Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Gradualism, the Instrumentum Laboris and Synod 15

I stated earlier in the blogpost on "What's at Stake at Synod? Everything!" that I would explain the heresy of Gradualism - apologies for the delay. Here is the explanation.

From the Instrumentum Laboris for 2015 Synod...

122. (52) Have you considered the possibility that the divorced and remarried have access to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Several Synod Fathers have insisted in favor of the current rules in force of the fundamental relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church and its teaching on marriage indissoluble. Others spoke to welcome not generalized to the Eucharistic table, in certain specific situations and under strict conditions, especially when dealing with cases related to irreversible and moral obligations to the children who would suffer unjust suffering. Any access to the sacraments should be preceded by a penitential journey under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop. It should also be in-depth the issue, bearing in mind the distinction between the objective situation of sin and extenuating circumstances, given that "the imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified" by various "psychological or social factors" (CCC, 1735). 
123. To address the above issue, there is a common agreement on the idea of ​​a journey of reconciliation or by penance, under the authority of the Bishop, to the faithful who are divorced and remarried civilly, who are in a situation of cohabitation. In reference to Familiaris Consortio 84, it suggests a process of becoming aware of the failure and the wounds produced by it, with repentance, verification of the nullity of marriage, commitment to spiritual communion and decision to live in continence. Others, by penitential mean a process of clarification and reorientation, after the failure experienced, accompanied by a priest appointed for this purpose. This process should lead the party concerned to a fair trial on their condition, in which even the same priest to mature its evaluation in order to make use of the power of binding and loosing adequately to the situation. In order to deepen about the objective situation of sin and the moral culpability, some suggest to consider the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried faithful of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ( September 14, 1994) and the Declaration on the admissibility of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (24 June 2000)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you don't know what the Church teaches on an issue and therefore proceed to research, discern the content and convey the discoveries. However to pretend one does understand? Not bother with research? And then to 'best guess/wing it' and arbitrarily impose one's own taste and opinions only to portray it as Catholic teaching? This invokes huge scandal which can only be met with opposition.

It's not merely incompetence, ineptitude and mediocrity. It's sloth and bearing false witness! The worst recent example among virtually all Catholic commentators and journalists was during the Extraordinary Synod of 2014 during and after which there were hundreds of thousands of words written on Gradualism. Even detailed self-professed expositions and step-by-step guides to it.
Yet not one commentator had bothered to find out what Gradualism actually is.

So before I begin please understand I am not referring to a gradualist growth in understanding of doctrine e.g. Credal formulae after centuries of Christological infighting. Neither am I referring to Newman's essay on the development of doctrine. Nor the Ex Cathedra pronouncements on the Immaculate Conception and the Most Glorious Assumption of Our Lady or the declarations of Vatican I on Fideism and ultra-Rationalism. Nor am I referring to the 'gradualism' of affinity between religions as expounded in Lumen Gentium or Unitatis Redintegratio or incrementalist oecumenical endeavours e.g. the Joint Catholic-Lutheran declaration on justification.
Instead, I am referring to the proposed 'Gradualist' pastoral position on the quasi-compulsive sins of weakness (addictive sins) and the intrinsically morally disordered circumstances and consequences of mortal sin (e.g. how to deal with those living in adulterous/fornicating relationships and in ongoing states of mortal sin).

Gradualism is also know as 'Theology of Compromise", evidenced by quotes such as this...

"... I have developed a theory of compromise theology precisely because of the inadequacy of Catholic ethics to come to grips with sin-filled situations. Sometimes the presence of sin in the world will force one to do something which, if there were no sin present, should not be done" (Charles Curran, theologican silenced by CDF 25th July 1986).

This is counter to the 'Law of Graduality' to which St John Paul II refers in Familiaris Consortio 34 is the common-sense  perception of the gradual effects of a person's repentance and striving for holiness - how we gradually recover from sin and gradually move along the path to perfection.

Nobody can deny this is our Pastoral imperative - we are here to exact the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy and the beatitudes among the faithful for subsidiarity, solidarity, justice and the common good. We are to love our neighbour and help lift them out of sin and assist them on the road to perfection as we gradually mutually stumble along the long journey home.

However, Cardinals Erdo, Baldisseri, Marx, Nichols and many others, as well as the later #Relatio and now the #Instrumentum laboris misrepresent this Law of Graduality and instead make it appear as if the law of Graduality also refers to 'Gradiuality of the Law' - i.e. the Principle of Gradualism -  a Gradualist stategy (actually a heresy) - which is ironically exactly what Pope St JPII condemns in Familiaris Consortio 34, as well as in the beginning of Evangelium Vitae but most specifically in Veritatis Splendor 68. This was a direct response to the Bishops of Synod 80 who wished active homosexuals, co-habiting couples and the divorced/civilly remarried to have access to the sacraments.

