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).
Pope 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.