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The logic of Amoris Laetitia now infects Vatican diplomacy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 17, 2018

The latest of a series of articles on Vatican-China talks* posted on the Vatican News site tackles the question of how the Holy See could recognize bishops who were ordained without Vatican approval, and thus subject to excommunication:

The path to the legitimisation of the Chinese Bishops ordained without the mandate of the Pope is not and cannot be, then, a cold bureaucratic act; rather, it must be a journey of genuinely and profoundly ecclesial discernment, whereby particular cases are evaluated in order to determine whether the essential conditions exist, such that a given Bishop could be readmitted into full Catholic communion.

Doesn’t that language sound familiar? A “profoundly ecclesial discernment” leading to “full Catholic communion”? Doesn’t that match the approach suggested in Amoris Laetitia?

So this is the “paradigm shift” we’ve heard so much about. You shouldn’t violate the integrity of your marriage or of the Catholic hierarchy; you shouldn’t commit mortal sin or get yourself excommunicated. But if you do, a process of “discernment” can make everything right—with or without any change in what you’re doing, with or without any purpose of amendment.

(These Vatican News backgrounders provide no new information about the actual content of current negotiations between Rome and Beijing, which are being conducted quietly, as befits diplomatic talks. But the articles implicitly assume that widespread rumors are accurate, and that a proposed agreement would allow for the recognition of bishops who were illicitly ordained and the removal of some “underground” bishops who have remained loyal to the Holy See. The Vatican News articles tilt heavily toward acceptance of such an arrangement.)

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 See full bio.

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