The media are abuzz with Pope Francis’s long-anticipated Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation _Amoris Laetitia_, and from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the following Bingo game could be quickly won:
I’ve read the first three chapters, and I’ve read that, like every other document from Pope Francis, the several assurances of orthodoxy in the first few chapters are followed up by a buried lied of “freedom of conscience” somewhere in the middle.
Let’s set aside that “freedom of conscience” and “Let’s adopt a new tone instead of authoritarianism” has been said over and over since Vatican II. Let’s set aside that some of the same people who, almost 20 years ago, were having conniptions over a very similar, but more more succinct, document from Rembert Weakland are now saying, “Let’s celebrate! The Pope didn’t change doctrine!”
As usual, I sympathize, though don’t entirely agree with, the Pope’s critics from the “Right.” My reaction thus far is really disappointment. The document is the epitome of lukewarm. It’s so insipid and boring I was outraged by the waste of time. It really adds nothing to what previous documents have already said on any of the subjects at play.
When it comes to marriage and family issues, there are four groups of people:
1) Those who want a clear-cut, black and white moral code.
2) Those who “freedom of conscience” *from* the Church.
3) Those who simply don’t care.
4) Those who want to follow the Church but are struggling with difficult situations.
Group #2 are the only ones who have any cause for celebration in this document, and they are celebrating. However, from what I’ve read directly or seen quoted, it *really* doesn’t say anything that isn’t somewhere in the post-Vatican II magisterium already.
Ostensibly, the whole point of the Synod was to address group 4, but so far it seems to be more of the same:
Yes, extreme circumstances may mitigate culpability. However, this seems addressed in a way that’s more about alleviating the responsibility of pastors than providing mercy to those who struggle. Emphasizing lack of culpability works out to the same as emphasizing sin in a punitive manner: both escape the Biblical responsibility of the clergy to help those who are in need.
This has always been my problem with group 2, the so-called “liberals” or “progressives”: too often, I’ve seen Acts of the Apostles cited by liberals to support socialism or communism rather than Christian community.
The Pope says we should “admire” and “be supportive” of families with disabled parents or children, single mothers, and so forth. But “being supportive” is very different from “supporting”. He mentions civic responsibility, but not clerical responsibility.
Instead, it’s the cop-out of “personal conscience.” So much easier to say, “You’re not really responsible for the sins you commit out of desperation” than to say, “We’re going to try to provide you with practical help so you don’t have to be put in a situation of desperation.”