Amoris Laetitia 294-295: More on Gradualness

amoris laetitia memeSometimes civil marriage is chosen because of situations other than opposition or indifference to religion:

294. “The choice of a civil marriage or, in many cases, of simple cohabitation, is often not motivated by prejudice or resistance to a sacramental union, but by cultural or contingent situations”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 71)

Immediately coming to mind are situations involving military personnel, or something connected with immigration or medical care/insurance. I can recall a number of couples who married civilly while planning a church wedding. The impulse to care for a spouse is certainly a virtuous expression, and the synod bishops acknowledged this:

In such cases, respect also can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God’s own love.(Cf. ibid) We know that there is “a continual increase in the number of those who, after having lived together for a long period, request the celebration of marriage in Church. Simply to live together is often a choice based on a general attitude opposed to anything institutional or definitive; it can also be done while awaiting more security in life (a steady job and steady income). In some countries, de facto unions are very numerous, not only because of a rejection of values concerning the family and matrimony, but primarily because celebrating a marriage is considered too expensive in the social circumstances. As a result, material poverty drives people into de facto unions”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 42) Whatever the case, “all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel. These couples need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly”.(Ibid., 43) That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26): he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to bring her to the full joy of the Gospel.

John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation underpins paragraph 295, which is why I chose to keep these two sections in the same post. When he (and we) speak of “gradualness” we are not discussing some pre-emption of virtue or law, but one of growth on the part of people who struggle with one or another asepct:

295. Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth”.(Familiaris Consortio 34) This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life”.(Ibid., 9)

Comments on any of this?

For your reference 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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