Amoris Laetitia and the illogical principle of universal contradiction: a trip down the Kasperian rabbit hole
Some time ago our friend Edward Pentin gave a little talk in the US about his experiences in Rome reporting on all the interesting doings surrounding Bergoglio’s pontificate, the Synods, Amoris Laetitia and their ultimate trajectory. The talk was produced by Mike Matt and co. as you can see, and it is well worth listening to in full.
There was one point Ed brought up that I wanted to pay particular attention to, that I think could be a kind of key to understanding what is going on. He talked about the men in the Vatican, and priest and bishops around the world, having so poor an intellectual formation that they are incapable of grasping the seriousness – or really even the nature – of what is going on. Specifically, these are men who have had their intellects so deformed that they cannot understand what a logical contradiction is.
…Such officials often see what’s being done but generally. Many are unconvinced it’s as bad as it’s made out partly, so I’ve been told, because they don’t have the right formation and so are not sensitive to the contradictions that once were obvious… Some, even those who are very learned, I’m told, don’t really grasp what’s happening while others can sense that something is amiss but they don’t know quite what.
Still others adapt and shift, as some say that Opus Dei is doing now… I’m also told that formation is given in such a way that a priest will be disposed to accept sheer contradictions and fluid presentations of concepts… I’ve heard that some are no longer even given the chance to develop a sense of precision about certain matters as it would be expected for those who should teach and judge souls.
… all this means that you end up with a mass of priests willing to agree with contradictions in a very trendy and modern way…They’ve been formed in the school of Hegel… They prepared a generation of people who think less although they have a lot of information…”
For quite a while now, I‘ve been writing about the strange Alice-in-Wonderland world of what I have called “the anti-rational principle,” the (I suppose) “post-modern” yearning for a universe without opposites, without contradictions, where a thing and not-a-thing can both be a thing, and therefore for the kind of reality you get to make up yourself out of your personal preferences. Years and years ago in the course of my work, I realised that people, quite literally, had become incapable of rational thought. I started to be aware that the people in charge of things in our civilisation do not know that a thing and its opposite both can’t be true.
This inability to grasp logical laws among our ruling elites became clear when I was doing the lobbying work for national legislation on embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Ministers were proposing that a human embryo was both a human being and not a human being at the same time. If you wanted to use it to obtain human totipotent stem cells for experimental applications then of course it was a human being; wouldn’t be worth much if it weren’t right? But when we said that you can’t do that, because human beings can’t be used as experimental material without their consent…(somethingsomethingNurembergTrials…something…)
We were told we were being hysterical and outrageous and trying to stop the !Progress! of !!Science!! When we pointed out that it couldn’t be both a human and not a human, that you had to choose, they actually tried to introduce the idea of the Excluded Middle not being excluded. (It’s the second of the Three Laws of Rational Thought – that there’s no “third way” between a thing and its opposite.) They tried to invent a non-person-non-thing – a kind of magical, malleable, middling, quasi-real object that could, at will, be human for research purposes but not for purposes of legal protection. (Of course, this has already been established in the abortion laws of the world; an unborn child is a child if he is “wanted” but a “lump of cells” if not. Pregnancy is either a blessed state or a medical emergency on a par with cancer.)
A few years later, writing about the experience, I pointed to this inability to understand basic logical laws of reality as the crux of the whole problem. It was why the embryo researchers, the people who want human embryos for experimentation (and, by the way, the only people invited to give evidence at the parliamentary committee stage) refused to say whether these entities are indeed human beings, despite the plain scientific fact that if they were not human beings they would be no use for experimentation:
There are only two orders of creation in the universe: persons and things. By using the term “donor” to mean one who gives or donates an embryo, we are de facto defining an embryo as a thing that may be donated. If the embryo can be donated, it is a thing, not a person. A thing may be bought, sold, donated, dissected, experimented upon and destroyed at will. A person may not. If the embryo is a person, none of those things may be done to it.
This is the essential conflict of the debate: is the human embryo a person? The suggestion of most pieces of legislation is to attempt to propose an in-between state of existence, where the embryo is not exactly a person but yet has the potential to become one and thus is not quite considered a thing either.
This conundrum represents a meeting place of two philosophies where they clash and create an insoluble conflict. There can be no third category, no “non-person-non-thing”; the embryo is one or the other. Most legislation attempts to find a “balance” where only a decision between two opposing ideas is possible.
