Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hypocritical scholars criticize Amore Laetitia and Pope Francis: Jesus and the Pharisees

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites."

I have perused several scholarly critiques of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation about marriage and divorce.  Frankly, most of what I read comes across to me as pharisaical.  

Some old dudes in Brazil, who call themselves the Plinio Correa de Oliveira Institute,  published a turgid document (95 footnotes) claiming that Pope Francis' papal exhortation "Opens the Gates of the Church and Society for a Programmed Demolition of Marriage and the Family." Managing to be both hysterical and utterly boring at the same time, the document compares Pope Francis' pedagogical model to Jean Jacques Rousseau (!) and calls on the Pope to revoke Amoris Laetitia outright.

Father Regis Scanlon, writing in Crisis Magazine, says the document "has many Catholics thinking they are living in a nightmare." Father Scanlon asks his readers to reflect on a seventh-century doctrinal controversy during the papal reign of Honorius I, which he thinks might  help Catholics weather the Amoris controversy. 

Honorius, it seems, got too cozy with the Monothelitists; and he got a theological slap on the wrist by his successor, Leo II. Honorius, Leo charged, "did not illumine this Apostolic Church with the doctrine of the Apostolic tradition, but allowed it, while immaculate, to be stained by profane betrayal."

Thanks, Father Scanlon, for sharing that story with us. I'll bet you give great homilies!

Then there's Richard A. Spinello, a research professor at Boston College, who laments the fact that the church hierarchy is unwilling to speak out against Pope Francis's blow to "doctrinal integrity." Spinello ends his essay in Crisis Magazine by saying it is up to the laity "who must face reality and speak with candor about the deficiencies of this alien papal teaching." 

Let me get this straight, Professor Spinello. Are you saying it's Joe Six-Pack's job to tell Pope Francis what to do?  Good luck with that!

In another Crisis essay, Spinello sums up his view of Amoris Laetitia by saying: "At best, this is an imprecise work that needs clarification; at worst, it is a subtle repudiation of Veritatis Splendor and two thousand years of Catholic moral Tradition." 

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

God knows I am no theologian, but I was raised a Methodist so I can read the Bible. And this is what Jesus said in the Book of Matthew:
Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.
Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, but when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
As I said, I am no theologian, but that passage reassures me that Pope Francis was on the right track when he wrote Amoris Laetitia. It is, after all, a message of love and mercy.

 But then what do I know? I'm just a back-pew lay Catholic who lives in Louisiana, and I know absolutely nothing about Honorius I and those wretched Monothelites.


Plinio Correa de Oliveira Institute. 'Amoris Laetitia' Opens the Gates of thke Church and Society for a Programmed Demolition of Marriage and the Family, September 29, 2016.

Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. CAP. What History May Tell Us About Amoris Laetitia. Crisis Magazine, January 26, 2017.

Richard A. Spinello. Debate Continues Over Amoris Laetitia. Crisis Magazine, May 25, 2017.

Richard A. Spinello. On Rocco Buttiglione's Defense of Amoris Laetitia. Crisis Magazine, August 9, 2016.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Holy Cross Vice President writes confidential email hinting that the college may close and mistakenly sends it to the entire student body. Oops!

Kelly Jordan, Vice President for Student Affairs at Holy Cross College in Indiana, sent a confidential email to a boarding school administrator last April, hinting that Holy Cross may soon be closing. Kelly told his correspondent that he might "spend the better part of the coming school year closing down the college."

Unfortunately for Vice President Jordan--and for Holy Cross, for that matter--Jordan's email was mistakenly sent out to the entire student body. Oops! The South Bend Tribune, a local newspaper, picked up the story; and now the whole world knows that the future of Holy Cross is in doubt.

Father David Tyson, interim president of Holy Cross, sent out the usual damage-control email message, assuring students that "I look forward to classes beginning in August and working with the faculty and students to create a bright future for the college that fully reflects the Holy Cross mission."

Note that Father Tyson did not contradict VP Jordan's message that Holy Cross might soon be shutting down.

Holy Cross is clearly in trouble. Its former president stepped down earlier this spring along with three of its five vice presidents. The college is quite small--only about 500 students; and the future of many small liberal arts colleges is uncertain.  Less than a year ago, two small Catholic colleges announced they were closing: St. Catharine College in Kentucky and St. Joseph's College in Indiana.

Most small liberal arts colleges depend heavily on tuition revenue, and a lot of them are having trouble attracting students. The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently published a list of colleges that still have room for incoming freshmen or transfer students in their fall 2017 classes. As of early this month, there were more than 500 colleges and universities on that list.  A majority of those schools were private liberal arts colleges with less than 5,000 students.  Seventy-seven of those schools had 1,000 students or less.

A lot of small liberal arts colleges are fighting to survive; and many will fail over the next two or three years. Holy Cross's recent embarrassment raises questions about how college administrators should deal with their own institutions' struggles.

Obviously, small-college administrators should do everything they can to attract new students and revenues. But there comes a time when college leaders need to ask themselves if they have a moral obligation to shut down rather than attract more new students into an institution that is on the road to closure.

If so, when should students and staff be told? I can't answer that question, but for Holy Cross the question is moot thanks to the fact that a confidential email message went public.

Photo credit: South Bend Tribune


College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students. National Association for College Admission Counseling (n.d.).

Margaret Fosmoe. Holy Cross VP paints bleak future for college in emails mistakenly sent to students.  South Bend Tribune, May 6, 2017.

Scott Jaschik.  College Will Suspend OperationsInside Higher ED, February 7, 2017.

Scott Jaschik. 350 Colleges Still Have Room for New UndergradsInside Higher ED, May 4, 2017.

Emily Tate. College VP Sends Email on Possible ClosureInside Higher Ed, May 8, 2017.