Gradualism refers to the formal/efficient causal 'Principle of Graduality' which is a pastoral strategy towards achieving perfection grounded upon two premises:

a) that God has not provided enough readily available grace for a sinner to immediately stop sinning and

b) The dignity of the human being is so diminished by sin that they cannot escape their sinfulness except by slowly diminishing the intensity and amount of their sins on a gradual incremental basis. This amounts to a sin-controlled diet - a pastoral personal sin-reduction fitness regime.

This amounts to a thinly disguised Jansenism - but viewed from the other end of the telescope - rather than the sinner being 'doomed' by their sin - it is instead 'unavoidable' that sinners will sin and continue to do so. This is a truth exemplified by quotes such as this...

 "Once one holds that the sin condition of the world forces us to do something that should not be done, there are no genuine moral boundaries. If it is believed that the human person is incapable of avoiding certain sinful actions, there is a simultaneous readiness to look for assistance from forces external to the human person. Technology and medicine, for example, can then be used in ways that replace authentic human sexual expression" (Toward a Theology of the Body, p. 102-3) [Sr Mary Prokes]

Gradualism is a fatalistic pessimistic principle that a 'less than Loving' God has not provided us with enough available "sufficient" grace to leave our sinful lives and not given us the capacity to not fall into sin. Therefore, we should be advised to remain in a limited sinful way and attempt to gradually reduce our sins and neither aspire to perfection nor to never sin - merely to diminish the amount of sins or the intensity or gravity of our sins. In this case, the sinner is to be treated more like a drug addict put on the 'methadone' of lesser sins rather than the alcoholic necessitating total abstinence or a gambler a total end to gambling.

In the 2000 years of Church Moral Teaching the psychologically astute and empathetic Church is fully aware just how disastrously counterproductive - calamitously futile - lethally aggravating and dangerous - this would be for the poor individual trying to repent of their sins and become holy. Gradualism, as a strategy, or as a principle for moral action, or pastoral intervention or counselling, is an heretical position.

Scripturally, it is a proven falsehood and a grave calumny against a beneficent God bestowing a plenitude of Grace and against human dignity. "My Grace is sufficient for you" (2 Cor 12:9)
Those who are children of God love his Son; those who love him can keep his commandments (Jn 14.23). God provides both the desire to do His will and the very free act by which one does it ( Phil 2.13) and the divine commands of Our Lord to "Be ye perfect" and "Go and sin more" as well as the parables of Luke 10-15, especially the rich fool, the parable of the pearl of great price and others.

It has been condemned by Church Fathers such as Sts Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome and most especially by St Augustine in 'De Peccatorum 2,6,7 when he says,

"A man, helped by God, can, if he will, be without sin" and “God, therefore, does not command what is impossible, but in commanding he also admonishes you to do what you are able, and to ask his help for what you are unable to do” (FEF 1795). Even the most hardened sinner is offered help enough to repent, if only the grace is accepted (see FEF 2097, 2232).

Continue through the history of the Church and Thomism calls it a grave heresy against both God and the human person. Suarez goes so far as to call in the great heresy against the Love of God - that He does not give us enough grace to escape from sin is a diabolical lie. It is anathematised in Session VI of the Council of Trent.

"But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should use that rash statement, once forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes thee to do what thou canst and to pray for what thou canst not, and aids thee that thou mayest be able." [DS 1536/804]

“If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and in the state of grace: let him be anathema” [DS 1568/828]

In other words: "God does not command the impossible" and to suggest, as Gradualism does, that we cannot cease from continuing in our state of mortal sin, nor continue to commit mortal sins, nor can be in the present condition to repent from mortal sin is quite simply a lie!

It is condemned by St John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor 68 as follows...

..."In point of fact, man does not suffer perdition only by being unfaithful to that fundamental option whereby he has made "a free self-commitment to God".113 With every freely committed mortal sin, he offends God as the giver of the law and as a result becomes guilty with regard to the entire law (cf. Jas 2:8-11); even if he perseveres in faith, he loses "sanctifying grace", "charity" and "eternal happiness".114 As the Council of Trent teaches, "the grace of justification once received is lost not only by apostasy, by which faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin".115 "

A refutation of Gradualism is also inherent within the first 20 sections of Evangelium Vitae. Therefore, to pretend that the Synod is only 'positively re-framing' an age-old common sense understanding that throughout our lives we 'gradually' mature and become less sinful and more understanding and holy is a nightmarish lie!

