Catholic World News

Papal adviser: critics of Amoris Laetitia guided by ‘intellectual Pelagianism’

August 21, 2017

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a close adviser to Pope Francis, has defended Amoris Laetitia, saying that critics of the papal document are guilty of an “intellectual Pelagianism” and caught in a “death trap.”

Archbishop Fernandez—who is widely believed to have drafted Amoris Laetitia for the Pope—said that critics are engaged in a “betrayal of the heart of the Gospel.”

In his defense of the document, published in a Latin American theological journal, the archbishop said that there should be no confusion about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, because Pope Francis himself offered a definitive interpretation in a private note to Argentine bishops.

Archbishop Fernandez answers one of the questions submitted by the four cardinals who asked for clarification of Amoris Laetitia; he says that the document does teach that some actions which the Church views as intrinsically evil—in this case, sexual intercourse outside of a valid marriage—can be justified by circumstances. He writes:

It is also licit to ask if acts of living together more uxorio should always fall, in its integral meaning, within the negative precept of “fornication.” I say, ‘in its integral meaning,’ because one cannot maintain those acts in each and every case are gravely dishonest in a subjective sense.

Archbishop Fernandez has made the same argument, in his own name, for some time. One passage in Amoris Laetitia repeats, almost exactly, a passage from an essay the Argentine archbishop wrote more than 20 years ago.

Archbishop Fernandez insisted that opposition to the papal document has come from a “small but hyperactive” minority within the Church, “an oligarchic group of ethicists.”


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Show 11 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Aug. 23, 2017 5:52 PM ET USA

    " its integral meaning." Sounds like he is invoking the "fundamental option" argument which was shot down by St. JPII in "Veritatis splendor" (VS). "...the document does teach that some actions which the Church views as intrinsically evil...can be justified by circumstances." From VS, n. 76: "Such theories...are not faithful to the Church's teaching when they believe they can justify...deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law."

  • Posted by: jackbene3651 - Aug. 22, 2017 11:01 PM ET USA

    Pelagianism is an old charge. Time to come up with some new insults for those who disagree with the Pontiff.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Aug. 22, 2017 3:03 PM ET USA

    Jesus defined adultery in terms of the act, not in terms of circumstances and conscience. Anyone who divorces their valid spouse and marries another commits adultery, no matter how heart-wrenching the story. The good man willing to help the beaten wife of Fernandez's example with shelter, economic and psychological help should and, indeed, can do so without drawing her into a second civil union that would constitute adultery. A 2nd civil union isn't essential, and only compounds her problems.

  • Posted by: rpp - Aug. 22, 2017 11:28 AM ET USA

    I do not believe that these bishops actually believe what the Church teaches. Do they even believe in God?

  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 22, 2017 1:09 AM ET USA

    Generating ever new sets of names to call the critics of chapter VIII of Amoris ("intellectual Pelagians caught in a death trap, traitors of the heart of the Gospel, hyperactive minority, oligarchic ethicists") is not going to convince anyone. To dispel the confusion generated by Amoris, Catholic faithful need more than some short private note to Argentine bishops. This is more important for the Church and for the salvation of souls than climate change or immigration.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Aug. 22, 2017 1:05 AM ET USA

    Suspect to put it mildly. "Private note"??? Dangerous to put it accurately. Anything can be justified by "circumstances" so to limit such to simply this one case is, in itself, a "death trap" from which the escape is obvious. Guess the archbishop really took it personal that his "work" should be criticized. Certainly there is absolutely nothing in his tantrum that smacks of rational defense.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Aug. 21, 2017 10:59 PM ET USA

    Another bishops phony explanation and attack on those who want a clear explanation including myself. Tired of bishops like the one from San Diego who uses the document to create confusion. It is time for some humility on the Pope's part. He is causing further division by letting his "advisors" attack us all by innuendo. God save his Church before it is too late to keep it together.

  • Posted by: Faustina01 - Aug. 21, 2017 8:10 PM ET USA

    RUBBISH! This archbishop is a good Pharisee! He delights in parsing words and phrases to escape the reality of adultery. IT IS ADULTRY! Logic and simplicity are beautifully clear when based in the Truth; those in darkness speak in confusion and stumble upon their words and feet. Speaking of illicit sexual acts, perhaps Fernandez and Francis could bother to correct their own priests for illicit homosexual acts right there in Rome weeks ago....

  • Posted by: Louise01 - Aug. 21, 2017 6:54 PM ET USA

    "no confusion about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, because Pope Francis himself offered a definitive interpretation in a private note to Argentine bishops." "PRIVATE"?? Why not explain to whole Church world??

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Aug. 21, 2017 6:53 PM ET USA

    More character assassination by Pope Francis's henchmen.

  • Posted by: Ken - Aug. 21, 2017 6:48 PM ET USA

    My head hurts.