A CDF document sheds light on Amoris Laetitia and Contraception

Here’s the document: The moral norm of Humanae Vitae and pastoral duty.

“The duty of calling good and evil by their right names in the area of responsible procreation was carried out by Paul VI with a most faithful love for Christ and for souls, particularly in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae…. Part of this very duty is maintaining that the moral norm of Humanae Vitae concerning contraception, as prohibiting an intrinsically disordered act, does not admit exceptions.”

Intrinsically evil acts do not admit exceptions. This includes the intrinsically evil act of contraception, as well as the grave sexual sins of fornication and adultery. Contraception does not admit exceptions; it is intrinsically disordered.

“The Christian moral tradition has always distinguished between positive norms (which bid us to act) and negative norms (which forbid action). Further, this tradition has constantly and clearly maintained that, among negative norms, those which prohibit intrinsically disordered acts do not admit exceptions; such acts*, indeed, are morally “disordered” on account of their own innermost structure, hence in and of themselves, that is, they are opposed to the person in his or her specific dignity as a person. For this very reason, no subjective intention and circumstance (which do not change the structure of these acts) can make such acts morally ordered.”

I’ve been arguing this point, many times, in books and articles. Veritatis Splendor teaches the same doctrine. But here it is, in this earlier document, stated concisely. The font called moral object has a certain structure; it is the structure of the knowingly chosen act itself. And that structure — specifically the ordering of the act toward its object — is what makes intrinsically evil acts always wrong to knowingly choose.

“The same Christian moral tradition just referred to, has also always maintained the distinction – not the separation and still less an opposition – between objective disorder and subjective guilt. Accordingly, when it is a matter of judging subjective moral behaviour without ever setting aside the norm which prohibits the intrinsic disorder of contraception, it is entirely licit to take into due consideration the various factors and aspects of the person’s concrete action, not only the person’s intentions and motivations, but also the diverse circumstances of life, in the first place all those causes which may affect the person’s knowledge and free will. This subjective situation, while it can never change into something ordered that which is intrinsically disordered, may to a greater or lesser extent modify the responsibility of the person who is acting. As is well known, this is a general principle, applicable to every moral disorder, even if intrinsic, it is accordingly applicable also to contraception.”

And now we come to the part that affects Amoris Laetitia and the discipline for Communion. There is a difference between an objectively disordered act (e.g. adultery) and the subjective guilty. An objective mortal sin is not always also an actual mortal sin. Therefore, persons who are guilty of objective mortal sin might be admitted to Communion, in some cases, if the act is not also an actual mortal sin due to the various factors — “the diverse circumstances of life — which reduce culpability.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

*[The word “nets” corrected to “acts” according to the Italian text.]

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39 Responses to A CDF document sheds light on Amoris Laetitia and Contraception

  1. Paul M. says:

    Council of Trent, Session VI, CANON XVIII ON JUSTIFICATION “if any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.”

    You make my case stronger by presenting this canon; for, I am arguing that God’s grace is sufficient to overcome any situation of sin. You deny this by asserting that some situations are not “feasible” to change, and conclude then that what is not feasible is also not possible. This canon refutes that, insisting that the commandments are, in fact, possible to keep.

    Council of Trent, Session VI, CANON XXIII ON JUSTIFICATION .- “If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.”

    Again, you strengthen my point. I am arguing that it is very possible for a man to take a vow and then turn his back on it. The man had a good intention, then he falls and finds himself in a grave situation. This canon makes it clear that a man can be saved on one day and lose his salvation on the next. You seem to be extracting more out of it than it says.

    • Marco says:

      “You make my case stronger by presenting this canon; for, I am arguing that God’s grace is sufficient to overcome any situation of sin”

      As i said, God gives Grace sufficient enough to avoid each and every actual mortal sin.

      “You deny this by asserting that some situations are not “feasible” to change, and conclude then that what is not feasible is also not possible. ”

      It is not possibile in that situation, yes. That canon condemned the protestant which taught that keeping the commandments was ABSOLUTELY impossible for every men, for they hold the doctrine of total corruption.

      But this doesn’t mean that mitigating factors don’t exist and that when a person commits an objective mortal sin she is always culpable.

      You are arguing from a simplicistic point of view.

      “ Again, you strengthen my point. I am arguing that it is very possible for a man to take a vow and then turn his back on it. The man had a good intention, then he falls and finds himself in a grave situation. This canon makes it clear that a man can be saved on one day and lose his salvation on the next. You seem to be extracting more out of it than it says.”

      You are playing words games.

      That Canon states that every man sins, and that it is not possible for a man to avoid each and every sin, even the venial ones, unless he was blessed like the Holy Virgin.

      Since objective mortal sins can, sometimes, be venial sins due to mitigating factors which reduce freedom (and thus culpability) we cannot say that the divorced and remarried are always subjectively culpable and outside of the state of Grace.

      I’m not extracting anything, i’ve reported the exact content of the canon.

    • Marco says:

      Also, you have conveniently overlooked what the cardinals of the Dubia said
      http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351414bdc4.html?eng=y

      “the question of the admission to the sacraments is about judging a person’s objective life situation and not about judging that this person is in a state of mortal sin. Indeed, subjectively he or she may not be fully imputable or not be imputable at all.”

      “Question 3 of the Dubia, hence, would like to clarify whether, even after Amoris Laetitia, it is still possible to say that persons who habitually live in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, such as the commandment against adultery, theft, murder or perjury, live in objective situations of grave habitual sin, even if, for whatever reasons, it is not certain that they are subjectively imputable for their habitual transgressions.”

      They admit that a divorced and remarried might be subjectively in the state of Grace (even though they wanted to retain the old discipline). Why? Because mitigating factors, such as “ affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2352) might be present.

      I’ll say it once again: that canon condemned the protestant point of view that man is inherently corrupt and incapable of doing good, it didn’t condem the fact that, in a given situation, a person might not be subjectively culpable for an objective mortal sin due to a limitation of freedom and the other mitigating factors mentioned above.

      If your point of view was true, objective mortal sin would always entail actual mortal sin and nobody could have mitigating factors that reduce the culpability.

      But the council of Trent stated that venial sins (and even objective mortal sins might be venial sins, when the mitigating factors mentioned in the Catechism 2352 are present) cannot be avoided unless you have been particularly blessed.

      What i said is true: the Grace of God is sufficient to avoid each and every ACTUAL mortal sin, not each and every sin.

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