My Commentary on the Declaration of Truths (part 2)

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]

The Law of God

12. A justified person has the sufficient strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the Divine law, since all of the commandments of God are possible for the justified. God’s grace, when it justifies the sinner, does of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin (see Council of Trent, sess. 6, Decree on Justification, c. 11; c. 13).

~ Trent also teaches that we fallen sinners cannot avoid all venial sin, not unless we have the special grace of God (as in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Avoiding all mortal sin is possible, yet we know that many of the faithful do sin gravely. That is why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

~ I would be remiss if I did not point out the severe hypocrisy of this section of the Declaration of Truths. Two of the signatories, Burke and Schneider, are guilty of schism and grave scandal for openly opposing the Roman Pontiff. Bishop Athanasius Schneider is guilty of heresy on the subject of salvation. And for his support of the book Infiltration, Schneider is guilty of formal cooperation with the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. For that book accuses the Church of having been infiltrated by Satan, which is tantamount to saying that Christ has a demon. Since the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, the accusation is literally an example of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So for a Bishop who has publicly sinned so gravely to lecture the faithful — and implicitly the Roman Pontiff — on the obligation to avoid grave sin, is an absurd extreme hypocrisy.

13. “The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord. Love of God and of one’s neighbor cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit” (John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 76). According to the teaching of the same Encyclical the opinion of those is wrong, who “believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the Divine and natural law.” Thus, “these theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition” (ibid.).

~ Veritatis Splendor is referring specifically to intrinsically evil acts in the above quotes. The paragraph separates the teaching from that context. The “theories” in question are those that deny intrinsically evil acts. So the quotations from Veritatis Splendor are misrepresented above.

~ The other issue with the use of the quotes from Veritatis Splendor, especially the first quote, is that we cannot apply the requirement to follow the commandments of the Church to non-Christians who might have invincible ignorance about the need to follow Church teaching. So a non-Christian who loves God and neighbor, and who follows his own conscience is in the state of grace and is saved, even though he does not obey the Church’s commandments.

14. All of the commandments of God are equally just and merciful. The opinion is, therefore, wrong that says that a person is able, by obeying a Divine prohibition – for example, the sixth commandment not to commit adultery – to sin against God by this act of obedience, or to morally harm himself, or to sin against another.

~ The commandments of God vary by degree in their requirements on the faithful, and in how much one would sin by violating that commandment. But no one holds this wrong opinion. It is an implied false accusation against Pope Francis, based on well-known criticisms of Amoris Laetitia. It is an uncharitable interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. However, obeying the divine commandments, even those that forbid grave sin, can be difficult for fallen sinners, especially for Catholics who are not particularly devout or prayerful, and who find themselves to be weak in faith and prone to certain sins. The Church should treat such persons with mercy, and not tell them to obey or stay away.

15. “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God, which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium, vitae, 62). There are moral principles and moral truths contained in Divine revelation and in the natural law which include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid certain kinds of action, inasmuch as these kinds of action are always gravely unlawful on account of their object. Hence, the opinion is wrong that says that a good intention or a good consequence is or can ever be sufficient to justify the commission of such kinds of action (see Council of Trent, sess. 6 de iustificatione, c. 15; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17; Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 80).

~ True. But again this seems like an implicit accusation against Pope Francis. Yet he has never denied the teaching of Veritatis Splendor on intrinsically evil acts. So the Declaration is promoting false accusations against the Roman Pontiff, implicitly.

16. A woman who has conceived a child within her womb is forbidden by natural and Divine law to kill this human life within her, by herself or by others, whether directly or indirectly (see John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 62).

~ Grave Error. Direct abortion is infallibly condemned by Evangelium Vitae as always gravely immoral (n. 62). The text specifically says “direct abortion”. Every student of Catholic moral theology knows that indirect abortion is not intrinsically evil, and therefore can be moral, depending on intention and circumstances. This condemnation of indirect abortion is a grave moral error.

