More from Rocco Buttiglione on “Amoris laetitia”

A little while ago, we noted that Italian philosopher and politician Rocco Buttiglione had given an interview arguing for continuity between Familiaris consortio and Amoris laetitia. As part of the Vatican’s apparent effort to push back against the conservative consensus about Amoris laetitia, Buttiglione has written a longer essay for L’Osservatore Romano. Buttiglione is obviously a prime choice for a Vatican surrogate here, having had a strong personal and intellectual relationship with John Paul. He drills down on the argument that Amoris laetitia is traditional insofar as it simply addresses two of the three conditions for mortal sin (the three are: grave matter, full knowledge, and free consent):

When I was a child I studied the Roman Catechism before making my First Holy Communion. The Catechism was written by a Pope who was undoubtedly anti-modernist: Saint Pius X. I remember him saying that to receive the Eucharist a soul had to be free from mortal sin. He also explained what a mortal sin is. In order for a sin to be mortal, three conditions are necessary. It must be an intrinsically evil act or gravely contrary to the moral law: that is, it has to be grave matter. Sexual relations outside of marriage are without doubt gravely contrary to the moral law. This was the case before Amoris Laetitia, this is still the case in Amoris Laetitia, and it will naturally be the case after Amoris Laetitia. The Pope has not changed the Church’s doctrine. 

But Saint Pius X tells us more. For a sin to be mortal, two other conditions are necessary beyond grave matter. It is also necessary that there be full knowledge of the evil of the act committed. If one is convinced in conscience that the act is not (gravely) evil, the action will be materially evil but not imputed to the person as a mortal sin. Moreover, the acting subject must give deliberate consent to the evil action. This means that the sinner must be free to act or not to act: that is, he must be free to act in one way rather than another, and he must not be coerced by a fear that obliges him to do one thing when he prefers another.

Can we imagine circumstances in which a divorced and remarried person finds himself or herself living in a situation of serious sin without full knowledge or deliberate consent? Perhaps a woman was baptized but never truly evangelized, entered marriage superficially, and then her spouse abandoned her. Perhaps a man entered a union with someone he was helping in a moment of serious crisis. He sincerely loved her and became a good father (or a woman a good mother) for the sake of the children the spouse had from the first marriage.

(Emphasis supplied.) He goes on to make a lengthy, not hugely clear, argument about the popes who imposed excommunication as a penalty for the delict of divorce and John Paul, who eliminated that provision in the 1983 Code. Read the whole thing there.

And this argument is fine as far as it goes, but we have one question: if the Holy Father really thought that all that Amoris laetitia was doing was applying the basic analysis of full knowledge and free consent, then why go to the trouble of writing the verbose Chapter 8? Moreover, Buttiglione’s theory, as we have thought about it, addresses only half the problem. Say that an objectively sinful situation is not subjectively sinful because free consent is lacking; what of the scandal to others?