moral absolutes

Five Lessons from the Christmas Market Attack

On December 11, a Muslim named Cherif Chekatt opened fire at the famed Christmas Market in Strasbourg, killing three and wounding thirteen. There are several important lessons to be learned from the incident. Here are five of them: I. The attack was aimed at Christians. It was no coincidence that the terrorist chose to target [...]

Are Moral Absolutes Unfair to Individuals in Difficult Cases?

Adultery is sinful, marriage is indissoluble, and divorce is forbidden. Let us assume that we accept the validity of these precepts in principle—but is it possible to apply them in practice, without committing a serious injustice to individuals in difficult cases? Every statement only covers a limited part or aspect of reality, and in this [...]

How Amoris Laetitia Can Jeopardize the Seal of Confession

Though I have written several articles about Pope Francis’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL), I am repeatedly struck anew, as time goes on, by its inexorably destructive implications. Despite AL’s generally good summary of Catholic teaching on marriage and the family, its moral subjectivism ultimately undermines not only the truths affirmed in the document, [...]

Close at the Ear of Eve

Conscience is one of the ecclesiastical words of the day. It is the king if not the ace of trumps, to be slapped on the table to take the trick and surprise the conventional and inattentive opponent. I wonder whether people who believe in the power of that card have considered how versatile man's reason [...]

Why Christian Sexual Morality is Rejected

There are good arguments for traditional Christian sexual morality (CSM), but even so it’s fallen out of favor. Many in the Church have given up on it, saying it’s at most an ideal no one can be held to. What would be needed to bring it back and make it effective? A complete answer seems [...]

What “Accompaniment” Really Means

These reflections are written against the background of the way in which many activities, once treated under the natural law, came to be considered human “rights” under civil law. A couple of decade ago, it became clear that the subversion of natural law would be carried out under the aegis of “human rights” as understood [...]

Holding Moral Theory Accountable

The death earlier this year of Germain Grisez, the eminent Catholic moral theologian, made me think of the last time I saw something bearing his name in the media. To the best of my recollection, it was an Open Letter addressed to Pope Francis that he and the distinguished legal theorist John Finnis wrote on [...]

The Peterson–Craig Encounter: A Missed Opportunity?

On January 26, Wycliffe College, a graduate school federated with the University of Toronto, hosted a discussion on the question: “Is there meaning to life?” The three participants included, philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, atheist philosopher Rebecca Goldstein, and clinical psychologist and professor of psychology Jordan Peterson. This encounter made me reflect more deeply [...]

The Mathematical Innovations of Father Antonio Spadaro

Nearly fifty years go, my parish secretary, who was elderly even then, kept the parish accounts using an abacus. I gave her the latest kind of electric adding machine, which she used dutifully, but I noticed that she then checked the results with her abacus, an instrument that has been reliable since long before the [...]

On the Strange Function of Absolutes

Most people today “absolutely” maintain that they do not hold or live by “absolutes.” They live by their desires and choices, which are readily changeable. No one is much bothered by the “logic” of his own views. The proposition that “No absolutes exist” is itself an absolute. If it is true, an absolute exists. If [...]

The Morality of Amoris Laetitia Is Not Thomistic

In a formal address delivered during his recent visit to Colombia, Pope Francis implored his brother Jesuits to defend his embattled exhortation on marriage, which remains haunted by its obscurities and fervent vagueness. In his short discourse, the pope also enlisted Thomas Aquinas in this enterprise by insisting upon the Thomistic properties of Amoris Laetitia. He [...]

Overlooking the Failings of Catholic Democrats

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’s inaugural essay as an opinion columnist at the Washington Post critiques the performance of Catholic Republicans in allowing Church teaching to guide their policies. Bruenig presents a tale of Catholic conservatives abandoning Catholic social teaching and respect for papal and episcopal guidance in exchange for a political alliance with evangelical Christians that [...]

Fornicating in Self-Defense

When is fornication not really fornication? Well, if reports are accurate, according to Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, dubbed by some as Pope Francis’ “closest theological adviser,” if a sexually active, unmarried couple lives together, he says it is “licit to ask” whether such sexual activity “should always fall, in its integral meaning, within the negative [...]

Amoris Laetitia and the Post-Modern Papacy of Pope Francis

It has been nine long months since the publication of Amoris Laetita, but there is still no end in sight to the confusion and turmoil it has unleashed within almost every corner of the Catholic Church. Bishops have now turned to the excruciating task of implementation as they try to elicit the pastoral implications of [...]

Martyrs Know Apostasy Can Not Be Justified

A recent article in First Things by J.D. Flynn reflects upon Shusaku Endo’s 1966 Japanese novel Silence, now being released as a film directed by Martin Scorcese (which should tell you something). The tale follows an idealistic Jesuit missionary who, towards the end of the story, well, in Flynn's words: At its pivotal moment, Silence’s protagonist, the Jesuit missionary [...]

Beware the “Spirit” of Amoris Laetitia

Catholic teaching holds that the Church is truly the Body of Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the body, animating it and directing its actions. The Spirit of God, promised by Christ as the Advocate and Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17), who descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost and [...]

The “Concern”

A relative recently wrote an e-mail to me in which he made the following off-handed comment: “What do you think of the pope’s recent course change on abortion?” Now, unless I missed something, on this subject the pope has not changed anything. He has, no doubt, indicated that he wanted to downplay its relative importance [...]

Does Amoris Laetitia Resolve Genuine Moral Dilemmas?

The interpretation of Amoris Laetitia by Cardinals Schönborn and Kasper is now well known. Communion for those in a second union represents a change in practice, not in doctrine. What Francis is doing is simply inviting the Church to insert her settled doctrine on mitigated culpability into her reflections on how the divorced and remarried [...]

Does Amoris Laetitia Retreat from Absolute Moral Norms?

When Amoris Laetitia (AL) was first released on April 8, headlines in the secular media declared that there was no change in doctrine but only a call for greater pastoral sensitivity for those in “irregular” unions. A closer scrutiny of this apostolic exhortation seemed to indicate that it made room for a significant change in [...]

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