~ The signatories of this Declaration are implicitly accusing Pope Francis of error on intrinsically evil acts, and yet the Declaration itself contains this error of confusing the intrinsically evil act of direct abortion with acts of indirect abortion which are, by definition, not intrinsically evil. They are guilty of what they falsely accuse the Pope of having done.

17. Procedures which cause conception to happen outside of the womb “are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act” (John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 14).

~ True. Why do we need a document issued by schismatic and heretical Bishops in order to present to us a series of quotes from documents actually issued by the Roman Pontiff and the Magisterium? It seems that this small group of Bishops is usurping the Magisterium and saying that only those teachings of the Magisterium are true which they also approve and teach. Also, I think the phrasing “morally unacceptable” should be stronger. I would say: “intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.”

18. No human being may ever be morally justified to kill himself or to cause himself to be put to death by others, even if the intention is to escape suffering. “Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 65).

~ Same comment as for n. 17. The quote from Evangelium Vitae is good. The phrasing of the first sentence is vague and somewhat confusion, something they accuse Pope Francis of doing. The section that says “or to cause himself to be put to death by others” is not correct as it is phrased. For the same reason that indirect abortion may be moral, it can be moral to indirectly be the cause of one’s own death. Example: Saint Maximillian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another prisoner in a concentration camp for an “experiment” that was reasonably anticipated to cause his death. Yet he is a martyr, not someone guilty of Euthanasia.

~ Thus, the authors of this Declaration of Truths are displaying before the whole Church that they have a poor understanding of Catholic truths. Yet they think to correct the Pope, to accuse him of grave error, and to exalt themselves as if they were the Magisterium itself. These Cardinals and Bishops are not experts in moral theology, appartently.

19. Marriage is by Divine ordinance and natural law an indissoluble union of one man and of one woman (see Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-9; Eph 5:31-32). “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 48).

~ There are two types of marriage: the Sacrament of Marriage and natural marriage. Marriage is not indissoluble. Both types of marriage are dissolved by death. An unconsummated sacramental marriage may be dissolved by the profession of religion by one spouse (Council of Trent). A consummated natural marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian, or of two non-Christians may be dissolved by the Petrine or Pauline privileges, respectively. So a blanket statement that marriage is indissoluble is simply not correct.

~ The Sacrament of Marriage is only between one man and one woman. But by divine dispensation, natural marriages of the Patriarchs and other Jews in Old Testament times were permitted to have more than one wife. Since God does not dispense from intrinsically evil acts, it cannot be intrinsically evil for a natural marriage to have more than one wife. However, the union is between one man and each of his wives separately, it is not a group marriage, but multiple marriages. Since the time of Christ, this dispensation is revoked.

~ Again, the Declaration of Truths present errors, inaccuracies, and confusion.

20. By natural and Divine law no human being may voluntarily and without sin exercise his sexual powers outside of a valid marriage. It is, therefore, contrary to Holy Scripture and Tradition to affirm that conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God, although one or both persons is sacramentally married to another person (see 1 Cor 7: 11; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 84).

~This should have been phrased as “may voluntarily, knowingly, and without sin,” since some persons mistakenly think they have a valid marriage, only to receive an annulment years later.

~ Again this seems like an implicit reference to complaints and false accusations against Amoris Laetitia. Pope Francis did not approve of sex outside a valid marriage. He simply acknowledged the weakness of sinners and the difficulty they may have in understanding and accepting requirements of the moral law and the Church’s teaching.

21. Natural and Divine law prohibits “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” (Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae Vitae, 14).

~ Many conservative Catholic commentators, including Dr. Janet E. Smith, Dr. Ed Peters, Jimmy Akin, Jeff Mirus, and others have claimed that the Church has only condemned the use of contraception within marriage, and that no prohibition from magisterial teaching against the use of contraception outside marriage exists.

Smith goes so far as to opine that the use of a condom in fornication lessens the physical and moral evil as compared to fornication (or “mutual masturbation”!!!) without use of a condom.

