One could excuse a mistake or two - after all, who am I to judge badly written material -, but the scale of the problem, the fact that misquotations tend to appear on the most sensitive and controversial parts of Amoris Laetitia and, more importantly, the fact that these quotations taken in the original context do not support and even contradict what Pope Francis is saying are causes for concern.
This is a partial list of misquotations that have been unearthed by bloggers:
- First, theologian Fr. José Maria Iraburu of Infocatolica.com, reacting immediately after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, noted that St. Thomas Aquinas was being misquoted in paragraph 301. After reviewing the evidence and St. Thomas' teachings he concludes:
[My translation] "To quote St. Thomas on the eventually non-operative virtues, with the purpose of diminishing or removing the guilt of irregular couples who do not attempt to abandon it's objectively sinful situation - cronic adulterers, homosexual couples, etc. - is a mistake. The doctrine of St. Thomas, which is the catholic doctrine, absolves from guilt those who cannot exercise a virtue in good works, which are its proper object, due to external impediments to the will. But [Amoris Laetitia 301] is referring to irregular situations in which the person is pertinaciously behaving badly - adultery, homosexual unions, etc."This misquotation was also picked-up by Thomistica.Net: "the quotes from St. Thomas have nothing to do with the issue under discussion". (Joseph Shaw agrees).
Poor St. Thomas has been a victim of misquotations ever since the beginning of this pontificate. But they seem to multiply as times goes by. In Amoris Laetitia there are (at least) another three relevant misquotations of the Aquinate.
- Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, quotes paragraph 99 of the Exhortation and comments:
"Something strange is going on here. Aquinas does say that, “every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him.” But Francis has left off the second half of the sentence: “ . . . unless it should be necessary for him for some reason to cause them profitable sadness at some time.” Francis’s politeness does not seem to have room for the profitable sadness known to Aquinas, that edifying state brought on by necessary rebukes and hard truths.[As I've shown elesewhere St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Gregory the Great agree wholeheartedly with this.]
The half-quotation of Aquinas typifies Francis's procedure in Amoris Laetitia. Half of the Christian tradition is simply left out, and so the basic shape and essential tensions of the whole are lost. The love of God is present, but the fear of God—the terrible knowledge that we are responsible for our souls—is not.."
He concludes that Francis' "approach to quotation" is "promiscuous rather than scrupulous".
- The Laodicea blog lists all the quotations from St. Thomas in Amoris Laetitia. Concerning paragraph 304 it is stated that:
"[it] seeks to recruit St Thomas in favour of having no unvarying law about how to act towards those in e.g. adulterous situations... Presumably one is supposed to think that St Thomas would have said that ... you can’t have a fixed principle of not giving Holy Communion to those who live in an adulterous relationship, but only a defeasible presumption of not doing so. The problem with this is that it ignores his, and the Church’s, teaching about intrinsically evil actions. Since some actions are intrinsically evil, one can indeed have unvarying negative precepts, saying that such and such a thing must never be done, whatever the circumstances...".Prof. E. Christian Brugger, writing at Catholic World Report, also notes this misquotation and adds:
"Aquinas certainly does not have the norm against adultery in mind when he speaks about the “failure” of general principles (“encountering defects”). We know this because we know he does not consider the norm against adultery a general principle, but rather a concrete moral absolute. Aquinas’ definition of adultery (II-II, q. 154, a. 8c) is very specific: “adultery is access to another’s marriage-bed”, i.e., engaging in sexual intercourse despite the fact that at least one of the acting persons is married to someone else. This is not a general norm, such as “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is specific and concrete and Aquinas expressly teaches that it is binding even when by adultery one could save the country from tyranny."
