Here we go: Chapter Eight. Pope Francis titled it “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness.” Section 291 and the twenty-one that follow have received the lion’s share of scrutiny in this document. This has been especially from self-admitted faithful Catholics, bishops, and theologians sympathetic to the notion that this document is somehow soft on sin and sows confusion in the Church. Let’s take all these sections carefully and in their entirety and see exactly what they mean for the Church, its teaching, and its ministry of mercy.
The opening paragraph of this chapter cites the synod bishops in their 2014 document:
291. The Synod Fathers stated that, although the Church realizes that any breach of the marriage bond “is against the will of God”, she is also “conscious of the frailty of many of her children”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 24) Illumined by the gaze of Jesus Christ, “she turns with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives by giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community in which they live and work”.(Ibid. 25) This approach is also confirmed by our celebration of this Jubilee Year devoted to mercy. Although she constantly holds up the call to perfection and asks for a fuller response to God, “the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm”.(Ibid. 28) Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.
The field hospital reference has also been cited often. I don’t think anyone would argue against the honesty presented by the bishops. There is a God-given ideal with regard to marriage. Not every human being is up to the full commitment, even those who have the best intentions. Not every person who has failed in marriage fails in other important aspects of the Christian life. Grace remains preeminent. Not works or personal virtue. The Church and its ministers have an obligation to those who fall short of our given ideals.
Any problems so far with any of that? Or perhaps an elaboration or correction?
For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.