Lay Conference in Rome Seeks Clarity on ‘Amoris Laetitia’

by Trey Elmore  •  •  April 19, 2017   

The latest plea to the pope for clarity

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ROME ( - A Vatican expert is reporting on a conference for the laity seeking clarity on Pope Francis' post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Marco Tosatti said Tuesday that the conference, to be held Saturday, April 22, at the Hotel Columbus in Rome, has gained criticism from local press, citing a headline referring to the organizers of the conference as "hardline Catholic rebels."

One of the spokesmen for the conference wrote, "In this respect it is right and necessary to reiterate that this will not be an act of public mutiny against the Pope nor will it place an ultimatum, let alone be the first step in a schismatic journey."

The conference is featuring several speakers and presentations, including "The Need for Consistency of the Magisterium with Tradition: Examples in History" and "Indissolubility of Marriage: Good for Society."

According to Tosatti, the conference "will be first of all a public reflection by laymen from all over the world on ambiguous passages contained above all in Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, a document of the Magisterium that gave rise to very divergent interpretations within the Catholic world, such as we have seen — to create great confusion in those who want to remain faithful to the Church's social doctrine in matters of marriage."

The meeting is the latest in a series of efforts by bishops and laity alike to seek clarification on Pope Francis' document. The dubia, published by Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican's Supreme Court, along with three other cardinals, asked the Holy Father to provide yes or no answers to the following questions:

  • Is it possible to grant absolution to couples living "in a marital way" without an annulment or amendment of life?
  • Are there still absolute moral norms which are binding without exception?
  • Does a person who habitually lives outside of God's law find him or herself in an objective state of grave sin?
  • Is it still true that circumstances or intentions do not transform intrinsically evil acts into "subjectively" good or defensible acts?
  • Is Pope St. John Paul II's teaching on the role of conscience in Veritatis Splendor still valid?

The dubia has itself been the subject of controversy, prompting Pope Francis to respond to critics of Amoris Laetitia as legalistic and possessing a "black and white" view of faith and morals.

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a community associated with the Ecclesia Dei Commission and administers the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form and is in full communion with the Church, has also published a critique of Amoris Laetitia.

The upcoming lay conference in Rome is one of several initiatives and petitions asking the Holy Father for clarity from among the laity. In 2016 a "Declaration of Fidelity to the Church's Teaching on the Indissolubility of Marriage," also known as the "Filial Appeal," was published and has gained over 34,000 signatures as of this writing.

In the summer of the same year, 45 theologians signed a letter to Pope Francis asking for clarity. There have been multiple letters from scholars appealing to the Holy Father to clear up confusion stemming from Amoris Laetitia. All of this developed within months of the publication of the document.

Amoris Laetitia or The Joy of Love is a response to two synods at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, both addressing the subject of the family. In March 2014, a year after the election of Pope Francis, German cardinal Walter Kasper addressed a group of cardinals and gave a speech in support of a new "pastoral" solution to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, proposing admission to Holy Communion to such couples without a declaration of nullity or a resolve on the part of the parties to separate or live as "brother and sister," that is, in continence as taught by Pope St. John Paul II in his 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

Since the publication of the Pope Francis' letter, various bishops' conferences, individual bishops and ecclesial communities within the Catholic Church have planted their respective flags on orthodox or heterodox interpretations of the document. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the community established by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, published a pastoral letter A Pledged Troth, which maintained continuity with Church teaching and discipline. The German bishops, in contrast, have said that couples in adulterous unions may be admitted to Holy Communion.


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