If you, like I do, suffer from Amoris defetiscenia, you might be clicking past pieces you see about the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. I confess that I have to fight the temptation to tune out and just ignore the document and its coverage. Alas, I cannot. I must constrain myself to read more.
That said, pop over to LifeSite for a peek at an entry by Monica Miller. HERE She doesn’t offer anything that is startlingly new, but she provides a succinct review of the difficulties within the document. Quite helpful is her swift review of the sore spots in the deeply troubling Chapter 8. Then she offers an opinion about what makes Pope Francis’ pontificate tick.
Amoris Laetitia: the key to the Francis pontificate
[… I’ll cut to the end…]
The ultimate key to understanding Francis comes at the end of AL, Article 311:
We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider “inadequate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.”
Given what Francis has indicated in previous paragraphs, it is reasonable to understand him here to mean that the canonical requirement that those who have divorced and remarried should not be admitted to the Eucharist until they have received an annulment is a “condition on mercy” that waters down the Gospel. Such a “theological conception” challenges the omnipotence of God.
To understand what drives the Francis pontificate, is to appreciate his personal spiritual doctrine: the doctrinal pronouncements of the Church are subordinated to the primary value of mercy — and to insist on the practice of the demands of the Gospel (the rules) as a requirement for ecclesial membership opposes this primary value. Rather than mercy and the demands of the Gospel existing in a Christian paradox, for Francis they exist in conflict. Mercy is such a value for him that Francis states “the name of God is mercy.” I would argue that God’s name is not “mercy.” God’s name is “love.” It is love, and not mercy that is the essence of God out of which he exercises mercy toward sinners.
This emphasis on mercy first, the ethical requirements of discipleship second, explains why Francis consistently refers to moral absolutes in AL as the “ideal” with the emphasis placed on understanding the mitigating circumstances that prevent many from reaching that “ideal.” By placing mercy first in the hierarchy of spiritual values, and by subordinating to it the call to discipleship—a call which Christ himself taught involved the carrying of the cross, there is the possibility that the call to follow Christ will be muted and taken less seriously than Our Lord would wish. One may fairly conclude that in the spirituality of Francis, mercy trumps justice, love trumps truth—but without concluding that justice and truth are of no consequence.
The emphasis on mercy also explains Francis’ ecclesiology in his repeated description of the Church as “a field hospital for the wounded.” The field is mostly likely the battlefield of life itself, and in the midst of this broken, battered world, persons can come to the Church and be healed—the Church being that emergency room of welcome where wounds of personal sin and alienation are bound up. This idea of the Church is true, but only partially so. [Let us not forget that not everyone who goes to a “field hospital” lives and not everyone comes out with all their parts. Also, they don’t have time to lie in a “field hospital”.] The metaphor gives the impression that Christians are not expected to perform acts of service, but to only receive acts of service—while we simply lay in hospital beds of mercy. There is no sense here that merciful healing leads to heroic fidelity to the Gospel which includes carrying heavy crosses.
Mercy is not simply important to Francis. The key to his pontificate is his insistence that mercy is the spiritual imperative of the Gospel that compels him to see as less imperative to the Christian life an insistence on the objective practice of the Gospel—a dynamic that certainly deserves deeper analysis. Let me conclude by saying that mercy is not the fullness of justice—as if to say that justice is subordinated to it. Rather, the fullness of justice is the new man recreated in the image of Christ through the grace he won for all on the Cross, a justice God wills all to possess.
And the beat goes on.