Anyone who follows closely news about the Catholic Church knows there has been much controversy regarding the interpretation of Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia ‘The Joy of Love.’ Some bishops’ conferences have gone to far as to say it opens the way for Holy Communion for those who are divorced and civilly remarried without having obtained a Decree of Nullity for the first marriage.
Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, was among the first to come out with an interpretation of the Holy Father’s teaching in continuity with the teachings of previous popes. He also beautifully ties in our Anglican/English Catholic heritage in A Pledged Troth.
Rather, he did exactly what a pastor should do. He taught the faith, both with charity and clarity. A Pledged Troth remains the official interpretation of Amoris Laetitia within the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the North American Ordinariate set up by Pope Benedict XVI back in 2012 to preserve the Anglican Patrimony. If you want to know what Amoris Laetitia means in the North American Ordinariate, you must read A Pledged Troth.
For a man who was never officially an Anglican himself, he showed that he is quite familiar with the struggles that former Anglicans have endured under the Anglican Communion, and writes as a man joined to us not only juridically, but in spirit as well. He writes as if he had lived through it, and this is likely because he is surrounded by those who have. Anglicanism was founded over a conflict concerning marriage.
Anglicans who tried to remain faithful to Biblical teachings on marriage were literally persecuted in the Anglican Communion, and remain so to this day. They are denied proper pastoral oversight. They are denied the right to dissent. They are told they must submit or they are “disobedient” and “bigoted.” This, compounded with the unorthodox ordination of women to the priesthood, has caused many traditional Anglicans to leave the established Anglican provinces.
You see, objective truth is absolute. A sin is always a sin, regardless of the circumstances. While circumstances can reduce a sinner’s guilt to almost negligible, even reducing a mortal sin to a venial one at times, a sin is still a sin nonetheless. This is where the Anglicans have erred, and this is where Catholics must not follow them. Anglicanism has made this error in just about every area of Christian sexual ethics, proposing that a sin is only a sin for some and not for others; remarriage after divorce, artificial contraception, abortion, homosexuality, same-sex “marriage,” etc. Catholics cannot follow this, and this is the reason why we in the Ordinariates fled Anglicanism. Yes, we brought with us (into the Ordinariates) those traditions and customs that Anglicanism and the Catholic Church have in common, but no more. We left the moral ambiguity and relativism behind. We came to Rome with the renewed and energised understanding that a sin is always a sin, and objective truth is absolute. Like I said, circumstances can reduce a sinner’s guilt in some cases, even to the point of changing the sin from mortal to venial, but the action itself never ceases to be a sin, and the person who did it is not absolved from sinning until confession and repentance takes place.
A Pledged Troth expresses the ONLY way we former Anglicans can interpret Amoris Laetitia, and it serves as a template for how other Catholics in North America, and around the world, might interpret it as well.