Amoris Laetitia 302: Particular Mitigating Factors

amoris laetitia memeIn the last paragraph, Pope Francis called on the witness of saints and modern bishops to assist in making the case for factors that mitigate against a blanket approach to all instances of objective sin. He gets specific here, starting with the Catechism:

302. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by

  • ignorance,
  • inadvertence,
  • duress,
  • fear,
  • habit,
  • inordinate attachments,
  • and other psychological or social factors”.(1735)

In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length

  • “affective immaturity,
  • force of acquired habit,
  • conditions of anxiety
  • or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”.(2352)

An addition to the footnote just above, Pope Francis included this addition which draws on documents from the early pontificate of John Paul II:

CDF, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980); John Paul II, in his (1984) critique of the category of “fundamental option”, recognized that “doubtless there can occur situations which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which have an influence on the sinner’s subjective culpability” (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 17)

Being able to separate people from the situation in which they find themselves is vital:

For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.(Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried (24 June 2000), 2)

A longer citation from the synod bishops:

On the basis of these convictions, I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 85)

What are you reading here? We’ve seen quite a bit of this effort expended in the realm of warfare–that’s the first example that comes to my mind. The Church has been rather consistent in maintaining the commandment, “You shall not kill.” At the same time, it has refrained from condemning the general actions of Christian soldiers. Sometimes the cause for war is deemed just. Sometimes when it is unjust, one or more of the conditions listed in the Catechism come into play for individuals: ignorance, duress, habit, etc.. Participating in a so-called just war does not give a blanket permission for unjust acts to take place. And of course, we have people of good conscience who advocate rigor; namely insisting that all war is evil and sinful. Rarely, however, do I read or hear pacifists insist on the sinful culpability of rank-and-file soldiers.

To the annoyance of a few friends, I brought the topic of war into a social media discussion on footnote 351 (it’s coming). They suggested I was hijacking the topic. I disagreed, pointing out how many Catholics have justified recent war on the very basis they criticize Pope Francis and others for advocating less rigor on the remarriage front.

What do you think?

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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