At the heart of the controversy over Amoris Laetitia, I think, are unclear and probably conflicting understandings of Christian marriage.
So much of the discussion that I have read is about healing the hurt: as though the most important thing that Catholicism has to offer is emotional happiness in this life.
What is not being discussed is the idea of marriage as a vocation. Yet that is surely what it is, in Catholic understanding. It is a call from Our Lord about how we are to spend our lives, and how we are to respond to His grace to seek our own and others' salvation. And as a call from Our Lord, part of that message is: Take up your Cross, and follow me.
For we live in a vale of tears, and our true happiness is not to be found in this world (though we are, nonetheless, to be joyful, but that is something else...). But the modern mind thinks, post-Enlightenment, that the pursuit of happiness is the purpose of life. That of course paves the way for the Deceiver to promise us happiness by way of the flesh or the world.
But the Christian vocation to marriage is a call to suffering; to suffering in union with the Crucified. At the very least, we will suffer because we are uniting ourself, sinful as we are, to another person who is also a sinner; both of us subject to concupiscence, at the very least. We have to mortify our selfishness, and also to regulate our passions, in the service of the vocation we have ben called to follow. We may have to suffer when we see our spouse suffer, when we see our children suffer, when we have to sacrifice careers or advancement in the interests of our family, when we are truly open to life, even though that be at great personal cost, and so on and so on. We may even be called to suffer when the person whom we love abuses or abandons us.
That is the way of the Cross. But because the Church has failed to teach such hard truths for so long, we have lost our way - we have lost the Way.
And so the requirement that we honour our marriage vows even when that involves suffering is seen as unjust, unmerciful, unthinkable... when in fact, it is precisely where our salvation, and quite possibly that of others, is to be found.
The same principles apply, of course, to the celibate vocation; the priestly and religious vocations, and so on. I am making no special claim for marriage here; in fact I think that marriage has unique joys that are a great blessing and mercy, which others more holy than I are able willingly to sacrifice: celibacy is the higher calling. But in all cases, to be a Christian is to follow Christ, and if He leads us to the Cross, it is not in our interests to turn away - and it is a false mercy for others to support us in doing so.
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