Amoris Laetitia 303: The Best We Can Do

amoris laetitia memeFinishing up this discussion on “mitigating factors,” Pope Francis offers his own commentary here. As I’ve found throughout the document, it strikes me as typically Ignatian:

303. Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors, we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage. Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace.

Conscience is not something to be formed while a believer struggles within a crisis. It seems that enlightenment is best engaged first when one is solidly and soundly in the light. Also, practice in small matters will develop fortitude and habit for more serious challenges.

Pope Francis mentions the importance of moving in stages. The Ignatian principle of magis comes to mind. While often attached to the over-achieving spirit people often see in Jesuits, I see it as more practical. One wise pastor I worked for often described his wish for parishioners, a gradualist approach to get involved more deeply one step at a time.

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Amoris Laetitia 303: The Best We Can Do

  1. Devin Rice says:

    “Conscience is not something to be formed while a believer struggles within a crisis.” Really, I was under the impression the conscience is always in the state of formation and that crises often have the most impact on said formation.

    • Todd says:

      Maybe I would put that more conditionally. I meant to suggest that single crisis events do not merit wholesale adjustments in how we’ve already been formed. In other words, the onset of divorce doesn’t mean we reconsider the permanence of marriage. I suppose one is best able to handle a crisis with a conscience already well-formed. Single events might “inform” a good conscience, but they don’t shape it to fit the desired outcome.

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