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Friday, April 08, 2016

Amoris Laetitia

The new papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is out.

A few words may be in order.
Here is a summary of what I found to be highlights (your may find others, when you look):

This is news to the folks at EWTN
#50 Distractions abound, including an addiction to television.

Homosexual unions are again condemned.
#52 We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.

Islamic practice of FGM is specifically called out as reprehensible:
#54 The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union. I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practiced in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making. History is burdened by the excesses of patriarchal cultures that considered women inferior, yet in our own day, we cannot overlook the use of surrogate mothers and “the exploitation and commercialization of the female body in the current media culture

One of the more beautiful passages in the exhortation:
#72 The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since “their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church. The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross

Article #75 has a great description of exactly how the grace of marriage works

Pope Francis notes opportunities:
#78 When a couple in an irregular union attains a noteworthy stability through a public bond – and is characterized by deep affection, responsibility towards the children and the ability to overcome trials – this can be seen as an opportunity where possible, to lead them to celebrate the sacrament of Matrimony.

Another beautiful passage:
#80 Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”.84 The child who is born “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfilment”.85 He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself.

#81 A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for “he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift”,87 which is “the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents”.

Article #83 has a great exhortation against abortion

Bishops, take note:
#84 At the same time I feel it important to reiterate that the overall education of children is a “most serious duty” and at the same time a “primary right” of parents....Schools do not replace parents, but complement them.

Bishops, priests, DREs: stop trying to replace parents
#85. The Church is called to cooperate with parents through suitable pastoral initiatives, assisting them in the fulfilment of their educational mission. She must always do this by helping them to appreciate their proper role and to realize that by their reception of the sacrament of marriage they become ministers of their children’s education.

Articles #91-94 are a great passage on what "patience" means. In fact, the whole discussion through #119 is a wealth of material for meditation.

Note the difference in attitude towards children
#124 In the words of Saint Robert Bellarmine, “the fact that one man unites with one woman in an indissoluble bond, and that they remain inseparable despite every kind of difficulty, even when there is no longer hope for children, can only be the sign of a great mystery”.

Another beautiful passage:
#170 A child is a human being of immense worth and may never be used for one’s own benefit. So it matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations. For “children are a gift. Each one is unique and irreplaceable… We love our children because they are children, not because they are beautiful, or look or think as we do, or embody our dreams. We love them because they are children. A child is a child”.186 The love of parents is the means by which God our Father shows his own love.

Pope Francis paraphrases Pope Benedict:
#186. When those who receive it turn a blind eye to the poor and suffering, or consent to various forms of division, contempt and inequality, the Eucharist is received unworthily.

Important advice for newlyweds
#190 In some marriages, one spouse keeps secrets from the other, confiding them instead to his or her parents. As a result, the opinions of their parents become more important than the feelings and opinions of their spouse. This situation cannot go on for long

Possibly the most beautiful passage in the document:
#221 Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman? Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity. Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship.

This passage speaks for itself:
#242 At the same time, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors should accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when they are in serious financial difficulty”

Re-iterating constant teaching
#243. It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. “They are not excommunicated” and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community.261 These situations “require careful discernment and respectful accompaniment. Language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided, and they should be encouraged to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity”.

#246 Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.

#247 With regard to sharing in the Eucharist, ‘the decision as to whether the non-Catholic party of the marriage may be admitted to Eucharistic communion is to be made in keeping with the general norms existing in the matter, both for Eastern Christians and for other Christians, taking into account the particular situation of the reception of the sacrament of matrimony by two baptized Christians. Although the spouses in a mixed marriage share the sacraments of baptism and matrimony, eucharistic sharing can only be exceptional and in each case according to the stated norms’ (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 25 March 1993, 159-160)”.

Nothing new on homosexuality
251. In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”

Bishops, take note:
263. Parents rely on schools to ensure the basic instruction of their children, but can never completely delegate the moral formation of their children to others.

On Correcting children (read through #274, but here is a highlight)
268. It is also essential to help children and adolescents to realize that misbehaviour has consequences. They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. Some punishments – those for aggressive, antisocial conduct - can partially serve this purpose. It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others.

#274 A person may clearly and willingly desire something evil, but do so as the result of an irresistible passion or a poor upbringing. In such cases, while the decision is voluntary, inasmuch as it does not run counter to the inclination of their desire, it is not free, since it is practically impossible for them not to choose that evil. We see this in the case of compulsive drug addicts. When they want a fix, they want it completely, yet they are so conditioned that at that moment no other decision is possible. Their decision is voluntary but not free. It makes no sense to “let them freely choose”, since in fact they cannot choose, and exposing them to drugs only increases their addiction. They need the help of others and a process of rehabilitation.

Good to remember for training spouses - they have to learn to trust each other
#279. Nor is it good for parents to be domineering. When children are made to feel that only their parents can be trusted, this hinders an adequate process of socialization and growth in affective maturity.

Great summary on sex education
#283. Frequently, sex education deals primarily with “protection” through the practice of “safe sex”. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance. It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.

Nancy Pelosi, please call your office:
#297 Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.

The Church's declaration on a particular marriage's validity/nullity CAN be wrong:
#298 There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”

#301 Saint Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well;341 in other words, although someone may possess all the infused moral virtues, he does not clearly manifest the existence of one of them, because the outward practice of that virtue is rendered difficult: “Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues”.

A quote from the Summa (I-II, q. 94, art. 4.)
#304 I earnestly ask that we always recall a teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas and learn to incorporate it in our pastoral discernment: “Although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects… In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles; and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all… The principle will be found to fail, according as we descend further into detail”.347 It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule.

Justice through Mercy
#305 Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”


Joe said...

Steve, love reading your blog. Thank you for all you do!

Keeping this as pithy as possible....I'm struggling a little with this part:

#221 Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman? Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity. Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship.

I thought the greatest mission of Christians was to find the kingdom of heaven and help one another achieve salvation. Am I misinterpreting the Exhortation or constant Church teaching?


Steve Kellmeyer said...

It's just a re-statement of an ancient Church teaching. The Fall broke us. We are no longer fully capable of being man or woman: not enough grace. Christ heals us. His grace, especially the grace of the sacraments (e.g., marriage), enables us to be fully ourselves.

Another way of saying the same thing is that my wife mediates, or is, Christ to me, while I mediate, or am, Christ to her. But if you say it that way, only the Christians nod in assent. Great for preaching to the choir, not so good for evangelizing secular types.

By phrasing it this way, Pope Francis can strike a chord in secularists who would otherwise be put off by the language.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

If secularists read it, then it's an ingenious move. I'm thinking that when I try to explain it to more traditional Catholics, I'll be accused of finding a way to "rescue" the Pope from his mire of ambiguity and confusion!
Thanks again Steve.

Mrs. Webfoot said...

Possibly the most beautiful passage in the document:
#221 Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman? Fostering growth means helping a person to shape his or her own identity. Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship. >>>>>

Yes! Beautifully said.

This statement supports the teaching of the Church that the husband and wife relationship is complementary in nature, and as St. Chrysostom emphasized, one of balance - equilibrium, IOW. It seems to me that same kind of complementarity and equilibrium cannot be achieved in same sex relationships no matter how much the two may love one another. It’s not the same relationship, and not just because children cannot be produced from such a union - though that is another strong argument in favor of traditional marriage.

Thank you for this summary of Amoris Laetitia. Beautiful!