As I noted in my last post, the Correctio Filialis has continued to stimulate a level of debate which, among other things, vindicates the supposition of the signatories that the debate would benefit from a document of this kind: something fairly long, fairly technical, hard-hitting, but respectful. We have confronted both sides of the debate on Amoris laetitia with views and documentation which invite and even oblige them to increase their undersatanding of the issues.
It is hard to know how this debate looks to hitherto uncommitted Catholics. What must be evident to them is that, following the 800,000-strong 'Filial Appeal' not to change the teaching, the 'dubia' of the four Cardinals, the the open letter of Profs Finnis and Grisez, the appeal to the Cardinals of the '45 Theologians', and so on, opposition to the liberalising agenda on Holy Communion and divorced and remarried Catholics is not going away but, if anything, rising to a cresecendo.
Furthermore, this opposition is being taken increasingly seriously at extremely high levels of the Church, and it seems to have been the Correction which has brought this about: perhaps by virtue of being the last straw on the camel's back. Increasinly weightly people are being wheeled out to criticise the Correction, such as Rocco Buttiglione and Mgr Fazio of Opus Dei. Even more siginficantly, without weighing in on the debate itself, both Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Parolin (the Secretary of State, commonly regarded as the most senior person in the Church after the Pope), have suggested that what is needed is debate: not, as one might have imagined, that what is needed is the ignoring, sidelining, or punishing of those giving voice to our concerns.
Some critics of the Correction, such as Austen Ivereigh, have compared it to the campaign against Humanae vitae by theologians wanting to allow the use of contraception, in 1968. The comparison is indeed an interesting one. One the one hand, the anti-HV campaign demonstrated how a small number of intellectuals can make a huge difference to the application of official policy in the Church, given certain conditions. One of the necessary conditions is wider sympathy; another is the incapacity of Rome after Vatican II to embark on the kind of crackdown which Pope St Pius X waged against modernists in 1910.
But here is a contrast. By issuing Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI nailed the Church's colours to the mast. He made it clear not only that the prohibition on contraception was the policy, but that it was the unchangable teaching of the Church. His teaching was merely reiterating what the Church had always taught. Amoris laetitia is a very different document, and those worried about it are defending, not attacking, the Ordinary Magisterium. The more intelligent of Amoris' defenders realise that they must insist that this has indeed not been changed. This puts them in a bind.
You cannot be criticised, ultimately, for supporting the teaching of the Church. The worst that can be said about the substance of criticisms of Amoris, therefore, is that this criticism exagerates or misunderstands what it says. That being so, the argument inevitably leads to the same conclusion as the Correction itself: there should be a formal clarification.
This is why it is so interesting that Cardinals Müller and Parolin are calling for dialogue, which for them is a simply a polite way of asking for clarification. Indeed, a formal dialogue might even provide the necessary face-saving opportunities to make a clarification politically possible, perhaps under the next Pope. Those behind the liberalising agenda know, however, that any clarification means closing the gap between what Amoris appears to allow, and the previous teaching and practice of the Church, in favour of the latter.
The reason for this is that once you get a group of serious Catholic theologians into room to talk about it, everyone has to admit that neither teaching nor disciplinary practice is open to change. The teaching on the nature of the Blessed Sacrament and the Indissolubility of Marriage is part of the Deposit of Faith. The practice in Confession of not absolving unrepentent sinners is intrinsically related to its nature as established by Divine Law. The practice of refusing public sinners communion is also a matter of Divine Law, as reiterated famously by the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts as recently as 2000.
Ok, does anyone disagree? Would anyone like to try the experiment? Then join with the signatories of the Correction and the Dubia Cardinals in begging Pope Francis to issue a authoritative clarificatiom.