What does Fatima say about Amoris Laetitia?
My friend, the rather brilliant theologian Fr Serafino Lanzetta asked me the question: What does Fatima say about Amoris Laetitia? It is a good question, a bit like the Zen master’s question, ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping?’ On one level both questions could be answered by the simple answer, ‘Nothing’, but then both questions are to be pondered, sipped slowly, with no rash conclusion, both questions are in fact are profound.
I was ‘formed’ in a relatively liberal theological climate of the 1970s, it was fundamentally apophatic, to an almost snobbish degree, in our age it has reappeared with a vengeance. Apophatic (negative) theology isn’t a bad thing in itself, it is a frank admission that God is beyond us, his ways are not our ways, there is always something unknowable about, ultimately he is Mystery but always it needs to be balanced with Cataphatic (positive) theology which tell us God gives us reason and revelation, especially through Jesus Christ allow us the know and love him. God became incarnate, so that in our flesh we might see him.
In the 1970s there was such a push against anything that spoke of mystery, of the supernatural, of the other, of anything that said we might actually be able to ‘touch’ God, it is fundamentally Arian, the belief that God did not become Man, Jesus was not what the anti-Arian Nicene Creed says so strongly that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father (Et ex Patre natum ante ómnia sǽcula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lúmine, Deum verum de Deo vero, Génitum, non factum, consubstantiálem Patri: Qui propter nos hómines et propter nostram salútem Descéndit de cælis. Et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto Ex María Vírgine, et homo factus est. Per quem ómnia facta sunt.), Arius could say none of this because Jesus for him was not fully God, just a form of God.
The theology that dominated this period was that of men like Hans Küng, which was far removed from the Catholicism of ordinary Catholics, it was very deeply rooted in the protestant Tübingen school which pioneered the historical-critical analysis of biblical and early Christian writings, which in certain hands could reduce the ‘historic’ Jesus’ – who is different to the Jesus of faith – words to a message that could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Miracles like the feeding of the 5000 could be reduced to an act of sharing, the Incarnation and Resurrection to a mere myth, the Eucharist to a sharing in bread and wine, ‘a meal for people today rather than the sacrifice of yesterday offered to God’, Mary of course, who in Catholic/Orthodox theology is the resolute defender of true belief in the doctrine of the Incarnation lost her place of the triumphant Immaculate and becomes a doubter like any other woman, her sinlessness becomes an embarrassment and myth, a kindly mum, of doubtful virginity rather than the pure Theotokos, As Lumen Gentium says what can be said of Mary can be said of the Church, and so the Church becomes an old fashioned human institution that is in need of constant updating rather than the sacred bride of Jesus Christ.
It was of course against this background that Vatican II and the ecumenical movement and relationships with non-Christians grew up, it was in this environment that modern liturgy came into being and was implemented and all the world’s bishops were chosen, and this environment in which the priests of my generation grew up.
Fatima, which I must admit for years I had difficulty with – Walsingham is ancient it is pretty harmless, Lourdes at least is useful, it is about healing. Fatima on the other-hand is different it is about so many unpalatable issues: judgement, penance, heaven and hell, condemnation and divine wrath, it is hot knife cutting through butter. It is so unsophisticated, a reflection of child-like peasant belief. In a world, a Church that has grown uncomfortable with the supernatural, it is profoundly super-natural, illogical, unscientific; God intervenes, the sun dances this is such a contradiction of what has now become the ‘theological norm’.
Amoris Laetitia is from one world whereas Fatima from another.