I am proud of Bishop Steven Lopes’ response to Pope Francis’ Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love.
He did a masterful job of weaving the Pope’s teaching on accompaniment and integration of those whose circumstances are fragile with the constant teachings of the Church on marriage. He also wove in our beautiful liturgical patrimony to show how this constant teaching has been reflected in the liturgy of our marriage rite that has now been re-integrated into the Catholic Church.
Bishop Lopes gives us a great example to follow in how we discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the Holy Father, interpreting his teachings through the lens of what the Holy Spirit has also said to us through previous Popes, through Scripture, through the Church Fathers, through the whole deposit of faith. Continuity. Consistency. Communion. Communion that includes the Communion of the Saints, that great Cloud of Witnesses.
I hope the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter will post the text of Bishop Lopes’ homily from the lovely Chrism Mass of April 6.
I recall from viewing the online streaming (you can access the video at the link), Bishop Lopes spoke of the importance of priests in our far-flung diocese not acting as “Lone Rangers” but in communion with their bishop. And we, as lay people, are also called to communion in the Body of Christ.
I love the word Communion. And of course, priests must be in communion with the bishops, who are in communion with the Holy Father. There is a docility to the Holy Spirit implied here, as He is the one who makes true communion, true unity in Christ possible. We who made the journey into the Catholic Church as communities, seeking unity and Communion know this can be costly and requires great humility.
But I sometimes, when I observe the world scene and some bishops’ conferences, I see Communion—the ideal—devolving into collegiality. Sometimes, instead of Communion centred on Christ and supernaturally derived, a more natural approach takes over and collegiality, staying on the same page, becomes a pressure to conform or, at the very least, to stay silent. This can result in a lowest common denominator approach to national responses to some issues, because behind the scenes bishops do disagree with each other on many things, including tactics and unanimity can be hard to achieve.
For many of our priests, there were painful past experiences in their lives as Anglican clergy with Anglican bishops who veered into novel theories about sacraments such as Holy Orders and Marriage, and who began to exercise an iron hand of authority because they were the bishop and their clergy concerned about orthodoxy were not. Authority, when it has the power of Christ behind it, and the force of the Holy Spirit, does not need earthly power and the tools of dictatorship to enforce it, does it? Oddly enough, it does seem to go with the territory that the more one departs from the authority Christ imparts, the more the, well, a “dictatorship of relativism” takes hold. And some of the most intolerant people in the world, in my experience, have been relativists preaching tolerance.
On a slightly-related note, this story by Edward Pentin came to my attention this morning regarding interpretations of Amoris Laetitia.
On behalf of Pope Francis, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri has reportedly sent a letter to Malta’s bishops to thank them for their guidelines on applying the controversial Chapter 8 of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).
The Maltese website Newsbook reported April 5 that the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops sent the letter of gratitude to co-signatories of the guidelines, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, but did not give any further details.
The bishops’ document, published Jan. 13 and entitled Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, drew strong criticism from some theologians, canon lawyers, and some Vatican officials who argued that it appeared to assert the primacy of conscience over the objective moral truth.
The bishops stated in the guidelines that some remarried divorcees can receive Holy Communion after a period of discernment, with an informed and enlightened conscience, and if they are “at peace with God.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if Bishop Lopes got an approving letter for his document?