The timeless understanding of the Church is not what is being proposed - this Gradualist principle strategy has poisoned every single part of the Mid-term Relatio's and the Instrumentum Laboris arguments and yet nobody seems to see that we have an heretical ideology invading Catholic Moral teaching and its applied ethics in pastoral activity. Everyone seems to be saying that gradualism means X, while they cannot see the real gradualist strategy Y in front of their eyes inherent in the Relatio's approach to every neuralgic moral issue. To such an extent one feels like running through the streets shaking every Catholic while shouting "Wake up!"

Gradualism is here and it must be prevented at all costs from being given backdoor access into Catholic moral teaching or any doctrinal anthropological position or given any deference in the consideration of how God bestows grace upon Creation and how we should pastorally engage with those in states of mortal sin.

Gradualism is a lie about the human condition and a lie about the God who loves us. Gradualism - i.e. we are poor sinners and must be left to keep on sinning just a little less and a little less badly every day is an inherent underlying premise within the Relatio and Instrumentum Laboris that disguises itself in the wrapping of 'mercy' when it is anything but. The Mid-Term Relatio even blatantly states "according to the principle of Gradualism", seemingly unaware that this is a condemned heresy actually being advocated in a Church document, one that poisons every aspect of it. It doesn't matter how tolerant, charitable, merciful or compassionate the Relatio's conclusions may appear - they are all grounded on a falsehood about God and human dignity and thus the whole principle and proposals for pastoral implementations are false too. The document, whatever good it may contain, is thus a deceit of epic proportions.

What's worse is we already have the chaos of the heresy of incrementalism leaving the Pro-Life movement in ruins where human lives are considered negotiable and exceptions and compromises are justified in order to rescue some lives by selling out other lives. We can quite aptly call this the Caiaphas principle.

What happens if a gradualist premise is permitted as a pastoral response to any moral or doctrinal neuralgic issue or crisis? If gradualism is justified once it - being like a virus - will be given free-rein to attack every other moral issue. Look how gradualism has distorted and perverted Natural Family Planning from being a critical recourse for a grave reason in the time of emergency and potential prevention of a moral evil - into a normative practice which may be engaged in by a couple for ANY reason whatsoever - it is backdoor contraception by omission! If Gradualism is permitted for instance in regard to the divorced and civilly remarried it would not be the promoters of Same-Sex marriage who destroyed the nature of marriage - but the rebellious ignorant hierarchy within the Catholic Church!

If Gradualism is given a precedent then the consequences are immense and horrifying to any Catholic who believes the Church proclaims the immutable truths of the Gospel. Humanae Vitae lies is the gravest of danger, for it was the pre-Humanae Vitae Vatican commission which endorsed the use of artificial contraception on gradualist grounds. And if Humanae Vitae falls so does every other aspect of Catholic moral teaching on life, love, sexuality and the family. Gradualism, or rather, those who endorse it,  has declared war upon us and we need to fight back and realise what a toxic pernicious evil it is - a lie which destroys everything around it.

To quote Germain Grisez:

"This solution to the problem of quasi-compulsive sins of weakness is rendered a Practical Impossibility by Pastoral counselling which tells people "Nobody expects you to just stop. All that's required is that you work at it: as long as you're trying, you can be sure what you're doing is a venial sin at most." 

Meanwhile, the Synod, as revealed in the Instrumentum Laboris, intends to give exactly this type of pastoral counselling! If you now have even a basic understanding of Gradualism - perhaps it might be a little more easy to understand what I describe in "What's at Stake at Synod? Everything!" You may also notice that #122 appeals to mitigating and diminishing (and even nullifying) conditions for reduction in culpability.

Therefore, let the whole Church understand that the Synod on the Family, as it stands, amounts to a full-scale, multi-pronged attack on the foundations of the Catholic Church and Her Infallible teachings, teachings which we have been taught to believe, if dismissed or rejected, leave souls, the sanctity and permanence of marriage and the institution of the family in the gravest of danger. We must arm ourselves with prayer and send 'flaming prayers' to Heaven as Bishop Athanasius Schneider has asked. We must arm ourselves, too, with Catholic truth so that we may give answer when deceits are placed before us during this time of anguish, so that when new winds of doctrine blow like a hurricane through the Church, we, and many others, are not blown away.


  1. I haven't heard much on gradualism in regard to the synod from the general media. Good insight and summation of it here. Thanks!

  2. Gradualism twists Jesus' words to 'Go and sin just a little less every day.'

    Seattle kim

  3. Gradualism = slowly boil frog in water


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