Quick Hits: the most perceptive columns on Amoris Laetitia and the dubia

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 30, 2016

Many gallons of ink—or maybe I should say millions of pixels—have been spent in analysis of the heated debate over Amoris Laetitia and the dubia raised by the four cardinals. Among the most useful analyses (leaving aside several that have already been posted on this site) are these:

  • Ross Douthat of the New York Times takes note of the undeniable fact that, faced with the dubia, “His Holiness Declines to Answer.” Douthat agrees with me that this silence is tactical:

    For now, he seems to be choosing the lesser crisis of feuding bishops and confused teaching over the greater crisis that might come (although who can say for certain?) if he presented the church’s conservatives with his personal answers to the dubia and simply required them to submit.

  • For the Catholic Herald, Father Mark Drew reflects on “How the ‘dubia’ drama will end,” and concludes that before the confusion over moral principles is resolved, the world’s bishops will need to weigh in on the question, perhaps even at an ecumenical council. For now, he writes:
    The Pope is in a difficult position. If he were to state that the principles taught by St John Paul II were no longer part of the Church’s teaching, he would cause a theological earthquake.
  • Father James Schall offers his considerable wisdom on “The Concern“ for Crisis magazine, reminding us that Catholics do not accept the notion that faith and reason are in opposition. Nor do we believe that moral laws can be set aside in the interest of some sort of practical wisdom. The application of moral law may be difficult, but setting aside the moral law is dangerous.
    The sinner can always, as Aquinas intimated, give some sort of reason for what he does. There is no such thing as an absolutely “evil” act. Evil always exists in some good that can be articulated, and even praised. On the other hand, we too must “discern” spirits that are leading us away from our own good and from God. How we observe the commandments are signs of the direction in which we are going.
  • Responding to the intemperate statements issued by some of the Pope’s most perfervid defenders, the reliable canon lawyer Edward Peters observes that it is unreasonable to suggest that prelates should be punished for asking questions, and in any case, “Cardinals in the Church have rights, too.”

  • Finally, writing on a more general topic for The Catholic Thing, David Warren regrets that bishops have all too often been silent on important moral questions. Warren contrasts this silence with the courageous stand that Cardinal Clemens August von Galen, the “Lion of Münster,” took against the Nazi regime, and laments what he sees now as “The Silence of the Lions.”
    The faithful are told, by this silence or (more often) incoherent mumbling, that when it comes to the witnessing of Christ and Christ’s teaching, they are on their own.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: feedback - Dec. 01, 2016 9:07 AM ET USA

    I hope that the whole, somewhat chaotic, discussion will teach and solidify two things: 1. The primary importance of Mercy being the expression of Charity, and equally important, 2. Mercy is never stripped of Truth and Reason; it never needs to be.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 30, 2016 9:55 PM ET USA

    I don't often question Fr. Schall, but this time I must. He said: "Evil always exists in some good." I guess my concern is a matter of precision. By my understanding, evil is not a being, but rather a privation of a being or of a good. Thus evil can _inhere_ in a being, but cannot _exist_. It's sort of like an accident, an appearance of something that requires a being to serve as its basis. For example, a red wall exists because of the wall, not because of the red. It appears red as an accident.