In the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald (which sports my regular column in the print edition – SUBSCRIBE!), there is republished a note about comments made by Pope Francis about reading Amoris laetitia. The Pontiff spoke off-the-cuff to some Columbian Jesuits and opined:
“I want to repeat clearly that the morality of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is Thomist”.
Some defenders of the objectively ambiguous elements of Amoris, which have caused so much confusion and manifest division, immediately started hopping up and down and pointing, “See! See! Indirect response to the Dubia! And 2+2=5!” Fishwrap, for example: “Francis responds to critics: Morality of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is Thomist”
It is always interesting to read what Popes think, but let’s not get too oyfgetrogn about off-the-cuff remarks, which have no official weight.
Here’s the story:
Seeing, understanding and engaging with people’s real lives does not “bastardise” theology, rather it is what is needed to guide people toward God, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Colombia.
“The theology of Jesus was the most real thing of all; it began with reality and rose up to the Father,” he said during a private audience Sept. 10 in Cartagena, Colombia.
Meeting privately with a group of Jesuits and laypeople associated with Jesuit-run institutions in Colombia, the pope told them, “I am here for you,” not to make a speech, but to hear their questions or comments. [So, from the onset he didn’t intend to resolve anything.]
A Jesuit philosophy teacher asked what the pope hoped to see in philosophical and theological reflection today, not just in Colombia, but also in the Catholic Church in general.
Philosophy, like theology, the pope said, cannot be done in “a laboratory,” but must be done “in life, in dialogue with reality.” [Can’t it be done in both settings?]
Many of the commentaries, he said, are “respectable because they were made by children of God,” but they are “wrong.”
“In order to understand ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ you must read it from the beginning to the end,” reading each chapter in order, reading what got said during the synods of bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015, and reflecting on all of it, he said. [Okaaaaay…. ]
To those who maintain that the morality underlying the document is not “a Catholic morality” or a morality that can be certain or sure, “I want to repeat clearly that the morality of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is Thomist,” that is, built on the moral philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, he said.
One of best and “most mature” theologians today who can explain the document, he told them, is Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna. [There are other theologians out there, as well-prepared as Card. Schonborn, who asked for clarifications.]
“I want to say this so that you can help those who believe that morality is purely casuistic,” he said, meaning a morality that changes according to particular cases and circumstances rather than one that determines a general approach that should guide the church’s pastoral activity. [Go back and read that again. Slowly. I have to scratch my head a little, because, as it seems to me, if I am not mistaken, there are those who read Amoris as saying that each case must be considered individually and that different outcomes can result in individual cases, such as in the cases of those who are civilly divorced and remarried being admitted, maybe, to Holy Communion. Wouldn’t that be “casuistic”. On the other hand, those who are seeking greater clarity about the controversial elements of Amoris, if I am not mistaken, hold that there is a general principle which cannot be abandoned in individual cases. So, how is it again that we are to “help those who believe that morality is purely casuistic”? Does the meaning of that phrase depend on the word “purely”?]
The pope had made a similar point during his meeting with Jesuits gathered in Rome for their general congregation in 2016. There he said, “In the field of morality, we must advance without falling into situationalism.”
“St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure affirm that the general principle holds for all but — they say it explicitly — as one moves to the particular, the question becomes diversified and many nuances arise without changing the principle,” he had said. It is a method that was used for the Catechism of the Catholic Church [?] and “Amoris Laetitia,” he added. [I need a sound Thomist to help me out with that. It sounds as if the principle of non-contradiction is in play here, but I could be wrong. If a “general principle” can be turned 180° through nuances, then… is it a general principle?]
“It is evident that, in the field of morality, one must proceed with scientific rigour and with love for the church and discernment. [With “scientific rigor”… as in a, say, “laboratory”?] There are certain points of morality on which only in prayer can one have sufficient light to continue reflecting theologically. And on this, allow me to repeat it, one must do ‘theology on one’s knees.’ You cannot do theology without prayer. This is a key point and it must be done this way,” he had told the Jesuits in Rome.
I’ll have to pray on this for a while.
The moderation queue is ON.