- The Laodicea blog referring to the quotation in the footnote to paragraph 304 states:
"St Thomas does not contrast rules and discernment here, but universal truths and more particular truths... He gives the example of someone who knows that ‘light flesh’ is healthy to eat, but doesn’t know what counts as light flesh, and someone else who doesn’t know the general principle about ‘light flesh’, but does know that the flesh of birds is healthy to eat. The latter person is a better guide to diet. So St Thomas is not saying that the priest who knows that Mrs Smith really loves her new husband but has never heard that one should not give Holy Communion to those in adultery is in a better position to judge what to do at the altar-rails, but that a priest who knows that one should not give Holy Communion to those in public adultery, but doesn’t know the general principle that one should not give It to those in public sin, is in a better position to decide what to do than one who knows that one should not give It to those in public sin, but who has no idea about what counts as public sin."
- Prof. E. Christian Brugger brings to ligh the misquotation of a document of the Pontifical Council for the interpretation of legislative texts on paragraph 302:
"The note references the Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who Are Divorced and Remarried (June 24, 2000), no. 2. AL references the text to help overcome the potential judgment excluding remarried divorcees from Holy Communion. But the Pontifical text is saying just the opposite
- Not only are official documents from the Holy See misquoted but the Magisterium of previous Popes is also distorted. The Remnant's Chris Ferrara, who also comments on other misquotations, as this to say:
"Just as Synod 2015 did, Francis misleadingly cites John Paul II for a supposed “law of gradualness” in obeying “the objective demands of the law.” (295) But in Familiaris consortio John Paul II was actually speaking of spiritual progress while rejecting any notion of “gradual” acceptance of moral precepts that bind all men:
And so what is known as “the law of gradualness” or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with “gradualness of the law,” as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations (Familiaris consortio, 34).
As we shall see, Francis is proposing precisely that there be “different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.” He contrives to avoid the accusation by asserting that while the moral law is the same for all, the duty of obedience to the law can vary according to “concrete circumstances,” which is just “gradualness of the law” in disguise or situation ethics by another name."
- Then comes the much often misquoted paragraph 84 of Pope St. John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio. Chris Ferrara again:
"Francis again quotes John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (84), this time for the proposition that “The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.’” (298) There are no ellipses to indicate the missing words before and after, which Francis clearly wishes to conceal. The complete sentence reads: “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."
- Ecumenical Councils also merit a misquotation in Amoris Laetitia. Carl Olson, of Catholic World News, writing in April 8th, immediately sounded the alarm:
"Francis apparently plays a bit fast and loose with some of his arguments and sources. For example, many of those divorced and in "a new union," says Francis, have "proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins" (#298). This statement is followed up by a footnote (#329) stating:
In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).
The problem is that the passage from Gaudium et Spes is not addressed to those who have been divorced and entered a new "union", but to those in marriages (pars 47-52); specifically, the passage used is referring to those married couples who are abstaining from marital relations so that "at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased." Using it as an argument for divorced and "remarried" couples to have sexual relations is misleading and troubling."
- Mathew Schmitz spotted another misquotation in paragraph 27. This time the Pope misquotes Jesus:
"Early in the document, Francis recalls Christ’s rebuke of those ready to stone a woman caught in adultery. This scene is one of the most powerful in all the gospels and a central inspiration for Amoris Laetitia. Yet Francis misdescribes it... Jesus did not then tell the woman to “lead a more worthy life,” as Francis suggests. He told her to “Go, and sin no more.” This is no mere quibble. It brings into focus the controversy Francis has opened with this document. Traditionally, the church has taught that divorced and remarried couples must “live together as brother and sister”—that is, that they must go and sin no more. Is this directive tantamount to condemnation, to the throwing of stones? Francis appears to think so, but such a view must contend with the words of Christ himself."
- Last, and probably the least, Pope Francis misquotes himself ! In the now famous footnote 351, he indicates that practicing adulterers (and other unrepentant public sinners) can receive absolution and communion in certain circumstances (this is the interpretation of Cd. Shoenborn, official and authorized interpreter of Amoris Laetitia). Th basis for this are two quotations from Evangelii Gaudium. But Evangelii Gaudium does not allow communon for public adulterers ! If it did there would've have been no need for one consistory, 2 synods and another Exhortation. The issue would have been settled in the end of 2013.