The reception of Frederic Martel’s widely anticipated book In the Closet of the Vatican has been surprising. The tantalizing hints dropped before the “bombshell,” “salacious” book’s release exclaimed, “80% of Vatican priests gay.” After an initial international media flurry, the book has dropped out of sight. Two questions arise in my mind. First, what, if anything, can we infer from this deeply flawed book? Second, what did Martel believe he was accomplishing?
The author, Frederic Martel, is a self-described “French gay atheist.” His overarching theme is that the Church’s stance on homosexuality is hypocritical and harmful. Many priests are living “double lives,” professing Church teaching by day and seeking homosexual sex by night.
The solution, in Martel’s mind, is to change Church teaching so that these clergy can live openly homosexually active lives. In this, he, no doubt, has many supporters, both inside and outside the Church.
A conference, held at the Vatican, is called “Biological Extinction.” What is this all about? What magisterial weight, if any, does it carry?
“The Vatican” is a broad term that can be misleading. In this case, the conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Council of Science.
According to Wikipedia: “The new members of the Academy are elected by the body of Academicians and chosen from men and women of every race and religion based on the high scientific value of their activities and their high moral profile. They are then officially appointed by the Roman Pontiff.” Thus, the Pope is ultimately, though indirectly, responsible for its membership.
Among the guests was the unrepentant population controller and population scare-monger Paul Ehrlich. (He predicted that millions would starve in the 1980’s from overpopulation.) In the meantime, population decline is rapidly becoming a far greater problem than over-population. (I can’t believe anyone still takes this guy seriously.) The UK Guardian reported: “A world population of around a billion would have an overall pro-life effect, Ehrlich argued. This could be supported for many millennia and sustain many more human lives in the long term compared with our current uncontrolled growth and prospect of sudden collapse.”
PAS President Peter Raven said that because of the threat of overpopulation, “we need at some point to have a limited number of people which is why Pope Francis and his three most recent predecessors have always argued that you should not have more children than you can bring up properly.”
Faithful Catholics will recognize this statement as being so misleading that it is a lie. As I said to the Christian Post, an evangelical outlet:
“Of course, the popes have said that people should consider how many children they can bring up properly. But this has never meant population control by governments, or unnatural contraception. Pope Paul VI was very clear on these points. So was Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict. And in fact, so is Pope Francis,” Morse said.
I would add that no pope has ever cited “overpopulation” as part of their reasoning. This statement by Peter Raven is a pathetic attempt to enlist the moral authority of the Catholic Church and the Papacy for his ideological agenda that has nothing to do with the salvation of souls.
What is inexplicable: Peter Raven is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, (not the President of the PAS.)
Does this body speak ex cathedra? It does not. The charism of papal infalliability does not extend to the statements of Pontificial Academies. Nor does it extend to the selection of members to Pontifical Academies, or to the invitation list of Pontifical Academy meetings. Whoever put together this guest list, could have found responsible environmental scientists who are not tainted by population control apologia.
The Catholic Church is the only major institution on earth that has stood fast against the human rights catastrophe of governmentally enforced population control. Pope Paul VI famously predicted it in Humanae Vitae Paragraph 17. The Church has stood against it.
The Chinese “birth control police” numbers over 1 million, arguably the largest law enforcement agency in the world. When a family has an “illegal child,” meaning a child for which they do not have a government “birth permit,” the birth control police may just come along and knock down their home.
We do not have to listen to the pronouncements of these academies. One crop of fallible knuckleheads invited another crop of fallible knuckleheads to a meeting inside Vatican City. That is all.
Faithful Catholics have agonized over how to deal with Pope Francis. We want to be true to the teachings of Jesus Christ, whom we love, and His Church, which we also love. Yet one of the teachings of that Church is that the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. How do we conduct ourselves when the Pope says something that seems to contradict the magisterial teachings of the Church, which were themselves promulgated by popes and saints and fathers of the church and Sacred Scripture? That is the situation we face today.
Our first responsibility is to tell the truth.
The Pope is incorrect.
Notice I do not say that the Pope is “wrong,” as that implies moral culpability. Nor do I say that he is “mistaken,” as that implies honest mistakes. I do not know his state of mind. Neither do you. Nor do I have the authority to judge or sanction him. Neither do you, unless you wear a red beanie. So, let’s get that out of our minds. Agonizing over things we cannot know, cannot control, or have no legitimate authority over: that is a waste of time. We cannot afford to squander our energy.
The two Synods on the Family, called by Pope Francis and the publication of Amoris Laetitia under his name, created confusion about key Catholic doctrines that had been clear. Pope Francis was incorrect to create this confusion.
The Famous Five Dubia of the Four Cardinals succinctly summarize the doctrinal situation. The answers to these questions are not difficult, if one intends to read Amoris Laetitia in harmony with the settled magisterium of the Church.
The answers are:
1. No, a divorced and civilly remarried person living “in a marital way” with another person cannot licitly receive communion.
2. Yes. Veritatis Splendor is still valid. There are still absolute moral norms that are binding without exception.
3. Yes. a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery, finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin.
4. Yes, Veritatis Splendor is still valid. “Circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice.”
5. Yes. Veritatis Splendor is still valid. “Conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object.”
Pope Francis has the authority and the responsibility to dispel this confusion. He is incorrect to allow the confusion on these points to remain.
But, what about papal infallibility? If we allow ourselves to think that Pope Francis is incorrect, aren’t we somehow denying the teaching of papal infallibility? I don’t think so.
Strictly speaking, he has not taught ex cathedra that divorced and civilly remarried people can receive communion. Both supporters and critics of Amoris Laetitia have argued that it does not actually change doctrine. The heterodox practices and teachings have emerged from the cloud of confusion.
Let us be clear: the pope’s letter to the Argentine bishops is not an ex cathedra pronouncement. Neither is a press conference on an airplane. The teachings of the bishops of Malta are fallible. So are the twitter feeds of papal associates.
Pope Francis has come right up to the edge of making an official magisterial pronouncement. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit Himself is preventing Pope Francis from crossing that line. In which case, his refusal to answer the dubia may be a blessing.
Nonetheless, he is not fulfilling one of the most basic duties of his office: to protect the Deposit of Faith, as handed down to us from the Apostles.
Dealing with this crisis of truth, in a Christ-like manner, requires us to be scrupulously truthful ourselves. That means saying only what we know to be true. Speculation about motives, intentions and states of mind does not serve us or the Church. It is a distraction, from doing what we can and should be doing, (which I will discuss in a future post.)
I will not promote this post myself in any way, except on my personal Facebook page. I close with this prayer:
Lord God, if these words be of service to the Church, let them be spread far and wide. If my words be not helpful, let them die here in obscurity. Amen.