Pope Francis’ “accompaniment” language is not new. Pope Benedict XVI, in fact…

The way that some gush over the new insights in Amoris laetitia, you would think that a Pope had finally discovered that there are people out there, with … lives, and everything!  However, it could be that there is less innovation than claimed.

Over at the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, Fr. James Bradley of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, has remarked about the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Amoris Laetitia’s language of accompaniment is nothing new

The language of accompaniment is nothing new to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, released last Friday, nor even to the pontificate of Pope Francis.

In his own apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI used the same term in the same context of the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried. [In a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, I might add.]

He [Benedict] stated unequivocally: “The divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving Communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.” (SC 29).

Reading-Francis-Through-Benedict-02-copy.jpgPope Francis has taken up Pope Benedict’s pastoral concern and run with it, [Reading Francis Through Benedict?] albeit with the same caution and caveats, seeking to put into practice the laudable sentiments expressed by his predecessor, themselves a reflection of the mind of the bishops gathered for the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2005.

In this, Amoris Laetitia does not represent a new direction, still less a new path. Rather, it further articulates what Pope Benedict wrote in Sacramentum Caritatis, when he referenced not just the magisterial writing of Pope Saint John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio 84, but also his own Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued whilst he was still its Cardinal Prefect.

In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis describes the notion of ‘accompaniment’ in these terms (with my emphasis): “Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.”

For Pope Francis, then, as also for his predecessors, accompaniment does not mean simply walking with those who are divorced and remarried as if to follow them along a wayward path. Rather, it means coming up alongside them, taking them by the hand, and leading them to the objective truth and reality of their situation, allowing this not simply to become known to the couple in the process, but embraced by them as the truth, so that they might recognise the imperfect, even sinful nature of their circumstances, and then choose to amend their life according to the law of Christ.

 

[…]

Read the rest there.

As I wrote elsewhere about Amoris laetitia:

If the RIGHT, conservatives and traditionalists are now challenged to an even more compassionate approach to all who need pastoral care (I’m not saying thereby that they aren’t already compassionate – that’s just a canard), the LEFT, liberals, are now challenged by Pope Francis actually to embrace Catholic teaching and conform their pastoral approaches to it (and I am saying that they often don’t – and that’s just a fact). Among other things, Amoris laetitia is at least a call to liberals to fidelity to the Church’s teachings and to abandon dissent! On this point Amoris laetitia could cause some division in the catholic Left. Some are more honest than others, after all. Those pastors of souls who aren’t, who dissent from clear Catholic doctrine both in the pulpit and in pastoral practice after this Exhortation will probably wind up in the deep cinders of Hell. There. I said it.

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7 Responses to Pope Francis’ “accompaniment” language is not new. Pope Benedict XVI, in fact…

  1. Nathan says:

    Father, I didn’t join in the discussion earlier because it’s taking a while to get through the document. However, as I read the third chapter, I took to heart your comment about what the Left is challenged to do. Is it reasonable to make the point that, in order to enter into a meaningful discussion about footnote 351, one ought to publicly assent to paragraphs 52, 54, 55, 56, 79, 80, 83, and 84? To do so would require affirmation of the Church’s teaching on same-sex simulated “marriage,” contraception, fatherhood, the Divine origin of marriage, abortion, and parental rights in education.

    Why should only one side of the debate get to exclusively choose what is discussed in relation to the document?

    In Christ,

  2. johnnys says:

    Jesus did not accompany the adulteress woman for long before He told her to go and sin no more.

  3. quamquam says:

    johnnys – probably the adulteress already had a fairly vivid understanding that what she had done was sinful, and had to be turned away from.

    In the case of the divorced and remarried these days, if they are poorly catechised, this will not necessarily be so simple. It depends on individual cases. A wise shepherd might sometimes go step-by-step in gradually leading them to the full truth.

    Relevant here is this statement in the 1997 document of the Pontifical Council for the Family, ‘Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life’ (3.8)

    ‘The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin. Nonetheless, in these cases, the confessor must try to bring such penitents ever closer to accepting God’s plan in their own lives, even in these demands, by means of prayer, admonition and exhorting them to form their consciences, and by the teaching of the Church.’

    (‘Formal’ grave sin occurs when, in addition to grave matter, there is full knowledge and fully free consent. Otherwise it is simply ‘material’ sin – while an evil (since it is a disorder in relation to the objective law of God), the person is not fully responsible and it does not destroy sanctifying grace.)