I quoted then-Canadian Health Minister, Anne McLellan, who said “It is not considered appropriate to treat in vitro embryos as property that are subject to ownership.” (emphasis added). The idea that it is not possible to simply invent a new category of reality – a person-not-a-person – that would allow this entity to be used for experiments while still granting it moral value, was something that these people were intellectually incapable of grasping.” They thought they were being “balanced.” That was the word we heard a lot during that unpleasant two years.
Fastforward ten years and we are seeing today exactly the same mental illness in Rome. There is a proposal for a “balance” between yes and no, a kind of third thing that is neither yes nor no. With Amoris Laetitia, we have, essentially, an attempt to codify into sacramental practice of the Church the idea that things and their opposites can both be true (and presumably not true, as the need arises) at the same time and in the same way. Amoris Laetitia – and the official papal endorsement of the most liberal interpretation of it in the Actae Apostolicae Sedis – an attempt to deny the logical principle of non-contradiction. They are, seriously, saying that the flat “No” from John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio can, if you squint hard enough, while clicking your heels together three times, become a “Yes” – and there is no contradiction.
What, in the larger sense, we are seeing is that this kind of mindset is now the ruling one in the Church. The majority of bishops either share it, or cannot understand it sufficiently to clearly correct it. We’ve seen it again and again. (Especially if you had the misfortune to have attended the press conferences for the Synods.) We have seen, astonishingly, a close papal associate – a Jesuit no less, and one who has charge of an official publication of the Holy See – actually state out loud, that if a pope says so, 2 + 2 can equal 5… and mean it! Antonio Spadaro’s red-faced blustering when this astounding statement came out on Twitter turned into something like unhinged apoplexy at the roar of laughter that was heard around the world. It was clear from his indignant responses – and his doubling down – that he had no concept at all – did not have the intellectual capacity to grasp – why everyone was laughing.
The reason was what Edward Pentin was talking about above. It is why Jorge Bergoglio shows no sign that he is capable of grasping that no one can understand what he’s saying; that he is, in fact, saying nothing comprehensible at all. It is noteworthy that this same gobbeldygook, anti-rational blithering can be heard from nearly everyone who has supported his agenda from the first day. I heard it in the press conferences at the Sala Stampa in Rome during the 1st Synod from Cardinal Marx. You can hear it and read it from Kasper every time he talks (about anything, really). I would submit that in fact only people whose intellects have been deformed in this way can support Amoris Laetitia.
I called Ed Pentin after he got back from the US and thanked him for his talk. I said I was particularly interested in the bit about the poor intellectual formation of bishops and priests. He mentioned that the people he’d talked to had spoken about the fashion in seminaries for Hegel – the notion that “truth” can only be found by this dialectical pendulum swing between “extremes”. This is a key concept for the Bergoglians’ “thinking”. He holds, as these people all do, that it is not enough, for example, simply to take Christ at His word, or to believe the teachings of the Catholic Church. These have to be “developed’ through this “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” process to uncover the “real” truth “behind” them. This is why it is not enough simply to take the issue as concluded since John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio. (Well…that and the money. If the Germans can keep counting divorced and remarried Catholics as communicants, they keep getting the YUGE packets of dough from the Kirchensteuer… but that’s a rant for another day.)
This Hegelian mindset gives the not-very-bright both a comforting veneer of pseudo-intellectualism – a lot of incomprehensible gibbering that sounds “so profound no one can understand it” – and a shield against criticism. So, when they say things like, “The Pope doesn’t give binary answers to abstract questions,” they’re not being quite so brazenly dishonest as we might think. They believe that this is the sort of thing that makes sense. They really do believe that their doublethink and word salad is deep and meaningful – just too deep and int-el-leck-tool for us slack-jawed rubes to understand.
The other day, my thesis was demonstrated again in an interview article published by the UK’s Catholic Herald. Now, Stephen Walford is a man who has appeared out of nowhere as a voice for support of what we may perhaps now call the Argentine Solution. He was complaining about the people who argued with him on Twitter (of whom I am one, and our friend Steve Skojec is another.)
