Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Amoris Laetitia" — or — Don't Panic

(From Elia Kazan, via Petrusbarbygere/Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Screenshot from a "Panic in the Streets" trailer. (Elia Kazan, 1950))

Actually, "Amoris Laetitia" means "The Joy of Love."

Pope Francis signed "Amoris Laetitia," about 58,000 words about love in the family, March 19. The apostolic exhortation was released Friday.

So far, I've heard an imaginative summary on radio news, read a few dramatic headlines, and a handful of online remarks about it that make sense.

The latter generally boil down to 'I haven't studied it yet, so I don't know what it says.'

That's pretty much where I'm at, but that won't stop me from talking — briefly, for me — about what I have read. So far, I've finished the introduction, glanced at the index, and am working my way through the first chapter.

I put links to the Vatican Press online copy near the end of this post, along with other resources.1

"Amoris Laetitia" reviews topics raised during Synod 14's two sessions, "...adding other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges...."2

This, from page 6, seems like excellent advice:
"...Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if attention is paid to the parts dealing with their specific needs...."
("Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis (March 18, 2016)(released April 8, 2016))
[emphasis mine]
Like I said, "Amoris Laetitia" runs to about 58,000 words in my language, so reading it "patiently and carefully" will take time.

I'm okay with that: although it means I won't be declaring that Pope Francis changed the Decalogue today. I wouldn't anyway. That's a daft notion.

I'm pretty sure that at least a few folks will get upset at what the Pope wrote — or didn't write — about families. Or how he wrote what he did.

"Cultures are ... Quite Diverse"

Folks who feel everyone should live as the Cleavers did may have conniptions when they hear what Pope Francis says about "various ways of interpreting some aspects"3 of what the Church teaches.

The basics are, as I keep saying, pretty basic.

I should love God, love my neighbor, see everybody as my neighbor, and treat others as I want to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789)

I don't always do so, and that's another topic. (December 13, 2015; July 5, 2015)

Those basics leave a lot of room for individual and cultural differences: which is just as well, I think.

I wouldn't feel comfortable, trying to force everyone to live the way my household does. That's just as well, too, since as a Catholic I must believe that there is no one 'correct' culture or political system. (Catechism, 24, 814, 1901, 1957)

Here's what the Pope says about "traditions and local needs:"
"...Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For 'cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied'.3..."
("Amoris Laetitia,"2 Pope Francis (March 18, 2016)(released April 8, 2016))
I'm okay with that.

Bear in mind that I'm one of 'those crazy kids' who thought we could do better, back in the '60s. I still do, and that's not another topic. (August 23, 2015; May 3, 2015; September 28, 2014)

Future Generations

If I thought upper-middle-class suburban Americans of the 1950s lived in the best possible society, I might be trying to make everyone live that way. My memory is too good. I remember "Happy Days" America, and perfect it wasn't.

I spent my teens in the '60s, and thought we could do better. A half-century later, America — and the world — still isn't perfect, and I still think we can do better.

I can't sit back and say 'that's not my problem.' I'm a member of society, so my responsibilities include doing what I can to help future generations. (Catechism, 1905, 1917, 2415, 2456)

The Pope's 'environmental encyclical, "Laudato si'," upset quite a few folks. After reading it, all 31,000-plus words, I thought Pope Francis might have expressed his ideas more diffidently: but agreed that acting as if future generations matter makes sense. (September 20, 2015)

I figure "Amoris Laetitia" will be controversial, too: most likely for the same reason.

Tradition and 'Being Traditional'

I'm a Catholic, so Tradition is important.

That's Tradition with a capital "T."

So is the Bible and Magisterium.4

I've talked about those before. (March 3, 2016; February 13, 2015)

Our capital "T" Tradition "...comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit...." (Catechism, 83)

It's not 'being traditional,' trying to live as if we're in 1st century Rome, 10th century Carinthia, 19th century New York, or some other imagined 'Golden Age.' (July 12, 2015)

Maybe it's easy to assume that new laws and customs are bad and old ones are good, or that "new" is always "good."

What matters is how closely a law and custom matches natural law.

I've talked about positive law, human-made rules; and natural law, universal principles; before. (August 29, 2014)

Sometimes positive law works. When it doesn't, our job — part of it — is bringing the positive law of our culture closer to natural law. (Catechism, 1928-1942)

Positive law changes: and must change, as conditions we live in change. It varies from one culture to another, too. We're not all alike, we're not supposed to be, and that's yet another topic.

Natural law is the same now as it was when Abram moved out of Ur.

How we apply it has changed, a great deal: and that is a good thing.

(From Jadrien Cousens, used w/o permision.)

I don't think we'll have a perfect society two millennia, or ten millennia, from now.

But if we work with all people of good will, keeping what is good and just in our societies, changing what is not, and learning from our mistakes — I think we can build a better world for tomorrow's families.

We certainly must try:

1 'Synod 14' (The XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops), from the Pope's viewpoint:
  • "Amoris Laetitia"
    Pope Francis, Vatican Press (March 18, 2016)(released April 8, 2016))
  • Homily
    Pope Francis, Synod 14 closing Mass (October 25, 2015)
2 From "Amoris Laetitia," page 5:
"...I must also say that the Synod process proved both impressive and illuminating. I am grateful for the many contributions that helped me to appreciate more fully the problems faced by families throughout the world. The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem reflecting many legitimate concerns and honest questions. For this reason, I thought it appropriate to prepare a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation to gather the contributions of the two recent Synods on the family, while adding other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges...."
("Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis (March 18, 2016)(released April 8, 2016))
3 From "Amoris Laetitia," page 4:
"...Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For 'cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied'.3..."
("Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis (March 18, 2016)(released April 8, 2016))
[Link to John 16:13 added.]
Some of my take on living in a big world:
4 The Bible, Magisterium, and Tradition, with a capital "T:"
  • "BIBLE: Sacred Scripture: the books which contain the truth of God's Revelation and were composed by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit (105). The Bible contains both the forty-six books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (120). See Old Testament; New Testament."
  • "MAGISTERIUM: The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church's fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals (85, 890, 2033)."
  • "TRADITION: The living transmission of the message of the Gospel in the Church. The oral preaching of the Apostles, and the written message of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bible), are conserved and handed on as the deposit of faith through the apostolic succession in the Church. Both the living Tradition and the written Scriptures have their common source in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (75-82). The theological, liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional traditions of the local churches both contain and can be distinguished from this apostolic Tradition (83)."


Theophilus Floyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theophilus Floyd said...

Very well written, on point and backed with very useful resources. I look forward to seeing your review upon full reading. In the meantime, I'll undertake a reading of my own, though I won't be reviewing!

Brian Gill said...

Thank you, Theophilus Floyd.

And thank you for the reminder to keep reading. "A. M." covers quite a lot of ground, so I may be doing several posts, instead of a single whacking great one.

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