    One can imagine a situation, for example, in which a divorced and remarried person, unjustly abandoned and civilly ‘remarrying’ in ignorance of the sinfulness and invalidity of this, now has a ‘perplexed conscience’ – they think that no matter what they do, they will commit sin. In reality, following the objective law of God there can be no such situation, but an individual can mistakenly think so, and accordingly not be freely sinning in their choice of one or the other apparently sinful option. They now know the Church’s teaching that they must cease illicit relations with their partner and live ‘as brother and sister’, bringing up their children, but they also (wrongly) imagine that they would sin against their non-Catholic partner by ‘imposing’ continence on him.

    A pastor could on the one hand clarify their confusion by carefully explaining why the intrinsically evil act of adultery could never be rightly done, even for the reason given. But he could well predict that doing this, without the person’s further spiritual preparation and growth, would occasion the person’s merely material sin (not mortal because lacking genuine freedom) becoming actual formal mortal sin, with the result that they lose sanctifying grace and move closer to hell rather than heaven.

    So step-by-step would be better. And in the meantime, not having committed mortal sin, should that person necessarily be deprived of the sacraments, which would help strengthen them for the eventual living of the full truth of marriage to which the law of God calls them? What if they then commit mortal sin in an unrelated matter but repent of this with imperfect contrition? Are they to be deprived of absolution and live in risk of hell, because of their marital situation, even though this does not involve formal sin? Might Pope Francis not then be correct in suggesting there could be cases where, avoiding scandal to others, the sacraments could be given, and would be helpful in leading that person on the path towards salvation? The Shepherd gently coaxes the lost sheep when necessary, rather than push them in the other direction.

    True, this might not be a very common situation – though maybe more common than we think. But even if, out of tens of millions of divorced and remarried Catholics, only a million are in the state described, are those million to be sent on their merry way to hell, for the sake of having a one-size-fits-all rule?

    Pope Francis in no way advocates reception of Communion by those in a state of unrepented mortal sin. Thus the essential teaching of Scripture and the Church on this matter is fully retained. But maybe footnote 351 has more wisdom than people realise.

  4. moon1234 says:

    Our Lord said it best. Clear, easy to understand, straight to the point:
    Matthew 19:3-9
    3And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: 5For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. 6Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. 7They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? 8He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.

    Saint Paul then easily clarified communion for those who have put away their spouse:
    1 Corinthians 11 :27-32

    27Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. 28But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. 30Therefore are there many inform and weak among you, and many sleep. 31But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.

    Why do we need 200 some pages to say what our Lord said and St. Paul clarified in just a few paragraphs? We need teachings of a few pages that are Clear, straight to the point and direct.

  5. Reading Francis through Benedict? Here’s how the Philippine bishops conference, in their April 9 statement, are reading Francis:

    After collective discernment, your bishops will come up with more concrete guidelines on the implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation. But mercy cannot wait. Mercy should not wait. Even now, bishops and priests must open welcoming arms to those who have kept themselves out of the Church because of a sense of guilt and of shame. The laity must do no less. When our brothers and sisters who, because of broken relations, broken families and broken lives, stand timidly at the doors of our churches – and of our lives – unsure whether they are welcome or not, let us go out to meet them, as the Pope urges us to, and assure them that at the table of sinners at which the All-Holy Lord offers himself as food for the wretched, there is always room. O res mirabilis manducat Dominum pauper, servus et humilis…O wonderful reality that the poor, the slave and the lowly should partake of the Lord. This is a disposition of mercy, an openness of heart and of spirit that needs no law, awaits no guideline, nor bides on prompting. It can and should happen immediately.

    How many other bishops conferences will ignore Benedict’s little phrase “albeit without receiving Communion” regarding those living unrepentant in irregular (sinful) situations?

    P.S. Love your new banners, Fr. Z!

  6. sahn105 says:

    Let’s be honest, it’s the typical V2-style of ambiguity in text. Conservatives then have to defend the orthodoxy and the light to be read in. Basically trying not to cross the line but emptying everything of practice.

  7. Pingback: Amoris Lætitia Aftermath. . . Beaten Down, Demoralized, Confused, Frustrated; Let Us Now Get Up Off the Ground – Big Pulpit