Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amoris Laetitia



Dear Friends in the Faith,

Congratulations on completing this journey through Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia 😊 

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire creative fidelity to the joy of love revealed in Jesus Christ!  Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us—

The Secretariat for Evangelization & Catechesis
Diocese of Joliet in Illinois

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 325


325.  The teaching of the Master (cf. Mt 22:30) and Saint Paul (cf. 1 Cor 7:29-31) on marriage is set - and not by chance - in the context of the ultimate and definitive dimension of our human existence. We urgently need to rediscover the richness of this teaching.  By heeding it, married couples will come to see the deeper meaning of their journey through life.  As this Exhortation has often noted, no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love.  This is a never-ending vocation born of the full communion of the Trinity, the profound unity between Christ and his Church, the loving community which is the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the pure fraternity existing among the saints of heaven.  Our contemplation of the fulfillment which we have yet to attain also allows us to see in proper perspective the historical journey which we make as families, and in this way to stop demanding of our interpersonal relationships a perfection, a purity of intentions and a consistency which we will only encounter in the Kingdom to come.  It also keeps us from judging harshly those who live in situations of frailty. All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse.  Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together.  What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine.  May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.  

Prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us one more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God's plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.

Amen.

    Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, on 19 March, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, in the year 2016, the fourth of my Pontificate.   -Francis


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 324


324.  Led by the Spirit, the family circle is not only open to life by generating it within itself, but also by going forth and spreading life by caring for others and seeking their happiness.  This openness finds particular expression in hospitality,389 which the word of God eloquently encourages:  "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb 13:2).  When a family is welcoming and reaches out to others, especially the poor and the neglected, it is "a symbol, witness and participant in the Church's motherhood".390  Social love, as a reflection of the Trinity, is what truly unifies the spiritual meaning of the family and its mission to others, for it makes present the kerygma in all its communal imperatives.  The family lives its spirituality precisely by being at one and the same time a domestic church and a vital cell for transforming the world.391

389  Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 44: AAS 74 (1982), 136.
390  Ibid., 49: AAS 74 (1982), 141.
391  For the social aspects of the family, cf. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 248-254.


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Monday, June 19, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 323


323.  It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them.  This demands a freedom and openness which enables us to appreciate their dignity.  We can be fully present to others only by giving fully of ourselves and forgetting all else. Our loved ones merit our complete attention.  Jesus is our model in this, for whenever people approached to speak with him he would meet their gaze, directly and lovingly (cf. Mk 10:21).  No one felt overlooked in his presence, since his words and gestures conveyed the question: "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mk 10:51).  This is what we experience in the daily life of the family.  We are constantly reminded that each of those who live with us merits complete attention, since he or she possesses infinite dignity as an object of the Father's immense love.  This gives rise to a tenderness which can "stir in the other joy of being loved.  Tenderness is expressed in a particular way by exercising loving care in treating the limitations of the other, especially when they are evident".388

388  Relatio Finalis 2015, 88.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 322


322.  All family life is a "shepherding" in mercy.  Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others; with Paul, we can say:  "You are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts...not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor 3:3-2).  Each of us is a "fisher of men" (Lk 5:10) who in Jesus' name "casts the nets" (cf. Lk 5:5) to others, or a farmer who tills the fresh soil of those whom he or she loves, seeking to bring out the best in them.  Marital fruitfulness involves helping others, for "to love anybody is to expect from him something which can neither be defined nor foreseen; it is at the same time in some way to make it possible for him to fulfill this expectation".387  This is itself a way to worship God, who has sown so much good in others in the hope that we will help make it grow.

387  Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator:  prolĂ©gomĂšnes Ă  une mĂ©taphysique de l'espĂ©rance, Paris, 1944, p. 66.  English:  Homo Viator.  An Introduction to a Metaphysics of Hope, London, 1951, p. 49.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 321


A Spirituality of Care, Consolation and Incentive

321.  "Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and for their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the faith".383  God calls them to bestow life and to care for life.  For this reason the family "has always been the nearest "hospital".384  So let us care for one another, guide and encourage one another, and experience this as a part of our family spiritually.  Life as a couple is a daily sharing in God's creative work, and each person is for the other a constant challenge from the Holy Spirit.  God's love is proclaimed "through the living and concrete word whereby a man and the woman express their conjugal love".385  The two are thus mutual reflections of that divine love which comforts with a word, a look, a helping hand, a caress, an embrace.  For this reason "to want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God's dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where one one will feel alone".386

383 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.
384 Catechesis (10 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 11 June 2015, p.8.
385 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 12: AAS 74 (1982), 93.
386 Address at the Prayer Vigil of the Festival of Families, Philadelphia (26 September 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 28-29 September 2015, p.6.


