Many scholars and theologians think that, at best, certain statements in the papal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia are ambiguous, with some possible interpretations being heresy. For this reason, forty-five theologians have appealed to the Vatican for what they see as errors in Amoris Lateitia to be corrected [henceforth herein “AL”] so the Exhortation will not proclaim heresy. For them, there are nineteen possibly heretical statements that are deserving of “theological censure.” Some of these are:
“No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!’ (AL 297).
“It is [sic] can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin’” (AL 301).
“Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective.” (AL 303).
If these words mean that no one will be condemned to Hell forever, this is the “mercy heresy,” the heresy that God’s mercy somehow trumps His love and His justice —and that God did not mean it or even got it wrong when He said things like: “These shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” (MT 25:46).
Many Church Fathers, scholars, and theologians throughout church history and at present consider these statements to be heresy; and the creation, for promoting whatever agenda, of this heresy is the making of a god who is not god, a golden calf of mercy. For example, in his work Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus says, to those who said that God’s mercy would ensure that everyone would go to heaven, that they were creating another god, a god who was not the God of Holy Scripture, a god who was not revealed in the person of Jesus Christ (more detailed discussion at my Mercy Uber Alles? St Irenaeus Says “Heresy;” Catholic Stand, Feb. 27, 2016.
St. Irenaeus refers to another heresy at play here, besides the “mercy heresy.” It is that the ambiguous words of Amoris Laetitia can mean that Jesus was not as good as He could have been, that Jesus of the New Testament could be better. Plain and simple, this heresy is, like so many others down through the centuries, that Jesus of Holy Scripture was not perfect, i.e., that He was not divine. It is as if in response to God’s question of Job – “Will we have faultfinding of the Almighty by a critic? (Job 40:1)- the answer is now that Yes, God’s critic is alive and well.
If, however, it is assumed these heretical interpretations of Amoris Laetitia mentioned above are incorrect, that these words are not ambiguous, if we assume that the literal meaning of “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel “ is correct, some troubling questions then arise.
How, if Amoris Laetitia is accepted as a new gospel, how will unrepentant sinners not suffer the everlasting torments in Hell that God declared? If sinners continue in sin and know they are sinning, and they die while continuing in their sin, without repentance (“repentance” including the decision not to sin again), how is this going to work – this mercy-effected divinely-forced Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card?
Ambiguous, Heretical Interpretations
Another possible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia’s ambiguity is that some things taught to be sin since Moses came down from Sinai and since the Gospels were inspired are acts of goodness, if only they are subjected to divine mercy; e.g., that living daily in adultery is virtuous, regularly engaging in voluntary homosexual acts is loving, continual unrepentant pederasty or bestiality can be saintly, and serial murder most foul can have a smidgeon of righteousness, just enough of the idea of brotherly love, to enter heaven when inoculated with God’s mercy. These are not incorrect stretches of the words of Amoris Laetitia to other moral situations. Paragraph 297 of Amoris Laetitia refers to “everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves;” Paragraph 301 to “all those in any ‘irregular’ situation;” and Paragraph 306 to “In every situation.”
The premises for what follows are: that none of the possible ambiguous, heretical interpretations listed above is true (although they are); and sinners continue in their sin ‘til the moment of their deaths.
In trying to accept it as a (possible) teaching of Amoris Laetitia that no Hell is forever, and give it a non-heretical meaning, it must be that God’s mercy does something, Jesus the merciful is all that he can be, and sinners enter heaven. This seems impossible – unless the free will of the sinners either does not exist; or, somehow, the sinners are compelled, against their free will, to repent and turn back to God. This logically possible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia results in the conclusion that when the unrepentant sinners die and are judged, as they certainly will be, God does some “mercy” thing to them, without them ever rejecting their sins, without them ever saying “Thy will be done.” They then proceed as members of a heavenly choir, haloed, singing “non-serviam” for all eternity.
It is impossible – that either un-free moral robots enter heaven or that unrepentant sinners enter heaven – for two reasons: 1. God made each person in His image and part of that image is that each person can act freely, sinning being a free rejection of God; and 2. God will not force a person to act against free will via some compelling kind of “mercy” or any other of His actions. That is, in essence, another heresy to the effect that God did not make free will totally free or that men, in the image of God, are mere animals when it comes to free will – not so “good” as God declared them to be. This contradicts each place in Holy Scripture in which God says He made us in His image.
The ambiguity of the words of Amoris Laetitia is the only thing about them that is crystal clear. A true shepherd will explain these words in accord with the teachings of the magisterium and of Holy Scripture, dissolving the ambiguity, or he will revoke them. A hireling with a non-pastoral agenda will let these words stand as written.