In that interview, between the whining about all us meanies being all mean to him on Twitter (to which I mostly say, “Well, dishing it out doesn’t seem to be a problem for you, Stephen…”) and his recitation of the usual Kasperian canards about hard cases of divorced and remarried people “in anguish,” he rather gave the game away:
At the beginning of this year, he emailed a pitch to Andrea Tornielli, editor of Vatican Insider, a website run by La Stampa, and then wrote a series of articles attacking papal critics. They were provocative: Walford accused the dubia cardinals of fuelling “satanic abuse” of the Pope. They were also unprecedented in their all-out defence of the principle of Communion for the remarried. To question Francis on the subject, he said, was to “call into question the teaching authority of previous popes and consequently the entire fabric of Catholicism”.
That struck some as extreme. After all, swathes of the Church, including many senior figures, explicitly reject Communion for the remarried and don’t accept that Francis has introduced it. But Walford says he always thought Amoris was clear – from the start he read footnote 351 as allowing Communion for the remarried in some cases. And since then, he says, Pope Francis has given various signals that that was what he meant.
But he thinks that the circumstances in which a remarried person would be admitted to Communion are “probably rare”. There has to be a “desire to get out of the situation”, he says. He imagines a person in anguish who wants to change the situation but “feels trapped” and can’t.
Walford thinks that Amoris Laetitia allows the divorced and civilly “remarried” to receive holy Communionif they really really feel “anguished’ enough about their situation… though of course, not “anguished” enough to actually stop having sexual relations with their paramour… We can’t expect heroism! We remember, of course, that certain members of the Bergoglian clique have said that it would in fact be sinful for such people to stop having sexual relations…that there is some kind of “moral duty” to continue to commit adultery, and that this is in some way for the good of the children…
But in the eyes of the Church – or perhaps we must now say the pre-Bergoglian Church – these people are not in fact “remarried” at all. There’s no such thing. They are, in reality (when we still held that the Church was capable of identifying reality) living in an unrepented state of the mortal sin of adultery, and are thus barred from reception of Holy Communion. This isn’t some “rule” or even “ideal” of the Church that changes and alters with the social whims.
It is based first on the admonition from Scripture not to “eat and drink to condemnation”… “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” 1 Corinthians 11:29 (KJV) Secondly, and more importantly, it is based on the words of Christ in Scripture:
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
In case it was not enough to have Christ Himself telling us, we had it reiterated by John Paul II in Famliaris Consortio, in 1981
However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”
Apparently even anticipating the garbled thought processes of the Walfords, Kaspers, Spadaros and Bergoglios of the world, John Paul II added quite pointedly that he wasn’t making it up, that it was, in fact, “the constant and universal practice” of the Church, and even added, “This practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.” So, no amount of “anguish” will change anything.
So, let’s just break this down. Mr. Walford insists that:
1. Amoris Laetitia does indeed say that some people in unrepented adulterous liaisons should be admitted to Holy Communion, because their feelings of “anguish” change things.
2. That this is the intention of the pope.
3. To question this intention – for any reason at all – is to “call into question the teaching authority of previous popes and consequently the entire fabric of Catholicism.”
Except that the plain words of the previous pope but one, the canonised John Paul II, said exactly the opposite. Moreover, this canonised pope said that it is the “constant and universal practice” of the Church to do the exact opposite of what Walford and Pope Francis want, and that this is based on the words of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
So, according to Stephen, doing what the “previous pope” said to do, in keeping with what the Son of God said to do, is “to call into question the teaching authority of previous popes and consequently the entire fabric of Catholicism…” AND THERE’S NO CONTRADICTION HERE AT ALL.
That’s really Stephen’s unique genius in all this. Not only does he say that Francis is changing the rule to be the opposite of what it was under previous popes, he’s saying that to object to this change is to oppose the “teaching authority” of those same previous popes. (Just pause a moment and let that one sink in a bit… Ok, now stop, before you get woozy.)
Papal positivism isn’t for the faint of heart, it seems. To do it properly, to insist that this pope and only this pope must be obeyed, in spite of what all previous popes have said, in spite of everything the Church has ever taught, in spite of the words of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, requires not only that one ignore all these things but that to fail to ignore them is to oppose them.
Papal positivism requires the invention of an entirely new form of reality in which opposite things are the same and things that are the same are opposites. In the papal positivist’s mind, (if we can still call it that) there is no contradiction between Pope Francis’ “Yes” and John Paul II’s “No” and to refuse to accept this contradiction is to contradict John Paul II. It literally boggles the mind.
This is anti-rationality. This is what I’ve been talking about.
Two quotes spring to mind about it, the first from Avicenna, the Islamic philosopher:
“Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.”
“And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”