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 320


320.  There comes a point where a couple's love attains the height of its freedom and becomes the basis of a healthy autonomy.  This happens when each spouse realizes that the other is not his or her own, but has a much more important master, the one Lord.  No one but God can presume to take over the deepest and most personal core of the loved one; he alone can be the ultimate center of their life. At the same time, the principle of spiritual realism requires that one spouse not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs.  The spiritual journey of each - as Dietrich Bonhoeffer nicely put it - needs to help them to a certain "disillusionment" with regard to the other,382 to stop expecting from that person something which is proper to the love of God alone.  This demands an interior divestment.  The space which each of the spouses makes exclusively for their personal relationship with God not only helps heal the hurts of life in common, but also enables the spouses to find in the love of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives.  Each day we have to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to make this interior freedom possible.

382 Cf. Gemeinsames Leben, Munich, 1973, p.18. English: Life Together, New York, 1954, p.27.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 319


A Spirituality of Exclusive and Free Love

319.  Marriage is also the experience of belonging completely to another person.  Spouses accept the challenge and aspiration of supporting one another, growing old together, and in this way reflecting God's own faithfulness.  This firm decision, which shapes a style of life, is an "interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love",380 since "a person who cannot choose to love forever can hardly love for even a single day".381  At the same time, such fidelity would be spiritually meaningless were it simply a matter of following a law with obedient resignation.  Rather, it is a matter of the heart, into which God alone sees (cf. Mt 5:28).  Every morning, on rising, we reaffirm before God our decision to be faithful, come what may in the course of the day.   And all of us, before going to sleep, hope to wake up and continue this adventure, trusting in the Lord's help.  In this way, each spouse is for the other a sign and instrument of the closeness of the Lord, who never abandons us: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20).

380  John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consorio (22 November 1981), 11: AAS 74 (1982), 93.
381 Id., Homily at Mass with Families, Cordoba, Argentina (8 April 1987), Insegnamenti X/1 (1987), 1161-1162.


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 318


318.  Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening this paschal faith.376  A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle.  With a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families.  The various expressions of popular piety are a treasure of spirituality for many families. The family's communal journey of prayer culminates by sharing together in the Eucharist, especially in the context of the Sunday rest.  Jesus knocks on the door of families, to share with them the Eucharistic supper (cf. Rev 3:20).  There, spouses can always seal anew the paschal covenant which united them and which ought to reflect the covenant which God sealed with mankind in the cross.377 The Eucharist is the sacrament of the new covenant, where Christ's redemptive work is carried out (cf. Lk 22:20).  The close bond between married life and the Eucharist thus becomes all the more clear.378  For the food of the Eucharist offers the spouses the strength and incentive needed to live the marriage covenant each day as a "domestic church".379

376  Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 87.
377 Cf. John Paul, II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 19891), 57: AAS 74 (1982), 150.
378  Nor should we forget that God's covenant with his people is expressed as an espousal (cf. Ez 16:8, 60; Is 62:5; Hos 2:21-22), and that the new covenant is also presented as a betrothal (cf. Rev 19:7; 21:2; Eph 5:25).
379  Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11.


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 317


Gathered in Prayer in the Light of Easter

317.  If a family is centered on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life.  Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord's cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them.  In the darkest hours of a family's life, union with Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup.  Gradually, "with the grace of the Holy Spirit, [the spouses] grow in holiness through married life, also by sharing in the mystery of Christ's cross, which transforms difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love".374  Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full like of the resurrection.  Married couples shape with different daily gestures a "God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord".375

374  Relatio Finalis 2015, 87.
375  John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 42: AAS 88 (1996), 416.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 316


316.  A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God.  The fraternal and communal demands of family life are an incentive to growth in openness of heart and thus to an ever fuller encounter with the Lord.  The word of God tells us that "the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness" (1 Jn 2:1); such a person "abides in death" (1 Jn 3:14) and "does not know God" (1 Jn 4:8).  My predeccessor Benedict XVI pointed out that "closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God",370 and that, in the end, love is the only light which can "constantly illuminate a world grown dim".371  If only we "love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 Jn 4:12). Since "the human person has an inherent social dimension",372 and "the first and basic expression of that social dimension of the person is the married couples and the family",373 spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family.  Hence, those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union.

