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.

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About catholicsensibility

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