AMORIS LAETITIA: Advice for Mature Catholics


FRANCIS COAT OF ARMSI’ve been reading some commentaries on the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”. I’d like to point out some errors that we have to avoid.

First — we need to read the document very carefully, pray over it, and read it again before we comment on it.

Second — let us remember that an apostolic exhortaion is not a catechism. Do not expect an apostolic exhortation to repeat what is already stated in every catechism of every generation. I use the admonitions of St. Francis of Assisi as an example. If you read them, you’ll not find anything in his admonitions that is already stated in the Rule and Constitutions. The admonitions are reflections that flow from the study and observance of the Gospel. The same principle applies to an apostolic exhortation.

Third — Do not let others determine what you should like or not like about the exhortation. Nor should you allow others to tell you that something is great or something is bad without giving you a specific example.

Fourth — If there is something that you find problematic, quote it when you share it. Dissect it so that others know what you find to be a problem. Leave an opening for others to agree or disagree with you. Dialogue is essential in understanding these writings.

Fifth — Because something is not mentioned in the apostolic exhortation, it does not mean that the Church has neglected a particular point or doctrine. Apostolic exhortations, like any other writing, must flow. Sometimes a specific statement or subject makes the writing sound awkward and does not add to what the Holy Father is saying.

Sixth — Remember, extreme reactions, to the left or to the right, are equally misguided. Extremes are circular. Eventually, the extreme left meets the extreme right at some point on the other side of the circle.

Seventh — Pay close attention to the citations that the exhortation includes from the writings of Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and other Church documents. This is an attempt to connect the present with the past. To understand the connections, one needs to read carefully.

Eighth — Notice that the exhortation makes three kinds of statements: admonitions, doctrine, and pastoral recommendations. We are used to apostolic exhortations being admonitions, pastoral or dogmatic. This particular exhortation blends the three.

Ninth — Remember respect. One is allowed to disagree with the pope. Saints and other theologians have done so in the past. However, none of them have ever been disrespectful in expressing their disagreements. We don’t hear them calling popes: Modernists, eretics, diabolical, dumb, mentally ill, or apostates. Name calling is never appropriate, especially when it applies to our parents, spouses, children and popes. Who of us would dare apply any of these labels to a loved one, because we believe him or her to be in error? Usually, we try to point out the error. This may lead to heated discussions, but the conversation limits itself to the subject on the table, not the character of the participants. We owe the Holy Father reverence, obedience and respect.

Tenth — Let us be humble and keep in mind that our opinions are not absolute truth, even when we quote truth. That which we quote may be true, but our understanding and application of said truth may be mistaken. We must be open to hearing opinions of those who do not think as we do. We must discuss our concerns with those who are knowledgeable in theology and who are authorized to teach it: parish priests, religious educators, Catholic theologians, Catholic theology teachers, many religious brothers and sisters who are trained in theology and Christian Spirituality.

I hope these points will help you as you navigate through this or any other papal writing.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia.html

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