370  Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2015), 16: AAS 98 (2006), 230.
371  Ibid., 39: AAS 98 (2006), 250.
372  John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 40: AAS 81 (1989), 468.
373  Ibid.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 315


315.  The Lord's presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.  Living in a family makes is hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind a mask.  If that authenticity is inspired by love, then the Lord reigns there, with his joy and his peace.  The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures.  In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, god has his dwelling place.  This mutual concern "brings together the human and the diving".369 for it is filled with the love of God.  In the end, marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells.

369  Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 49.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 314


A Spirituality of Supernatural Communion

314.  We have always spoken of how God dwells in the hearts of those living in his grace.  Today we can add that the Trinity is present in the temple of marital communion.  Just as God dwells in the praises of his people (cf. Ps 22:3), so he dwells deep within the marital love that gives him glory.


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Friday, June 9, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 313



313.  Charity takes on different hues, depending on the state of life to which we have been called. Several decades ago, in speaking of the lay apostolate, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the spirituality born of family life.  The Council stated that lay spirituality "will take its particular character from the circumstances of... married and family life".367  It is worth pausing to describe certain basic characteristics of this specific spirituality that unfolds in family life and its relationships.


367  Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, 4.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 312


312.  This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues.  Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate.  That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to "open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society".366  I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord.  They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth.  I also encourage the Church's pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.

366  Bull Misericordiae Vultus (11 April 2015), 15: AAS 107 (2015), 409.



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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 311


311.  The teaching of moral theology should not fail to incorporate these considerations, for although it is quite true that concern must be shown for the integrity of the Church's moral teaching, special care should always be shown to emphasize and encourage the highest and most central values of the Gospel,363 particularly the primacy of charity as a response to the completely gratuitous offer of God's love.  At times we find it hard to make room for God's unconditional love in our pastoral activity.364  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".365

363  Cf. ibid., 36-37:  AAS 105 (2013), 1035.
364  Perhaps out of a certain scrupulosity, concealed beneath a zeal for fidelity to the truth, some priests demand of penitents a purpose of amendment so lacking in nuance that it causes mercy to be obscured by the pursuit of a supposedly pure justice.  For this reason, it is helpful to recall the teaching of Saint John Paul II, who stated that the possibility of a new fall "should not prejudice the authenticity of the resolution" (Letter to Cardinal William W. Baum on the occasion of the Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary [22 March 1996], 5: Insegnamenti XIX/1 [1996], 589).
365  International Theological Commission, The Hope of Salvation for the Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (19 April 2007), 2.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 310


310.  We cannot forget that "mercy is not only the working of the Father; it becomes a criterion for knowing who his true children are.  In a word, we are called to show mercy because mercy was first shown to us".360  This is not sheer romanticism or a lukewarm response to God's love, which always seeks what is best for us, for "mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life.  All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness which she shows to believers; nothing in her preaching and her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy".361  It is true that at times "we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators.  But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems".362

360  Ibid., 5: 402.
361  Ibid., 9: 405.
362  Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1040.


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Monday, June 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 309


309.  It is providential that these reflections take place in the context of a Holy Year devoted to mercy, because also in the variety of situations affecting families "the Church is commissioned to proclaim the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the mind and heart of every person.  The Bride of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who goes out to everyone without exception".358  She knows that Jesus himself is the shepherd of the hundred, not just of the ninety-nine.  He loves them all.  On the basis of this realization, it will become possible for "the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst".359

358  Bull Misericordiae Vultus (11 April 2015), 12: AAS 107 (2015): 407.
359  Ibid., 5: 402.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 308


308.  At the same time, from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances - psychological, historical and even biological - it follows that "without detracting from the evangelical ideal, there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear", making room for "the Lord's mercy, which spurs us on to do our best".355  I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.  But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, "always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street".356  The Church's pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church's teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements.  The Gospel itself tell us not to judge or condemn (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).  Jesus "expects us to stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune, and instead to enter into the reality of other people's lives and to know the power of tenderness.  Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated".357

355  Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038.
356  Ibid., 45.
357  Ibid., 270.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 307


The Logic of Pastoral Mercy

307.  In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God's plan in all its grandeur:  "Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church".354  A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.  To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.  Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.

