Discerning truth among the noise and the bluster

Discerning truth among the noise and the bluster Prof. Rocco Buttiglione

At times one wonders about the loudest voices on the Catholic internet – the old adage about empty cans making the most noise can seem alarmingly apt. Andrea Tornielli surely has a point on lastampa.it when he observes: “Too many are causing unceasing confusion in their self-referential media circles and then say that today in the Church ‘there is confusion’.”

Last week saw the Vatican flatly denying rumours – originating, it seems, with a firstthings.com piece by Marco Tosatti, previously responsible for risible stories about Cardinal Gerhard Müller – that a commission is working on an ‘ecumenical Mass’ where Catholics and Protestants can take Communion together.

Not that such denials will stop speculations about what was behind this rumour. Writing at catholicherald.co.uk, for instance, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith says the idea would always have been a non-starter not least because there was never any hint that there were Protestant or Orthodox theologians on board.

“However,” he continues, “the suspicion that will not go away is that this was some sort of kite-flying exercise by the certain elements in the Church.” Maybe, but if so, it’s worth noting it has primarily been those who’ve made a show of parading their orthodoxy while flaunting their antipathy towards the Holy Father who published and gave oxygen to this rumour.


Strikingly, Fr Ray Blake, a Brighton-based priest prominent on the English Catholic internet, wondered on his Twitter account @raylblake whether even if there was no ‘commission’ working on such a project, there might be a ’group’, ‘individuals’, ‘committee’, ‘junta’ or even ‘commisseriate’ doing so.

It is hard to see how such behaviour contributes towards truth, trust or indeed tranquility, in contrast to former CDF chief Cardinal Müller’s attempt at “restoring peace in the Church” through comments on Pope Francis’ family encyclical Amoris Laetitia in an introduction to a book by Prof. Rocco Buttiglione.

Prof. Buttiglione, a philosopher and onetime collaborator of St John Paul, had, the German cardinal said, offered a “reasoned and not controversial” answer to the dubia or ‘doubts’ four cardinals put forward last year, and also shown how a thesis “similar to the ‘correctio filialis’ text … does not correspondent to the reality of the facts”.

The introduction can be read at lastampa.it, and while Prof. Buttiglione’s book is not online there, the recent seal of approval should prompt us to revisit his earlier Amoris Laetitia comments, especially given how Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has previously praised his work in the regard.

Key among Prof. Buttiglione’s interventions on Amoris are a May interview for lastampa.it where he said Amoris was taking a “step forward” on a path mapped out by St John Paul, a July article for the Vatican’s own osservatoreromano.va entitled ‘The joy of love and the consternation of theologians’, an August essay for firstthings.com entitled ‘A Pastoral approach’, and – crucially – his response to the dubia in lastampa.it last November.

Cardinal Müller’s introduction should be read too, of course, perhaps accompanied by the interview from the Italian website LaNuovaBQ.it that is translated – complete with a typically misleading headline and introduction – on the ever unreliable lifesitenews.com.


In the interview, the cardinal reiterates – as the likes of Cardinal Schönborn and Prof. Buttiglione have done elsewhere – that Amoris Laetita must be read in terms of established Church teaching, and cites how there are nominal Christians who are married in church to please family members, years later returning to the Faith and questioning whether their marriages had been sacramental.

“The issue here is not about the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, but about the validity of many marriages that aren’t really valid,” the cardinal said, stressing that this is not a matter of granting free access to the Sacraments, but of establishing the validity or otherwise of things that might appear to have been indissoluble sacramental marriages.

We can say with the Pope, he says, that discernment is needed. The challenge, clearly, is to discern the nature of situations, and how best they should be handled.