Tuesday 12 April 2016

More on Amoris Laetitia

Further to my recent post, in which I urged people to read Amoris Laetitia through Catholic eyes, there are a few more thoughts milling around in my head.

One is that, although I stand by that post, it would not be true to say that I have not been troubled by Amoris Laetitia. If I were pope...  And of course, therein lies the absurdity. I am not (Deo gratias).

Another is this. Many who are unhappy with the document are attributing ill-intent to the Holy Father. I believe that to be profoundly, spiritually, dangerous. We are commanded not to judge. In a traditional Catholic understanding, that means, specifically, not judging the state of another's soul (we are allowed to judge actions, of course: indeed it is often necessary to do so). So I worry for those who think that they can judge the Holy Father's intentions, and judge them to be malign, for that strikes me as perilously close to judging the state of his soul (indeed, some may have been foolhardy enough to pronounce on that, too!) And to proclaim such opinions in public as facts is even more problematic.

A further thought is this: even if I were to believe that the Holy Father has an agenda which is not consistent with Catholic teaching and tradition, there is still a Catholic way to read the situation, as well as the document.  I do not believe that God will abandon His Church. I also know that God respects and uses the office of sacred officials, even despite the office-holder. Consider the prophetic words of the Jewish High Priest: It is better that one man should die for the nation.  The High Priest meant one thing, perhaps; but God used him, in his official role, to proclaim a truth beyond his understanding. Perhaps I should seek to read Amoris Laetitia in that light: is God speaking through this document in a prophetic way?

There is no doubt that we live in troubling times. There is no doubt that many will use Amoris Laetitia to advance ideas and practices contrary to tradition. But my responsibility is first and foremost for my own reaction: it is for that that I will answer to God. 

Rushing to judgement is perilous indeed.

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.

Saturday 9 April 2016

My considered comment...

For my Lenten, and subsequently Eastertide, reading, I have been re-reading our Holy Father Emeritus' wonderful Jesus of Nazareth (Part 2).

I have just reached the passage where he is talking (retrospectively, as it were, since this is in the Epilogue) about today's Gospel.

In the Gospel, Our Lord, from high on the mountainside, where He is in communion with His Father, descends to the Lake, where the apostles (those doughty fishermen) are struggling in their boat against a strong headwind. He walks to them over the water, and suddenly their boat, which they had feared was foundering, is at its destination.

The Holy Father Emeritus comments: This is an image of the Church - intended also for us. The Lord is 'on the mountain' of the Father. Therefore he sees us. Therefore he can get into the boat of our life at any time. Therefore we can always call on him; we can always be certain that he sees and hears us. In our own day, too, the boat of the Church travels against the headwind of history through the turbulent waters of time. Often it looks as if it is bound to sink. But the Lord is there, and he comes at the right moment. "I go away, and I will come to you" - that is the essence of Christian trust, the reason for our joy.