354  Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 306



306.  In every situation, when dealing with those who have difficulties in living God's law to the full, the invitation to pursue the via caritatis must be clearly heard.  Fraternal charity is the first law of Christians (cf. Jn 15:12, Gal 5:14).  Let us not forget the reassuring words of Scripture:  "Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8);  "Atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged" (Dan 4:24[27]); "As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sins" (Sir 3:30).  This is also what Saint Augustine teaches: "Just as, at the threat of a fire, we would run for water to extinguish it... so too, if the flame of sin rises from our chaff and we are troubled, if the chance to perform a work of mercy is offered us, let us rejoice in it, as if it were a fountain offered us to extinguish the blaze".353

353  De Catechizandis Rudibus, I, 14, 22: PL 40, 327; cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 194: AAS 105 (2013), 1101.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 305


305.  For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in "irregular" situations, as if they were stones to throw at people's lives.  This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church's teachings, "sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families".349  Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that "natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions".350 Because 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.351  Discernment must help to find possible ways to 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 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".352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

349  Address for the Conclusion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (24 October 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 26-27 October 2015, p.13.
350  International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic:  A New Look at Natural Law (2009), 59.
351  In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.  Hence, "I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord's mercy" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038.  I would also point out that the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak" (ibid., 47: 1039).
352  Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1039.


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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 304


Rules and Discernment

304.  It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual's actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being.  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.  That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry, but would endanger the very values which must be preserved with special care.348

347  Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, art. 4.
348  In another text, referring to the general knowledge of the rule and the particular knowledge of practical discernment, Saint Thomas states that "if only one of the two is present, it is preferable that it be the knowledge of the particular reality, which is closer to the act":  Sententia libri Ethicorum, VI 6 (ed. Leonina, t. XLVII, 354).

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 303


303.  Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors, we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church's praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.  Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one's pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God's grace.  Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel.  It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one's limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Amoris Laetitia -Par. 302


302.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors:  "imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors".343  In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length "affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability".344  For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.345  On the basis of these convictions, I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm:  "Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently.  Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.  Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person's properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations.  Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases".346

343  No. 1735.
344  Ibid., 2352; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980), II:  AAS 72 (1980), 546; John Paul II, in his critique of the category of "fundamental optioni", recognized that "doubtless there can occur situations which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which have an influence on the sinner's subjective culpability"  (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia [2 December 1984], 17: AAS 77 [1985], 223).
345  Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried (24 June 2000), 2.
346  Relatio Finalis 2015, 85.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 301


Mitigating Factors in Pastoral Discernment

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain "irregular" situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.  Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any "irregular" situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding "its inherent values",339 or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  As the Synod Fathers put it, "factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision".340  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".342

339  John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 33: AAS 74 (1982), 121.
340  Relatio Finalis 2015, 51.
341  Cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 65, art 3 ad 2; De Malo, q. 2, art. 2.
342  Ibid., ad 3.


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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 300


300.  If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.  What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since "the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases",335 the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.336  Priests have the duty to "accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop.  Useful in this process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance.  The divorced and remarried should ask themselves:  how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party;  what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people who are preparing for marriage.  A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God which is not denied anyone".337  What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which "guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God.  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 this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion, and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God's will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it".338  These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant "exceptions", or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours.  When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard.

335  Ibid., 51.
336  This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.  In such cases,what is found in another document applies:  cf. Evanglii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44 and 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1040.
337  Relatio Finalis 2015, 85.
338  Ibid., 86

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 299


299.  I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that "the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal.  The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it.  They are baptized; they are brothers and sisters; the Holy Spirit pours into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all.  Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.  Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.  This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important".334

334  Relatio Finalis 2015, 84.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 298


298.  The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.  One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins.  The Church acknowledges situations "where, for serious reasons, such as the children's upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate".329  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 has never been valid.".330  Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family.  It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family.  The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place "by adequately distinguishing",331 with an approach which "carefully discerns situations".332  We know that no "easy recipes" exist.333

329  John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consorto (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186.  In such situations, many people knowing and accepting the possibility of living "as brothers and sisters" which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, "it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).
330  Ibid.
331  Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.
332  Ibid., 445.
333  Benedict XVI, Address to the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan (2 June 2010), Response n. 5: Insegnamenti VIII/1 (2012), 691.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 297


297.  It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an "unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous" mercy.  No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!  Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.  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.  Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest.  As for the way of dealing with different "irregular" situations, the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support:  "In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God's plan for them",238 something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

238  Relatio Synodi 2014, 25.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 296


The Discernment of "Irregular" Situations 325


296. The Synod addressed various situations of weakness or imperfection.  Here I would like to reiterate something I sought to make clear to the whole Church, lest we take the wrong path:  "There are two ways of thinking which recur throughout the Church's history: casting off and reinstating. The Church's way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement...  The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God's mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart...  For truly charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous".326  Consequently, there is a need "to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations" and "to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition".327

325  Cf. Catechesis (24 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 25 June 2015, p.8.
326  Homily at Mass Celebrated with the New Cardinals (15 February 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 257.
327  Relatio Finalis 2015, 51.

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