seeking clarity, the latest being the Filial Correction, which has reached more than 200 signatures.