Joyful, Fruitful Racism

pope francis, pope, papal, papacy

pope francis, pope, papal, papacy

Around the world, from the local parish to the highest levels of the Vatican, the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) has been interpreted by some to justify, even to elevate to the level of virtue, actions of some of the faithful previously taught to be sinful. Examples include ongoing public adultery and public homosexual relationships. Also, some interpretations of AL, particularly Paragraphs 297, 299, 310 and 312, have been read not only to condone and accept, but to require, that such sinners – who in some cases according to the principles of AL are no longer sinning –  be “integrated” with “joyful and fruitful experience” into the public life of the ecclesial community.

Adultery, Yes. Racism, No?

Recently an anomaly has arisen – anomalous if the new moral principles of Amoris Laetitia are to inspire and govern the Church’s actions and, as AL states clearly,  apply to “everyone” in every “situation.”  On the one hand, there are those who preach welcoming forgiveness, merciful acceptance, and open inclusion of certain sinners; but on the other hand,  racist sinners are to be, and some now have been, condemned, segregated, and shunned.

Amoris Laetitia demands that sinners, and this must include racists, be welcomed always (AL, 299).  Racists, especially unrepentant racists, have not been welcomed with the unconditional mercy of AL.  Following recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the U.S. bishops established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, chairman of the committee,  said racism was America’s “original sin.” There have been many vehement, instant, and absolute condemnations, for example:

Bishop Daniel Flores, Brownsville, Texas: “Racism is a grave sin rooted in pride, envy and hatred. It suffocates the soul by means of expelling from it the charity of Christ.”

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln: “Pray for an end to the evil of racism. And pray, especially today, for its victims. Pray for justice and mercy in our nation.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and domestic justice chairman Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., issued a statement condemning “the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism.”

Father Trail, priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago: “All clergy have a duty and obligation to stand up for equality, to stand up for the downtrodden…We have to reclaim the moral authority to not be afraid to be in the public square and say we’re not going to stand for this. We’re not going to stand for bigotry and hatred and violence, that those go against God’s law.”

He also said that he welcomes voices in the church who condemn these actions.

Such condemnations are condemned by Amoris Laetitia: “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.”  (AL, 305).

Every Situation? Everyone?

By its own terms, Amoris Laetitia covers everyone and every action, including some  previously taught to always be sin, and some actions that in the past have been described as “intrinsic evils” for which circumstances and intentions cannot nullify or justify the evil.

But the Church  . . . is a place for everyone. (AL, 310).

No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone in whatever situation they find themselves. (AL, 297).

I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church. (AL, 312).

This  author has yet to find anyone at any level – papal, college of cardinals, Vatican congregation, bishops, priests, theologians, professors – who has publicly stated that it must be done, and it is morally correct, that  the principles of Amoris Laetitia are applicable to and must be applied to active, unrepentant racists in the same way that these principles have been used to justify ongoing adultery and accept ongoing homosexual activity .

The recent condemnatory  treatment of racists, by some – no matter how explained – undercuts the declared absolute scope of the new morality of  Amoris Laetitia.


(a). AL is mistaken in its statements that the new moral principles apply to everyone in all situations and that no one is condemned forever; or

(b). There are exceptions to AL moral rules, rules stated as absolutes, for which no exceptions are ever mentioned in AL; and there are  criteria or standards for  exceptions not explicitly presented.

Unstated Exceptions to AL’s New Absolute Rules

Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine a further and more detailed future papal document explaining the how and the why of exceptions to AL’s absolute declarations that does not negate their status as rules, destroy their role as moral principles, and undermine their use as the foundation of a new ecclesiology.

Regarding racism, there are no statements in AL, including no ambiguous statement, like these:

The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever, except unrepentant racists.

I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone in whatever situation they find themselves, except prejudiced bigots who never repent of their sins.

AL Mandated Integration – Supremacist EMs, Racist Ushers, Lector Bigots?

Amoris Laetitia explicitly requires that continuing adulterers be welcomed in the Church community and be allowed to take part in  – be “integrated” into – the life of the Church (AL, 299, 310, 312); this despite the fact that, in day-to-day ecclesial life, the ongoing adultery of these people will be public knowledge in the parish or diocesan community.  Racists, according to the clear implied requirements of AL, must not be excluded. To paraphrase the application of AL, Paragraph 299 to racists:

The participation of active racists can be expressed in different ecclesial services; which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in liturgical, pastoral, educational, and institutional framework, can be surmounted.

Paragraph 299 goes on to say that Holy Mother Church “welcomes them always.” As this ecclesial welcome is mandated now for public adulterers and some who publicly make it known that they voluntarily engage in homosexual activities, it is also true for baptized public racists – as it must be if the stated principles of AL are indeed principles that are to be accepted and followed. AL makes no exception for public racists and their actions, nor does it exclude them from God’s infinite mercy – ALL (with no asserted exception) are to be “integrated” into full participation in Church life. AL requires this not only with respect to adulterers, but if AL’s new moral principles are correct, with respect to everyone; e.g., public racists, abortionists, pederasts, torturers, pedophiles, serial rapists, and even schismatics and heretics – and to some of these who in their “internal forum,” after discernment by their pastor, believe they are not sinning and who will continue their actions.

