Amoris Laetitia 301: Mitigating Factors In Pastoral Discernment

amoris laetitia memeThe third of five Chapter Eight themes examines “Mitigating factors in pastoral discernment.” In this paragraph and the two that follow we’ll wrestle with factors that mitigate against a single approach to all instances of divorce and remarriage.

To begin with, Pope Francis is not the originator of “mercy,” as understood or misunderstood. There is a Catholic tradition behind such considerations:

301. For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.

One size does not fit all. Nor can it. Our age is often focused on knowledge, reason, and human will. But human beings, though in possession of knowledge, may be unable to apply what is “known” to full effect:

Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”,(Familiaris Consortio 33) or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 51) Saint Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well;(Cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 65, art. 3 ad 2; De Malo, q. 2, art. 2) in other words, although someone may possess all the infused moral virtues, (she or) he does not clearly manifest the existence of one of them, because the outward practice of that virtue is rendered difficult: “Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues”.(Ibid., ad 3.)

The wording is involved, but note the sources: John Paul II, Thomas Aquinas, and the synod bishops.

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Amoris Laetitia. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Amoris Laetitia 301: Mitigating Factors In Pastoral Discernment

  1. tad says:

    Oh! I get it! So if someone commits grievous sins, such as rape, abortion, sodomy, they may not be at fault! Maybe it was their parents’ fault? Serial rapists and murders can be saints and not need to confess, because they are not capable of virtue they may have? Makes perfect sense, to a 1970s’ hippy priest. Good grief! If I put St. Thomas’ name to anything, then that means I apply it correctly? Reading AL is like reading someone who is covering something up by the technique of “name dropping”. It is horribly written. Probably the worst written encyclical in papal history.

    • Todd says:

      Your comment is silly and uninformed by Catholic tradition.

      But it does touch on the wiggle room granted widely to grave sins in history: permitting the killing of others in a so-called just war, permitting rape in the context of marriage, permitting the death of a fetus when life-saving treatment of the mother is necessary. Some of these “rooms” are common enough. If you are a Catholic, sir or ma’am, you would know this. You might not object to the situation, say, of a divorced and remarried Protestant who wishes to become Catholic.

      Pope Francis identifies as virtue a person may well know–like the commandment against killing. Yet it gets conflated with the lawful defense of a homeland, even if that defense is a world away. The pastors and confessors of the Church have long allowed for this, otherwise Catholic soldiers in SW Asia might have returned home with a heavy obligation. Not just the torturers and indiscriminate killers of civilians.

      “It is horribly written.”


      It is written with an eye to the local pastors who are often the best judges and in the best position to discern with individuals who approach them.

      You seem to lack the ability to carefully read the whole of the document, as I think, did the so-called dubia cardinals. Their criticisms were political and naive. Nevertheless, if you wish to return to write about specific real life things, and not that trad boogeyman, the 1970s “hippy priest.” feel free. What is it that you find objectionable in AL 301?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s