Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quote of the Day

The Pope – to the disappointment of many liberals, no doubt – is not replacing an old set of harsh and restrictive rules with a new set of flexible and merciful rules. Rules, actually, are not the point. It is true that [Amoris Laetitia] does little explicitly to uproot the structures of misogyny and homophobia that have long corrupted the Catholic tradition, but it does give a fresh impetus to change on these issues. Francis’s watchword is mercy, but mercy adheres, first, not in alterations of doctrine but in the new way that Catholics are invited to think of doctrine. When human experience, with all of what the Pope calls its “immense variety of concrete situations,” is elevated over “general principles,” a revolution is implicit. Francis explains: “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.”

The pastoral solution lives in this realm of “particular situations,” where, as Francis insists, “constant love” must prevail over judgmentalism. Every situation is different, and a subtle moral discernment is required to see how general principles apply to it. For centuries, the assumption of the Catholic hierarchy was that lay people were not capable of such discernment, but, with Francis, that is no longer true. “The Joy of Love” is directly addressed to the laity, who are encouraged to pursue conscientious moral discernment by consulting not only pastors but one another.

. . . Conservatives have long warned of the dangers involved in a forthright, public acknowledgment that moral complexity requires flexibility. Rules and doctrines, they worry, will be undermined if absolutist attitudes about their meaning are mitigated. The conservatives are right, and they will surely see this new exhortation as a further source of concern.

. . . Official Church teaching [on issues of sexuality] may never change, but its meaning will never be the same. Moral discernment belongs to the people.

– James Carroll
Excerpted from "The New Morality of Pope Francis"
The New Yorker
April 8, 2016

Related Off-site Links:
How Pope Francis' Exhortation on Love Is – and Isn't – Changing the Catholic Church – Tom Kington (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2016).
Fr. Charles Curran: Pope Francis' Reforms are "More Than Just Style" – Allison Walter (National Catholic Reporter, April 15, 2016).
Pope Francis Exhorts Church to Be Less Uniform and More Universal – Sébastien Maillard (The World Post, April 12, 2016).
Pope Francis' Love Letter Is an Opportunity Lost – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, April 11, 2016).

For more of James Carroll's thoughts at The Wild Reed, see:
James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth (Part 1)
James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth (Part 2)
James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth (Part 3)
James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth (Part 4)
James Carroll on Catholic Understandings of Truth (Part 5)
Rescuing Catholicism
Quote of the Day – December 1, 2014

For more on Amoris Laetitia, see:
"For Every Sign of Hope, There is a Matching Disappointment"
Quote of the Day – April 11, 2016
An Erotic Encounter with the Divine
On Eve of Amoris Laetitia's Release, "A Moment of Pause and of Prayer"

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