Amoris Laetitia 242: The Need For Special Discernment

amoris laetitia memeWhen I read of “special discernment,” it doesn’t suggest a legal approach alone is sufficient. Not a one-size-fits-all application of a particular conversation with Pharisees long ago.

242. The Synod Fathers noted that “special discernment is indispensable for the pastoral care of those who are separated, divorced or abandoned. Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together.

Authentic pastoral care demands respect on the part of the minister to those who suffer. Even toward those who, a minister might feel, has made “wrong” choices.

To forgive such an injustice that has been suffered is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible. Pastoral care must necessarily include efforts at reconciliation and mediation, through the establishment of specialized counselling centers in dioceses”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 47)

Some commentators have seen this as too much of a nod toward abusers. I don’t agree. There are moments in a marriage when the relationship is salvageable. In our culture, we are accustomed to toughing things out until a crisis hits. Think about how many heart attacks inspire a healthy lifestyle.

Parish clergy don’t always have the gifts needed to discern, diagnose, and thread their way through serious marital problems. Other married couples can be a help, but are an untested resource in many places, who sometimes lack the clinical skills needed in a troubled marriage. Retrovaille can be a help; I have known couples who found it a marriage-saving grace. But a diocese would seem to be better placed to offer the most reliable assistance. Does it require an actual “counseling center”? I would think a clearinghouse for ready assistance, a group of people prepared to accompany couples, not a building or a cluster of offices in a chancery building.

The synod bishops counsel us not to overlook divorced persons who have not remarried:

At the same time, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors should accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when they are in serious financial difficulty”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 50) Family breakdown becomes even more traumatic and painful in the case of the poor, since they have far fewer resources at hand for starting a new life. A poor person, once removed from a secure family environment, is doubly vulnerable to abandonment and possible harm.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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