Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, the new head of the Jesuit Order, has claimed in a recent interview that Jesus’ own words about divorce are subject of interpretation and personal interpretation. The interview is incredibly revealing as Fr. Arturo repeatedly prioritizes personal discernment over Catholic doctrine. Full disclosure: I think Fr. Arturo is dangerously incorrect. His arguments are vague at best, don’t hold any water against what has been taught by The Church two thousand years, and actually call into question everything Jesus said – not just his discourse on remarriage after divorce. That a prominent leader in the Church is spouting such heresies without shame in open interviews is such a dangerous sign of our times.
Rewind and Recap
All of this comes on the heals of the on-going (and escalating) issue of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis wrote about couples in “irregular unions” (his words) and whether or not the members of those unions were completely culpable of the sinful nature of those unions. Furthermore, in a footnote (351) he vaguely elaborated that “in certain cases” the Eucharist could be used (essentially) as a source of healing for those members.
But there’s no further explanation. Does this mean before or after annulment? Should they cohabitate but refrain from intercourse until the annulment process was complete (as John Paul II instructed), or is this some new teaching?
The vagueness of this footnote has left the door open. And while there are many bishops who err on the side of Catholic Tradition, there are many other bishops who have no problem stepping right through. Bishops in Germany, Malta, Argentina, and San Diego, are allowing people who are divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist. The situation in Malta is especially depressing, as the Bishops there claim that it might be “humanly impossible” to follow Church teaching and live chastely while civilly remarried.
On the contrary to this, many Bishops who are faithful to Catholic teaching and tradition have asked Pope Francis to clarify his teaching on this matter. Four Cardinals have sent a formal request for clarification (called a dubia) but have to receive an answer. Worse, Cardinal Burke (one of the 4) recently got moved to Guam for his troubles…
Back to Fr. Arturo
In any case, that brings us to this week, where the head of the Jesuit Order was interviewed by an Italian magazine about his views on Jesus’s teachings on divorce. You really should read the entire interview yourself. It’s astonishing. Fr. Arturo doubles and triples-down on the idea that Jesus’s words don’t mean what they say they mean, and somehow our own personal interpretation would have a clearer insight into their true meaning than the vast history of Catholic tradition.
From the interview –
Q: Cardinal Gerhard L. Műller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, has said with regard to marriage that the words of Jesus are very clear and “no power in heaven and on earth, neither an angel nor the pope, neither a council nor a law of the bishops has the faculty to modify them.”
Abascal: So then, there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said. At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualized, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.
Q: But if all the words of Jesus must be examined and brought back to their historical context, they do not have an absolute value.
Abascal: Over the last century in the Church there has been a great blossoming of studies that seek to understand exactly what Jesus meant to say… That is not relativism, but attests that the word is relative, the Gospel is written by human beings, it is accepted by the Church which is made up of human persons… So it is true that no one can change the word of Jesus, but one must know what it was!
Q: Is it also possible to question the statement in Matthew 19:3-6: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”?
Abascal: I go along with what Pope Francis says. One does not bring into doubt, one brings into discernment. . .
…Q: I seem to understand that for you there is a priority for the practice of the discernment of doctrine.
Abascal: Yes, but doctrine is part of discernment. True discernment cannot dispense with doctrine.
Q: But it can reach conclusions different from doctrine.
Abascal: That is so, because doctrine does not replace discernment, nor does it the Holy Spirit.
Is your head spinning yet? As I mentioned before his “logic” does not merely call into question this one section of the Gospel but everything Jesus has have said and done. A more honest, humble man, facing such a severe crisis of faith, would do the right thing and resign his prominent position, remove himself from a teaching capacity so as to not accidentally teach falsehoods, and go on a long retreat in order to study sacred tradition in the hopes of putting his doubts to rest.
Finally, it just so happens that today’s Gospel is the exact passage from Mark that is at the center of this debate. I don’t believe in coincidences and see this as God’s way of showing us he is well aware of this situation.