Saturday, 4 November 2017

.... with Pope Francis and not against

I have already observed on this blog that I believe that much of the responsibility for the alleged confusion following Amoris Laetitia must lie with those who have promoted that confusion by a persistent campaign of criticism of the Apostolic Exhortation articulated in part in terms of, oh irony, condemnation of the confusion caused by it and by Pope Francis.

A strand in the criticism has been a discussion of whether or not Amoris Laetitia, both as a document in itself or seen in terms of its specific content, can be considered a document of the Ordinary Magisterium (capitals intended). The intention of this line of argument has been to suggest that, if it is not part of the Magisterium, it can therefore be considered non-binding. The term "Magisterium" in this context refers narrowly to teaching offered as teaching for the universal Church and which is permanent in its character and therefore applicable over all time - Magisterium with a capital "M".

This has appeared to me to be rather beside what is the real point. Whatever we think of it, Amoris Laetitia is clearly an exercise by Pope Francis of his office as the Successor of Peter. It may contain pastoral indications that apply to particular situations of our own times, and therefore might not apply in the future; and it may contain indications for pastoral action that are for a time rather than being such that a future generation might consider binding. But it might also contain parts that are of more permanent value (for example, Chapter IV on love in marriage). In this, it is no different than many other actions of the ordinary magisterium, that is, of the exercise of their office by the Successors of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. The strict discussion of whether or not it is "Magisterium" appears somewhat sterile in this context; the real question for Catholics today is a  rather different question.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet's address to the Canadian Bishops conference very subtly captured the appropriate response (with my emphasis added):
So we must re-read Amoris Laetitia in a spirit of pastoral conversion that assumes, first of all a genuine and unprejudiced receptivity to the pontifical teaching; secondly, a change of attitude in the face of cultures that are far from the faith; thirdly, a convincing testimony to the joy of the Gospel that emerges from faith in the Person of Jesus and his loving and merciful gaze upon all of human reality.
The reading from St Peter Chrysologus offered as the "Meditation of the Day" in MAGNIFICAT for yesterday struck me as very apposite. St Peter Chrysologus is commenting on the Gospel text for yesterday's Mass, in which Jesus dines at the house of a leading Pharisee (Luke 14:1-6). The title given to the meditation was Jesus Went to Dine:
When he had entered the house, it says. In the house there was a trap, in the greeting a trial, in the seat at table a snare .....There jealousy was burning, envy was inflamed, anger was being cooked up, pretence provided the seasoning, and all the courses of slander were being made ready.
And, nevertheless, there that Lamb of God was eating, and not to be fed, but to be killed, just as if he knew none of this. He certainly was eating, brothers, not as if he were ignorant of this, but so that at least by his companionship, by their very intimacy and the gracious way in which he dined together with them, their ferocity might be tamed, their anger soothed, their envy extinguished. Then by his very humaneness these men might now return to being human again, they might acquire some affection, they might notice his gracious charm, they might welcome their parent, they might recognise his kindness, they might acknowledge his powers, they might love his curative treatments, and they might desire, and not attack, his acts of healing.

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