Smith: “As sources of physical evil, perhaps both mutual masturbation and condomized fornication are less evil than simple fornication since both have less risk of resulting in pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, which is worse: engaging in an act that is defective as a human act (an act of condomized fornication) or an act that potentially does significant harm (an act of noncondomized fornication by the fertile or those having an STD)? Perhaps condomized fornication is a lesser moral evil, but it is still clearly a moral evil.” [Smith, Janet E.. Self-Gift: Humanae Vitae and the Thought of John Paul II (Renewal Within Tradition) . Emmaus Academic. Kindle Edition. Location 7626]

Smith calls the intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act of simple fornication merely “defective” and gives excessive weight to the consequences of the act, while disregarding the inherent moral nature of gravely immoral intrinsically evil acts. Why don’t conservative commentator stop accusing the Pope, and start cleaning up their own ranks? Too many well-accepted conservative leaders in fact teach heresy. But if they are conservative, they are above reproach from the conservative Catholic subculture, while anyone who attacks the Pope is treated like a wise scholar and a Saint.

22. Anyone, husband or wife, who has obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom he or she is validly married, and has contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of his legitimate spouse, and who lives in a marital way with the civil partner, and who chooses to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of the act and with full consent of the will to that act, is in a state of mortal sin and therefore cannot receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity. Therefore, these Christians, unless they are living as “brother and sister,” cannot receive Holy Communion (see John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 84).

~ This is a better phrasing of this point than in other criticisms of Amoris Laetitia. Yes, all of those conditions would need to be met, including full knowledge and full consent of the will (also called full deliberation) for the sin to be actual mortal sin. But since *we cannot know if the inner conditions are met,* and we usually do not know if the remarried couple are living as brother and sister or not, what would be the basis for denying them Communion? Perhaps they should meet with their pastor, receive Confession, and then receive Communion, as long as they have not met all those conditions for actual mortal sin. And that is my reading of Amoris Laetitia as well.

23. Two persons of the same sex sin gravely when they seek venereal pleasure from each other (see Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; Rom 1:24-28; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7). Homosexual acts “under no circumstances can be approved” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357). Hence, the opinion is contrary to natural law and Divine Revelation that says that, as God the Creator has given to some humans a natural disposition to feel sexual desire for persons of the opposite sex, so also He has given to others a natural disposition to feel sexual desire for persons of the same sex, and that God intends that the latter disposition be acted on in some circumstances.

~ First, I object to the wording “when they seek venereal pleasure from each other”. I read an article by a psychologist listing 237 reasons that persons gave, in a study, for the decision to have sex (WebMD summary of the article). Limiting the condemnation of homosexual sexual acts to those motivated by seeking venereal pleasure is morally incorrect. The acts are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral regardless of the reason for seeking the act.

~ I think the wording in the CCC, that such acts cannot “be approved”, is weak. These acts cannot be approved by the Church, nor by conscience, true. But more specifically, these are acts of “grave depravity” (as the CCC also says), which are always gravely immoral, and which are more gravely immoral than simple fornication or even simple adultery. The greater the moral disorder, the graver the sin. (The CCC has many authors, so the wording is uneven.)

~ But the conclusion does not follow which says that God has not, in some sense, “given to some” a natural attraction to the same sex. There is sufficient evidence that some fallen human persons have genetic factors which influence them toward a homosexual orientation. This can be said to be given by God by His permissive will. However, it is correct to condemn all homosexual sexual acts as contrary to divine law, natural law, and the will of God.

24. Human law, or any human power whatsoever, cannot give to two persons of the same sex the right to marry one another or declare two such persons to be married, since this is contrary to natural and Divine law. “In the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, June 3, 2003, 3).

~ True. Why do we need an error-filled document to tell us this?

25. Unions that have the name of marriage without the reality of it, being contrary to natural and Divine law, are not capable of receiving the blessing of the Church.

