Monday, May 30, 2016

Eleven Key Points to Discernment of "Irregular" Situations from 'Amoris Laetitia' by Pope Francis

Today’s Treasures from Amoris Laetitia (301-307)
Chapter 8: Mitigating Factors in Pastoral Discernment

  • 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. (301)
  • A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. (301)
  • “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.” (302)
  • 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. (303)
  • [Conscience] 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. (303)
  • 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. (304)
  • 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. (304)
  • 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. (305)
  • In every situation, when dealing with those who have difficulties in living God’s law to the full, the invitation to pursue the [way of charity] must be clearly heard. (306)
  • Fraternal charity is the first law of Christians. (306)

We cannot reduce and judge people's less-than-ideal situations. Circumstance, context, pastoral discernment, and, most of all, the way of love will lead us all to God's will in our lives. This chapter is the most talked about in the exhortation, and most likely it serves as the dividing line for the traditionalist and historically-minded worldviews in the Church. But it doesn't have to be that way. Pope Francis uses the Church Fathers, St. John Paul the II, the Synod, Scripture, and the Catechism as the basis for his thinking.