For Amoris laetitia note 351, let’s let Cardinal Schönborn answer as to whether priests are the enemy. After all, it’s on this very point of note 351 that Pope Francis directed us to the Cardinal for an authentic interpretation. The Cardinal instructs us that the statement is, in fact, to be read in the context of the document. He himself cites for us 308 so as to bring in 311. From the Cardinal’s words:
[T]he Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given “in certain cases”. But for this purpose he does not offer us case studies or recipes, but instead simply reminds us of two of his famous phrases: “I want to remind priests that the confessional should not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (EG 44), and the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (EG 47).
Is it an excessive challenge for pastors, for spiritual guides and for communities if the “discernment of situations” is not regulated more precisely? Pope Francis acknowledges this concern: “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion” (AL 308). However, he challenges this, remarking that “We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel” (AL 311).
Reacting to straw men of one’s own creation on the same playing field as one’s opponent is to stay on the same playing field with the straw men of one’s own creation. I don’t know how to say that in a simpler way. I say straw men because…
- I’ve never met a priest who makes the confessional a torture chamber.
- I’ve never met a priest who makes the Eucharist a prize for the perfect.
- I don’t know any priest who puts any conditions on mercy.
- Have I been tortured in the confessional? Sure. But not be any orthodox priest, only by priests who make up some invalid absolution. THAT tortures me. I am tempted at that point to think very evil, very dark thoughts with terrible cynicism and anger and bitterness. It’s happened to me a lot. I used to carry printed cards of the absolution for priests to read. Those were the days of Jesus’ instruction to me of how bad things are and what torture people go through with “nice” priests.
- I have seen liberal priests and bishops turn the Eucharist into a doggy treat, holding the Host up high, out of range of the kneeling communicant, not as a prize for their holiness, but bait to make them compliant with the wish that communicants stand to receive.
- There are plenty of saints who have delayed or denied absolution. This is because the person does not want Jesus’ mercy. Wanting mercy is a condition for receiving mercy. Is this hard to understand? Complex?
Here’s the deal: Mercy is always available to the sinner who is repentant and contrite and, therefore, wants to follow Jesus. This is not making the Eucharist a prize. This is about the love that Jesus provides, the love which is accepted by the sinner:
- Repentance is about Jesus’ love.
- Contrition is about Jesus’ love.
- A firm purpose of amendment is about Jesus’ love.
But if love is mocked by mocking repentance and contrition and amendment as a flood of conditions by which to “empty mercy of its concrete meaning and real significance,” “the worst way of watering down the Gospel” (AL 311), well then, that is mockery of Jesus’ love.
Saying that Jesus in the Eucharist is a “powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” while rejecting repentance and contrition and amendment as demonic “conditions” is not to treat Jesus as the Way, but rather to trod Him under foot. I say demonic because it is said that such matters of Jesus’ love are the worst way of watering down the Gospel: “worst.” “Worst” is hard to beat, even for Satan. Worst means unbeatably worst.
To be clear: Mercy fills a need. If the person doesn’t admit to having a need, how can if be filled? If the person says: “I can see!” how will they allow you to provide them with sight? I mean, can you think of any statements of Jesus about this? Any?! Tell me: is Jesus being damned as demonic here? Jesus leads people into the right conditions, if they want these, does He not? Well, “condition” is a casuistic term beating people over the head. The conditions of Jesus’ good love are true, but one leads people into such a state of love, insisting on the love. This gets people, every time, right? They expect casuistry. A good confessor should instead supply the love, and insist on the love that brings one repentance, contrition and amendment.
The sacrament of confession is for the forgiveness of sins. The sacrament of the Eucharist is to celebrate the life provided in confession.
I pray for the Holy Father. I offer Mass for him frequently.
And, no, Jesus is not demonic. Priests who follow Him are not demonic.