Saturday, December 10, 2016

Finnis and Grisez appeal to Pope Francis over Amoris laetitia

John Finnis and Germain Grisez, longstanding collaborators, are extremely eminent Catholic academics. Finnis is best known as a legal theorist, and Grisez as a moral theologian, but they have had the most notable influence on the Catholic debate in their joint and several work on the ethics of sex and of killing. They have been hugely influential, having founded what is identified (though not by them) as the school of 'New Natural Law' theory. They are not 'traditionalists'; they are rather establishment figures, in the context of the 'conservative' Catholic establishment. Their weighing into this debate is of the greatest significance.

I have followed their work closely as a philosopher, and there are many areas in which my own views diverge from theirs. One of the interesting things about their letter, for me, is that I agree with every word of it.

Here is their letter. There is some more commentary on First Things.


The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia to
Support Errors against the Catholic Faith:
A Letter to the Supreme Pontiff Francis, to all bishops in
communion with him, and to the rest of the Christian faithful

In this letter, John Finnis and Germain Grisez request Pope Francis to condemn eight positions against the Catholic faith that are being supported, or likely will be, by the misuse of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. They ask all bishops to join in this request and to issue their own condemnations of the erroneous positions, while reaffirming the Catholic teachings these positions contradict.

The eight positions are these.

Position A:
A priest administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation may sometimes absolve a penitent who lacks a purpose of amendment with respect to a sin in grave matter that either pertains to his or her ongoing form of life or is habitually repetitive.

Position B:
Some of the faithful are too weak to keep God’s commandments; though resigned to committing ongoing and habitual sins in grave matter, they can live in grace.

Position C:
No general moral rule is exceptionless. Even divine commandments forbidding specific kinds of actions are subject to exceptions in some situations.

Position D:
While some of God’s commandments or precepts seem to require that one never choose an act of one of the kinds to which they refer, those commandments and precepts actually are rules that express ideals and identify goods that one should always serve and strive after as best one can, given one’s weaknesses and one’s complex, concrete situation, which may require one to choose an act at odds with the letter of the rule.

Position E:
If one bears in mind one’s concrete situation and personal limitations, one’s conscience may at times discern that doing an act of a kind contrary even to divine commandment will be doing one’s best to respond to God, which is all that he asks, and then one ought to choose to do that act but also be ready to conform fully to the divine commandment if and when one can do so.

Position F:
Choosing to bring about one’s own, another’s, or others’ sexual arousal and/or satisfaction is morally acceptable provided only that (1) no adult has bodily contact with a child; (2) no participant’s body is contacted without his or her free and clear consent to both the mode and the extent of contact; (3) nothing done knowingly brings about or unduly risks significant physical harm, disease transmission, or unwanted pregnancy; and (4) no moral norm governing behavior in general is violated.

Position G:
A consummated, sacramental marriage is indissoluble in the sense that spouses ought always to foster marital love and ought never to choose to dissolve their marriage. But by causes beyond the spouses’ control and/or by grave faults of at least one of them, their human relationship as a married couple sometimes deteriorates until it ceases to exist. When a couple’s marriage relationship no longer exists, their marriage has dissolved, and at least one of the parties may rightly obtain a divorce and remarry.

Position H:
A Catholic need not believe that many human beings will end in hell.

The letter is copyright © John Finnis and Germain Grisez; Notre Dame, Indiana; 21 November 2016. Permission is hereby given to everyone to publish electronically or otherwise this entire letter as a unit or the entire treatment of any one or more of the eight positions dealt with in it provided this copyright notice is included in the publication; all other rights reserved.
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  1. Thank you for posting this most important work re AL.
    For thse looking for the original letter (link at First Things broken) it is available here:

  2. Position H, never thought I would see the day that it will get brought up :D

    1. Isn't it amazing? I was surprised to see that. I suppose it is related to that strange statement in AL, 'no one is condemned for ever'.