New questions have been raised about Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, as it emerged that controversial passages closely resemble those in two articles written by one of the Pope’s Argentine advisers.
The blogger Sandro Magister has pointed to resemblances between Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia and writings by Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, a theology professor at the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Archbishop Fernández is known to be a close associate of Francis, and to have helped draft the exhortation. Magister describes him as the exhortation’s “ghostwriter”.
However, the revelations suggest that some of Amoris’s most contentious paragraphs – relating to “situations of sin” and “mitigating factors” – had their origin in Archbishop Fernández’s articles, which gave a critique of John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
In the two articles, written in 2005 and 2006, Archbishop Fernández reflected on the Catechism’s teaching that those who commit grave sins are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin.
The Catechism states that mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace”, and that if it is not repented of, it leads to “the eternal death of hell”.
But the Catechism adds: “Although we can judge for ourselves that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.”
In the 2006 article, Archbishop Fernández argues that this could apply to Catholics who have difficulty understanding or obeying Church teaching, and are unable to follow it. Quoting another writer, he discusses situations where someone “does not find himself in subjective conditions to act differently or to understand ‘the values inherent in the norm’, or when ‘a sincere commitment to a certain norm may not lead immediately to verify the observance of said norm’.”
This passage seems to be consciously echoed in Amoris Laetitia’s paragraph 301: “A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent values’, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”
This paragraph of the exhortation has been criticised by theologians including E Christian Brugger, who argued that it apparently goes against Church teaching: “This seems to contradict the defined doctrine in Trent on Justification, canon 18: ‘If any one says the commandments of God are impossible to keep, even by a person who is justified and constituted in grace: let him be anathema.'”
The suggestion that this and other passages – including paragraphs 300, 302 and 305 – are chiefly the work of Archbishop Fernández will add to the controversy over Chapter 8 of the exhortation.
When asked about footnote 351 of the article – which made an ambiguous reference to access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried – Pope Francis said he could not remember it.
Earlier this month Robert Spaemann, one of the most highly-regarded Catholic philosophers in Europe, told an interviewer that he thought the document contradicted Church teaching.