Berlin’s Archbishop Cites Amoris Laetitia in Possible Preview of Post-Synodal Outcomes

Berlin’s Archbishop Cites Amoris Laetitia in Possible Preview of Post-Synodal Outcomes
Berlin’s Archbishop Cites Amoris Laetitia in Possible Preview of Post-Synodal Outcomes

Concerns over preserving the integrity of the Catholic faith in light of the Synod on Synodality are being highlighted, with prelates already beginning to practically reject doctrine while facing no censure from the Vatican.

In recent weeks, a German prelate made a lengthy announcement that had moderately little impact in the English-speaking Catholic news circles. Berlin’s Archbishop Heiner Koch issued a five-page letter to his clergy on August 21.

Quoting extensively from Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia and more recent comments made by the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Victor Fernández, the Berlin prelate wrote about same-sex couples thus:

“As long as the status quo exists on the question of blessing couples who cannot or do not wish to marry sacramentally, I will not take disciplinary action against pastors who bless couples in their particular personal situations for pastoral reasons after a pastoral conversation that serves to form and decide on conscience.”

Abp. Koch added that he himself would not personally be offering same-sex blessings in light of the CDF’s March 2021 note clearly prohibiting such blessings. However, he clarified that he would hold this stance “[a]s long as no other decision is made by the Holy Father about the blessing of couples who cannot or do not want to give themselves the sacrament of marriage than the one presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2022 [sic].”

How Is This Possible?

Abp. Koch revealed that the German Bishops’ Conference was “doing everything we can to intensify talks with the Pope and those responsible for further clarification” regarding the Vatican’s ban on same-sex blessings.

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He also cited the recent comments made by Archbishop Fernàndez, who made the confusing declaration that he was open to offering a same-sex blessing, providing it “is given in such a way that it does not cause that confusion” concerning marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Abp. Koch’s statement thus expressed his openness to clergy offering same-sex blessings. By doing so, the German prelate does indeed directly contradict the Vatican’s 2021 note and the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church, as found through the centuries and in the Scriptures.

To make such a pronouncement, not only did he cite the new CDF prefect, but he also drew from Amoris Laetitia. This 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation led four cardinals to famously submit their Dubia to the Pope about the text. Abp. Koch quoted extensively from several passages of Amoris Laetitia, all of which he argued defended his decision to permit same-sex blessings.

The German prelate wrote how Pope Francis’ text highlighted the “mitigating factors” that are to be now employed “for pastoral discernment” about “different contexts,” citing section 301 from the apostolic exhortation:

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. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.

Continuing to quote from the Pope’s text, Abp. Koch argued in line with the Pontiff that an individual might not be aware of the sinful nature of homosexual activity: “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.”

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The great dangers to the Catholic faith contained within Amoris Laetitia, which numerous scholars have repeatedly warned, are thus ably demonstrated.

History of Papal Silence Rather than Censure

Archbishop Koch’s statement is significant in more than one way. Firstly, it denotes the devastating impact that Amoris Laetitia can have on the authenticity of the Catholic Faith for numerous souls. Secondly, and of great note at the moment, it serves to demonstrate the heterodoxy that the Vatican is promoting in a manner that becomes increasingly less silent and more obvious.

In the several weeks that have passed since Abp. Koch’s statement, there has been no censure from the Vatican, no declaration from the Holy See Press Office clarifying the impossibility of offering same-sex blessings, and no condemnation and disciplinary action from the CDF.

The matter has been allowed to go into effect quietly.

But this is not surprising given the events of this spring. On March 10, the German Synodal Way approved a document on same-sex blessings and for the divorced and ‘re-married.’

The document, “Blessings for couples who love each other,” passed in a majority of almost 93%. The vote sent shockwaves through the Church, which swiftly died out, as the Vatican simply said and did nothing.

While in 2021, the CDF outlined the illicit nature of same-sex blessings, in 2023, it remained deathly silent, allowing the German bishops to proceed with heresy. They were not without papal support, however. During their 2022 ad limina visit to Rome, they met with and were supported by Pope Francis in the Synodal Way. While some stronger statements came from Vatican Curial officials condemning the German bishops’ activities as part of the ad limina meetings, the Pope’s words undermined any criticism from his officials.

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Indeed, when the Belgian bishops made their ad limina visit only days later, they received an “invariably warm” reception from the Pope—despite having published a text for the blessing of same-sex couples only weeks before, becoming the first bishops’ conference to do so. Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, former president of the bishops conference and emeritus Archbishop of Brussels, stated that they talked with the Pope “about homosexual couples … about viri probati, we talked about the possibility of women’s diaconate.”

First in Belgium, then via the German Synodal Way, and now in individual dioceses, practices directly contrary to the Catholic Faith and the natural law are thus being quietly and implicitly approved by the Vatican.

Significance of Amoris Laetitia’s Reasoning

Of key significance in Abp. Koch’s letter, however, is his substantial quoting from Amoris Laetitia. With the ghost-writer of that text now leading the Vatican’s CDF, the likelihood of further such employment of the text to support anti-Catholic practices is high.

In a recent interview with the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica, Cdl. Fernández highlighted Amoris Laetitia’s concept of “discernment” in assessing the issues covered by “moral theology.” He stated:

Consequently, there are no longer any doubts, and it is clear that discernment, which takes into account conditioning or mitigating factors, can also have consequences in sacramental discipline. [Emphasis original]

The new cardinal is also, naturally, a participant in the upcoming Synod on Synodality, with meetings set to run throughout the month of October. At such discussions, not only will the issues of LGBT individuals and the divorced and ‘re-married’ be discussed, but the reasoning of Amoris Laetitia will be accepted as a starting point.

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The working document for the October Synod meetings presents Pope Francis’ controversial interpretation of Amoris Laetitia as admitting the divorced and “re-married” to Holy Communion as an already finalized issue. The document presents as an example of “magisterial and theological teaching,” the argument proposed by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia that the divorced and ‘re-married’ can receive Holy Communion.

As evidenced by the decisions of Belgium’s and Germany’s bishops, the distorted theology of Amoris Laetitia is making a resurgence in the life of the Church. This comes at a time when its two authors—Pope Francis and Cdl. Fernández—are ushering in the Synod on Synodality’s month-long session of meetings.

At the conclusion of this October’s Synod meetings, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will compile a document summarizing and presenting the workings of the Synod. While the Synod’s key and chief document will be compiled after the October 2024 meetings in Rome, the document that will emerge in just a few weeks will arguably be the most significant text of the process, which began in 2021.

It remains to be seen whether calls will be made for direct promotion and acceptance of heterodox topics, such as open approval of same-sex blessings, or if the Synod participants will simply argue for further application of “discernment.”

Either way, examining the facts and signs of the Synod so far, it appears not unlikely that the passive acceptance of heterodoxy and heresy by the Vatican will accelerate at the end of October.

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