Go And Sin On More

Amoris Laetitia proclaims that actions previously taught to be sinful can, depending on the circumstances and intentions of the actor, be non-sinful:

Hence it 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 . . . A subject may know full well the rule . . . be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  (AL, 301).

It is possible that in an objective situation of sin . . . a person may be living in God’s grace. (AL, 305).

Discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.  (AL,300; Footnote 336).

As it does for  some adulterers, AL must – unless it is changed, explained, or supplemented – be heard to proclaim that some racists do not sin. For AL there is no longer anything that is “intrinsically evil”. This is despite the fact that in the lead up to recent elections, the catholic bishops told us, in no uncertain terms, that racism and abortion were intrinsic evils – i.e., that there are no circumstances or intentions that could render these actions neutral or virtuous.

In some situations AL  accepts and provides justification for the ongoing adultery of some adulterers; thus, it must also must be heard to assert that some racists continue on in sanctifying grace and  that these racists may persist  in their racist actions while continuing to receive the sacraments.


The conclusions here follow from the meaning, intent, point, purpose and a correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. If it is alleged that these conclusions are in error, this cannot be the result of misunderstanding of the words of the text, or of faulty logic, or of errors in reasoning; but can only be the result of the ambiguity, for some the studied purposeful ambiguity, of Amoris Laetitia itself.

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20 thoughts on “Joyful, Fruitful Racism”

  1. I recognize I’m about 18 months late with this comment, but if you’re still around – There is nothing to decide, Peter. It’s an encyclical. Therefore, it can’t be in error:

    Although, obviously, there can be and IS plenty of error in the understanding of its readers. So, what does somebody who’s confused about the teaching of Amoris do? Just ignore it. “Ignore and infallible teaching by the pope?!?” Yes! Because there is nothing in it that is new, dogmatically speaking. Protests to the contrary not withstanding, the encyclical does not alter the fundamental teaching of the Church in any way. It merely attempts to “flesh it out” more fully than before by diving into semi-specific examples. People who have a hard time perceiving life in the color in which it exists are having a hard time wrapping their minds around what a rainbow looks like. And there are many such people in the world, unfortunately. Thus, all the dust up.

  2. Guy, it’s been a year and a half since this piece was published but that obviously doesn’t mean the controversy has ended. So, I’m going to jump in here and comment “well after the fact.”

    Let me start by registering my…well… astonishment over the article. It makes a handful of assertions that simply can’t be backed by a careful reading of the actual document (Amoris). And then you conclude the article with a rather breath-taking assertion that it’s not possible for you to be in error in any way. It’s the supreme pontiff that HAS to have written the encyclical wrong.

    Here in the comment box, on Sept. 20th, 2017, you “soften the blow” just a bit by asserting, “And further-if I am wrong and confused-me a member of the laity wishing to be led and cared for by shepherds and pastors who truly care whether or not I go to heaven or hell – then it is up to them, to Jorge Bergoglio, to those who wrote AL, to the bishops of the world, to clarify AL and dispel my confusion. Unless of course they cannot or they will not.”

    So, apparently, you’ve cracked open the door to the “very remote” possibility that you’re wrong, but then go on in your final sentence to insinuate that the pope and multiple bishops have apostatized. Prior to that, in your Sept. 20th comment, you insinuate that the pope and bishops are responsible for supervising the comprehension skills of every single believer on the planet. All billion and a half of us. Where is this idea coming from?
    Certainly, our shepherds have a responsibility when they teach, to teach clearly. There is no justification for asserting that they can just “say whatever they want to say because that’s their prerogative as a bishop.” However, again, the clarity of the teaching and the ability to comprehend it are two separate subjects. The pope and bishops are responsible for the former. Not the latter. The responsibility for the latter remains squarely with the individual believer.

    Maybe so, but if they care for my soul, wouldn’t they want to clear up any confusion that their teaching has inadvertently caused – whether it’s their “fault” or completely mine? Many would, indeed. But logistics? How much time do the pope and bishops have, do you think, to go around “tutoring” every one of the faithful who don’t grasp their teaching immediately? Consider also that, conscious of it or not when asking, there are some queries that don’t deserve an answer.

    When Jesus stood before Herod in Luke 23 and Herod questioned him, eager to know what Jesus had to say, Jesus didn’t say a word. Why? Because He knew that, deep down, Herod didn’t REALLY want to hear what he had to say. So, there was no sense in wasting time responding. I invite reflection on the direct parallel, noting that I am not attributing “sinister” motives to everyone who questions the document. Peter was VERY sincere in Matthew 16 when he exhorted the Lord to reconsider the whole perceived need for Him to suffer. And he was sincerely wrong. So wrong that, immediately after making him the Church’s first pope, Jesus condemns him as an adversary (“satan”).

    The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.

