The Archbishop of Malta, C.J. Scicluna has high praise for dialogue, discernment and accompaniment in a document directed to priests which he published in the Vatican newspaper, l’Osservatore Romano (Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia), but he rejected all of this, including papal authority, by adding this:
10. If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
The words “cannot be precluded” are directed at the priests, telling them that they have no real voice in dialogue, discernment and accompaniment, undercutting their priestly ministry and, quite frankly, threatening them with what would have to be removal from active ministry if they wish instead – knowing well the smell of their sheep – to prolong the process of dialogue, discernment and accompaniment for the good of those very sheep.
The Times of Malta reports that “Archbishop Charles Scicluna refuted the criticism, insisting Bishop Mario Grech and himself had decided not to engage with individual bloggers on the matter.” “Decided not to engage” is also not a dialogue. The “criticism” refers to Ed Peters, a canon lawyer whose blog entries on this topic can be found HERE and HERE. Ed Peters has a serious analysis. I’m amazed that +CJ Scicluna, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, dismisses Ed Peters so readily, since Peters is a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s top tribunal.
Archbishop Scicluna then turns his attention to those he might think are a more vulnerable class of people, the priests: “I am saddened by the reaction from certain quarters and invite priests who may have concerns to come forward and discuss them directly with us because we want to be a service to our people.” I’m sure the priests want to be of service to their people as well. But here’s the problem. If any priests go to him with their concerns they are merely self-reporting that which is absolutely intolerable, reporting that they are precluding or envision precluding that which Archbishop Scicluna says cannot ever be precluded. If they open up a dialogue with him they will simply have their heads cut off. That’s another example of what he really thinks about dialogue, discernment and accompaniment. Moreover…
The threat to impose sanctions that is inescapably implied in the absolutist phrase “cannot be precluded” goes so far beyond Pope Francis’ direction in this matter that Archbishop Scicluna is de facto usurping the authority of Pope Francis to guide the Barque of Peter. And that I find disgusting.
The direction Pope Francis gave to us Missionaries of Mercy began by all of us singing together the Salve Regina with Pope Francis. I’m sure he remembers the exuberance:
Pope Francis brought all of us Missionaries of Mercy together and brought us through, with incisive distinctions, refined moral and sacramental theology, using anecdotes some of which were terribly sad and some of which were hilarious. He did his best to form us priests into being good confessors, those who would dialogue with, discern with and accompany penitents on their journey to know the will of Christ Jesus in all of their unrepeatable circumstances.
But Archbishop CJ Scicluna rejects that effort of Pope Francis. Sad, that. Sad for him. Sad for the penitents. Sad for the priests who are treated as his robots, not as Jesus’ fathers of their parish families. And this is also the point: CJ Scicluna rejects the unrepeatable circumstances of people, ideologically putting them all in one group.
Much more could be said about anthropology, psychology, grace, sacramental theology, ecclesiology, etc., with some saying I say too much and others too little. What I’m writing about in this post is just this one aspect of what is happening:
the ministry of priests is unimportant in the Church because + Scicluna said so.