~ True.

26. The civil power may not establish civil or legal unions between two persons of the same sex that plainly imitate the union of marriage, even if such unions do not receive the name of marriage, since such unions would encourage grave sin for the individuals who are in them and would be a cause of grave scandal for others (see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, June 3, 2003, 11).

~ It is for the Magisterium to decide this question. Practically speaking, the Church does not control the civil authorities (even though She has authority from God over civil authorities). And in a pluralistic society, people have the right to follow their own consciences.

27. The male and female sexes, man and woman, are biological realities created by the wise will of God (see Gen. 1: 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 369). It is, therefore, a rebellion against natural and Divine law and a grave sin that a man may attempt to become a woman by mutilating himself, or even by simply declaring himself to be such, or that a woman may in like manner attempt to become a man, or to hold that the civil authority has the duty or the right to act as if such things were or may be possible and legitimate (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2297).

~ True. It is problematic, though, that all these numbered points are phrased as if they were dogmatic canons of an Ecumenical Council, while in fact they are the work of five Cardinals/Bishops — two who are retired, and who do not have the authority to issue teachings to the whole Church.

28. In accordance with Holy Scripture and the constant tradition of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, the Church did not err in teaching that the civil power may lawfully exercise capital punishment on malefactors where this is truly necessary to preserve the existence or just order of societies (see Gen 9:6; John 19:11; Rom 13:1-7; Innocent III, Professio fidei Waldensibus praescripta; Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. III, 5, n. 4; Pius XII, Address to Catholic jurists on December 5, 1954).

~ The point of dispute, beginning with Pope Saint John Paul II, is whether a proper evaluation of the circumstances would judge that capital punishment is still, or is no longer, “truly necessary”. Persons may disagree in such evaluations of temporal circumstances. So the paragraph above does not settle the question. The death penalty is not intrinsically evil. But to be moral three good fonts are needed, not only one.

29. All authority on earth as well as in heaven belongs to Jesus Christ; therefore, civil societies and all other associations of men are subject to his kingship so that “the duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2105; see Pius XI, Encyclical Quas primas, 18-19; 32).

~ True. Ironically, the authors of this document have usurped the authority given by Christ to the Roman Pontiff. This document clearly makes implies accusations against the Vicar of Christ. Further, it is written as if it were a series of dogmatic canons, and yet the document has no real authority, except upon the subjects of the local ordinary of Astana, Tomash Peta, Archbishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana [Kazakhstan].

More on this document in a future post.

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.

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3 Responses to My Commentary on the Declaration of Truths (part 2)

  1. Rob says:

    I think you are being uncharitable towards the writers of this document here, at no point are they accusing Pope Francis of anything.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is absolutely clearly implied, esp. the point about God not positively willing the diversity of religions, in the same way as the diversity of sexes or nations. That is the accusation of heresy made against Pope Francis. Also, one of the signatories, Bishop Schneider, did a foreword for the book Infiltration, which also makes grave false accusations against the recent Popes and the Church herself. Uncharitable? No. I have to defend the Church.

    • Paragraph # 28 is clearly against Pope Francis’ decision of the prudential order that the death penalty is today inadmissible (no longer admissible) due to more effective systems of detention. This decision is a progression of Pope St. JP2’s teaching on the subject for he also previously tweaked the CCC in order to permit it on rare occasions. Currently, the CCC #2267 even teaches and acknowledges that the death penalty was previously appropriate.

      In a similar vein, the Church considered cremation inadmissible in the past, but not any longer. So certain decisions change according to the circumstances of the times.

      Also, incest in the collateral line* (between brothers, first degree siblings) is today inadmissible. But it was permissible at the beginning of the human race for procreation due to the circumstances.

      So we see that there are certain acts that are *not* intrinsically evil but can become admissible or inadmissible depending on the circumstances of the times.

      *incest in the direct line (parent/child-grandparent/child) is intrinsically evil.

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