    “What is too sublime for you, do not seek,” says Sirach 3. “Do not reach into things that are hidden from you. What is committed to you, pay heed to; what is hidden is not your concern. In matters that are beyond you do not meddle, when you have been shown more than you can understand. Indeed, many are the conceits of human beings; evil imaginations lead them astray.”

    Our faith commands that we give others – the supreme pontiff and bishops, most certainly included – the benefit of the doubt. If Amoris Laetitia is “more than you can understand”, please don’t take that out on the rest of the Church by making so bold as to denounce something that, as an encyclical, the Lord has guaranteed cannot be in error in the first place:

    The Lord be with you.

  3. Dear Peter-There are many – me included – in that “confusion” boat with you. A shepherd should do what is necessary to dispel our confusion. A shepherd – looking to save not only the 99 but the 1 like me and you, should respond to anyone who has doubts – esp doubts that can have an effect on a person’s immortal soul and its place for eternity. In latin: doubts: dubia. Guy McClung, Texas

  4. Vat2 Lumen Gentium, “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of
    infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever,
    even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of
    communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically
    teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as
    definitively to be held.”

    The “bond of communion” is the key. What we are seeing now are a FEW bishops putting into practice what they interpret as the correct way to lead their flock as it was ineptly defined by Francis. It is not the time to make up our minds, it is a time to insist on respect for tradition until agreement on one position at variance with tradition is definitively held.

    1. Those bishops that are silent are in the majority. Until most declare themselves nothing can be perceived to have changed. Your diocese or parish may change, but our eye is on the entire Church for guidance for a different direction.

      This is why I don’t feel confused over AL, I question it. Confusion is exhibited by the Pope and his closest followers.

  5. As one who went through the long and somewhat uncomfortable annulment process, I am less than completely sympathetic with AL. As a Yankee Catholic living in Alabama in the 1960’s I can safely say that today’s howling “progressives” have not a clue what real racism is. It is treated as little more than the flavor of the day because no consequences attach to accusations for political purposes and few, if any, suffer any effects of racism that that are no legal remedies for. When these ignorant students get to the real world of competition and struggle, one wonders how they will ever survive.

  6. Not only that, Guy, but according to AL, racists can know with a certain moral security that this is what God is actually calling them to do. That is, God WANTS them to remain actively racist and to persist in racist activities, because it’s just to hard to stop. I mean, what if my racist second “husband” would leave me and my kids, with no means for our support, if I refused to actively participate in his Klan rallies and cross burnings?

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  8. Your conclusion — that unrepentant adulterers and unrepentant racists must be welcome — is necessitated by your gleeful and uncritical embrace of Trump, who fits both categories in a way we have never seen in a President or even a Presidential candidate.

    But of course it *can’t* apply to Hillary Clinton, whom you have called an “evil force”, right?

    1. Sometimes it’s hard to tell Catholic Stand columnists from hateful right-wing trolls. Looking forward to your next column. And Guy’s.

      “Living the Truth the Church teaches.”

    2. First of all a troll, trolls.

      Second, if all you have is an emotional outburst telling us how you have categorized a person, you have nothing to share. One “I am unhappy” is more than enough, and no one cares.

    3. I asked the writer how he squares his tolerance of Trump with his intolerance of Hillary Clinton. You responded with an insult. End of conversation. Proverbs 14:7.

    4. Trump Derangement Syndrome hits the Catholic blogosphere! Tell me, someone, do I get a pass, thanks to Amoris Laetitia, for enjoying the pain of trolls like captcrisis? I mean, it’s becoming more entertaining and more accessible than baseball or football these days, a real national sport!

    5. Dear Capt Crisis-My conclusion is not “that unrepentant adulterers and unrepentant racists must be welcome.” My conclusion is that the new morality and the new ecclesiology of Amoris Laetitia lead to conclusions that are contrary to the magisterium, contrary to Jesus’s words in Holy Scripture, and contrary to many accepted doctrines of the Church. And, then, that Amoris Laetitia’s new principles are simply wrong. Those who accept them or tout them must, if they are to be true moral principles, agree that their scope extends beyond ongoing adulterers etc and cover – as the text says – “everyone” in every “situation.” But the accepters and the touters are NOT in such agreement, and this is evident in the actions of those who now condemn e.g. “climate heretics” and racists.

      And further-if I am wrong and confused-me a member of the laity wishing to be led and cared for by shepherds and pastors who truly care whether or not I go to heaven or hell – then it is up to them, to Jorge Bergoglio, to those who wrote AL, to the bishops of the world, to clarify AL and dispel my confusion. Unless of course they cannot or they will not.

      For the record, I do not and have not gleefully embraced Trump, but I would – and did – embrace with utter joy anyone ABC, anyone but Clinton, anyone not of the Democrat Party Of Death who not only supports but promotes and celebrates over 3000 child murders a day in the USA, and wants us all to pay for the murders and the accompanying black genocide. Any such Democrat is indeed an evil force. And now that is ALL democrats since, undemocratically, they will not allow a democratic discussion of abortion within their Party Of Death. Guy McClung, Texas

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