Most Holy Jesus,
Recently I have had some serious doubts (“dubia”) about Your teaching and Your words. Both Your own words and words of the Bible by men whom You inspired, appear to me to conflict with recent papal pronouncements. Some of these conflicts may be outright contradictions of what has been recently proclaimed and promulgated in the papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (henceforth “Papal Exhortation,” cited as “AL”).
Moreover, the media have emphasized the possible ambiguity in Your words, provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation for myself and many of the faithful.
My Dubia follow.
1. Hell Not Forever?
No one is condemned forever, (AL, 297). The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever; (AL, 296).
But You, Jesus, have said:
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mt 25:41).Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15).
And You inspired St. Paul to say:
I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 6:21).
And You inspired the author of the epistle of St. Jude to say:
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire (Jude 1:7).
My Dubia: I can see no way for Your words – regarding Hell and that it is everlasting – to be interpreted in accord with AL. Can You dispel my doubts about this and explain to me the truth of a non-eternal Hell?
2. Adultery-Sin; Adultery-Virtue?
The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment (AL, 298).This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists (AL, Footnote 336).Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace (AL, 301).The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality (AL, 305).
But Your words, Jesus, are:
It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:31).
And You inspired St. Paul to write:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10).
My Dubia: Can those living in on-going adultery inherit Your kingdom? How? Can they decide that what they are doing, and are resolved to continue to do, is for them personally not a sin, but loving virtue, and so they are not in reality sinful adulterers? It seems, based on the Papal Exhortation, that sacramental absolution can now be granted in the sacrament of penance to those living this reality, and that they can be admitted to Holy Communion, while bound by a valid marital bond and living together in a state of adultery with a different person.
This is all very confusing to me.
3. Go And Sin On More ?
A subject may know full well the rule . . . be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin (AL, 301).“ . . .it is possible that in an objective situation of sin . . . a person may be living in God’s grace (AL, 305).
But, Jesus, You said to an adulterer; “Go and sin no more (John 8:11).”
My Dubia: How can a person, apparently in accord with the Papal Exhortation, continue in a state of on-going adultery and still be, all the time, in Your grace? It appears that Your “Go and sin no more” words do not take into account that an adulterer’s intentions can transform his or her sin into a good act. Does a sinner still need, after repenting, to try to “sin no more” ?
4. Divine Mercy Nullifies Human Free Will ?
The mercy of God which is not denied anyone (AL, 300).Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life (AL, 310).Mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth (AL, 311).It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy (AL, 297).On the basis of this realization, it will become possible for ‘the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.’ [quoting Bull Misericordiae Vultus] (AL, 309).
But, Jesus, You said:
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29).
And you inspired St. Paul to write this:
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will repay each person according to what they have done (Rom 2:2-3).
My Dubia: What is the point of You judging people according to Your infinite justice if Your infinite mercy is going to negate the judgment? If Your mercy is unconditional, why judge anyone according to what they have done?
And how does this work – how can Your mercy be effective with someone who has freely turned away from You ? How can Your mercy operate without negating a person’s free will? If their subjective consciences tell them a sin is a good act, how does Your mercy change that? Or can a sinner, unchanged, unrepentant, enjoy heaven with You ?
Compelled in conscience by my responsibility (that of my baptism, that noted in documents of Vatican II, and that of Canon Law), and desiring to implement that synodality to which the recent Papal Exhortation urges us, with profound respect, I permit myself to ask you, Jesus, as God Almighty and as Supreme Teacher of the faith, You the Risen One who confirms Your children in the faith, to resolve my uncertainties, to bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to my dubia, and, as my Good Shepherd, to lead me, one of your sheep, to unambiguous Truth, to You.
May Your Almighty Holiness, Jesus, wish to bless me, as I promise constantly to beseech You in prayer.
Guy L. McClung, III