Sunday 10 April 2016

Reading Amoris Laetitia - as a Catholic

I have been reading some of the comments on Amoris Laetitia with great interest; and in particular I have been struck by the Protestant approach taken by so many commentators.

It's a bit like when my Protestant friends find a verse in the Bible that appears to contradict Catholic teaching. Look, look, they say, The Bible says 'All have sinned.' Therefore the Catholic Church can't be right about Mary being free from sin.

It's quite endearing in its naivety. And perhaps I am unkind to ask them whether it means that Christ, too, has sinned, since that is the plain meaning of the verse.

For the way in which Catholics read the Bible is different. We read it in the light of the teaching of our Holy Mother, the Church, whose book it is. Where we find an interpretation that contradicts the declared teaching of the Church, we know that that interpretation is wrong. We know that the text is inerrant, of course: also on the authority of the Church.

Turning to Amoris Laetitia, I think that many are reading it, as I said, in that Protestant spirit. Thus the delightful Sede Vacantists wrench individual verses out of context, interpret them in the most anti-Catholic way, and present them as evidence (satisfactory to them, if to nobody else) that the Holy Father is not in fact the Pope.

Likewise, certain prelates have looked to find what they want to find in the text, and used it to pursue their own pre-determined agenda.

And the same is true of those who want to demonstrate... well, whatever they want to demonstrate.

My point being that we should not approach the text seeking to demonstrate whatever we already think about the Holy Father, or the State of the Church, or anything else.  We should read it, in the first instance, to learn.

And when it comes to interpreting any ambiguities, we should interpret them in the light of the established teaching of the Church.

And should it happen that there are passages that we find impossible to reconcile with the established teaching of the Church (and I do not yet know if that is the case, as I have not yet read the whole thing, still less compared the English translation with the Latin official text), then we must conclude either that we are failing as interpreters, or that there is an error in the text. For the Church does not guarantee the inerrancy of every papal pronouncement. We know that no Pope can reverse or contradict what we have received as the Faith, but rather that his role is to preserve and transmit that sacred deposit. 

But such a conclusion should be the last thing we seek, the last that we reach, and not the first.


Ben Trovato said...

A priest friend writes:

“Reading Amoris Laetitia - as a Catholic
I have been reading some of the comments on Amoris Laetitia with great interest; and in particular I have been struck by the Protestant approach taken by so many commentators.”

Perfectly put.

Towards the end of his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola gives eighteen “rules to follow in view of the true attitude of mind that we ought to maintain in the Church Militant”.

Rule ten is perhaps especially appropriate for our times.

Consternation said...

Very sound analysis - thank you.

The torrent of negativity spewing from selective reading is very disappointing and the highly selective reading is, as you remark, distinctly protestant in its theology.

Sitsio said...

Thank you for this Ben. It is interesting to note the orthodox picking out all the "worst" bits and thus, to some extent, promoting division. Surely we should be focusing on the positive in the light of the Magisterium and reinforcing Catholic doctrine?

pattif said...

Very well put. I don't see the point of commenting without having read the whole text, which means I'll be saying nowt for a while yet. At the moment I'm struuggling between the English text on a very small screen and in book form in Italian. I may be some time.

Pétrus said...

I think the issue many Catholics have is with how vague much of it is. Yes most of it can be read as entirely Catholic, but it doesn't take much effort to read it differently.

The now well read footnote 351 is an example of this. When prelates can issue statements that this now permits those who are divorced and civilly remarried to receive Holy Communion, you can't blame the laity for being confused.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks for Fr Francis Coveney for sending me this:

Latest news: Cardinal Burke on Amoris Laetitia.

“The only key to the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching.”

Just as St Ignatius of Loyola would say.

Alison said...

Very good. A simpler straight forward version of what Cardinal BUrke said too. Hope you're well.
Alison (Londonistar)

James said...

What would be the point in reading

a Catholic document
by a Catholic Pope
drawing on Catholic sources
such as Catholic moral theology
addressed to the faithful of the Catholic Church

in a non-Catholic sense ? The HF is not a secular humanist, atheist, Protestant, or any like that - he's a Catholic bishop. What possible motive could he have not to write as a Catholic ? If anything in the Exhortation - which is not a roll of Andrex, BTW - seems or sounds of uncertain orthodoxy, then surely it should be interpreted in a Catholic sense ? Posters perform this exercise on the Net - why can't they read the words of the HF in the same way ?