In attempting to distill in one central armchair criticism, my main concern with Amoris Laetitia is not simply the notorious footnote that has become a black mark on the papacy, nor just the manipulation of important Catholic teaching by the employment of subtle changes in language used. The worst thing about the document is its spirit. The spirit of the document - the spirit in which it is written - is most telling of all, because its spirit will poison even those points in it which are Catholic and are easily reconcilable with the Catechism. This spirit, sadly, can be traced right through this pontificate like a stick of Brighton rock.
It is a cruel document. Cruel upon man and cruel upon woman. Cruel upon priests, cruel upon spiritual directors. Cruel upon husbands, cruel upon wives. It is a document of abhorrent cruelty. In terms of 'pastoral guidance' for the clergy who are faced with the man and the woman in a second (therefore, adulterous) union after a first marriage or for those in irregular situations of cohabitation or in same-sex relationships it is a disaster. It is a disaster not only because there is, quite incredibly, for a matter so sensitive, no guidance whatsoever, nor only because it presents to the impenitent a tempting 'conscience clause', but it falls into that now bulging papal category of 'teaching opportunity missed' which, however controversial they are, I always feel is a label that can be attached to all four (so far) Pope 'intentions' videos.
What refuge a man can find in the Sacred Heart of Jesus! What help! What consolation, but what healing and aid! What manner of Divine Help, what sublime graces, the Most loveable Heart of Jesus wishes to pour into the souls of men. With what tenderness and love does Mary look upon her children. How much she yearns to gather her children into the furnace of the Heart of her Son! What graces come through her hands! Yet, Amoris Laetitia expects nothing from either Jesus or Mary. Expects nothing from the Saints! What strength and fortification can a man find in the Most Blessed Sacrament and in the Sacrament of Penance! Yet this document seems very much to envision a Church thoroughly pre-Pentecost.
It is not just presumption that riddles the most controversial passages of this document, Present, also, is that other great sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin of Judas Iscariot in his end, the sin of despair! The Church portrayed by this document presumes God's mercy and despairs of His help! There is no help for the man and the woman caught up in the enemies' snares! There is only us and our sin. There is only us and our wretchedness, or worse, a concession to our difficult entanglements that denies that our situation is an unhappy one, but God's help has disappeared. We cannot - no not even with God's help - change! Divine aid has ceased! Heaven is shut up! In such a portrayal, yes, I suppose Henry VIII had little choice. He was only human! We can't expect anything from God - or man in co-operation with God or obedience in Faith to God. We are helpless! In that case, poor, poor Judas, indeed!
The devotional life and the age of Divine Love in the Church has, in the authors' minds, ended! It is, ultimately, a faithless vision. In this vision, we are orphans, strangers to God, enemies clothed in the garments of friendship with God, but incapable of being His friends. Look for the Heart of Jesus in this document and you won't find it. Look for the Heart of Mary in this document. You won't find it. Instead of Peter turning to the Lord to exclaim, 'Lord, to whom can we turn, You have the message of eternal life' you could be forgiven for thinking that this life - with its sadnesses, tragedies, follies and joys, is all there is and St Peter's Successor is now saying it. It is, unbelievably, as it was released in Eastertide, as if the Resurrection of Christ our Lord, never happened at all. It is as if the steering wheel of the Church has been wrestled from the hands of the devoted and believing and is now in the hands of cleverly disguised atheists.
We can be renewed. Jesus wants to make men into the New Man, women into the New Woman. We can do nothing without Jesus, but with Jesus we can do things we know we cannot do by ourselves. We can be holy, we can be made holy, we can love, we can love God in return. We were made for nothing less. The great sadness of this document - worse than any footnote - is that it fails, lamentably, to communicate our glorious, hope-filled, life-changing, earth-shatteringly, mind-blowingly incredible Faith! The Gospels make it very clear that Jesus Christ changes everything. The question that remains is do the authors of Amoris Laetitia believe that, or have they abandoned not just the flock, but the Faith as well! Jesus Christ has asked us to follow Him, not to follow the World. He would not ask us to follow Him, along the straight and narrow path, if, with Him, it were impossible, or were it not for His Eternal Glory, and both for our temporal and our Eternal good. The spirit of Amoris Laetitia suggests that the straight and the narrow way is a way that only an evil God - if 'the God of the Catholics' exists - would ask us to choose. The spirit of Amoris Laetitia is the denial of God, our Supreme, our only Good. It lays out before the reader a horizon without Eternity, a future without hope, a city of man and leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Baptism makes no difference, the Eucharist makes no difference, Confession makes no difference and that there is no point, no good reason at all in being or in becoming a Catholic!
"Heroism is not for the average Christian." ~ Cardinal Walter Kasper