Thursday, September 28, 2017

"I Want To Repeat Clearly" – On Amoris, The Pope's "Dominic Option"

Almost 18 months since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, a fresh round of skirmishes mounted over last weekend as a group of 62 clerics and lay scholars issued a 25-page "filial correction" of the Pope, charging seven instances of "words, deeds and omissions" of Francis' which, they said, have "serve[d] to propagate... heretical propositions."

While the letter garnered an unsurprising firestorm in the Catholic conversation's more pyromaniac quarters, that the lone prelate among the initial signatories was Bishop Bernard Fellay – the no-longer-excommunicated, yet still not-in-communion head of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X – effectively served to blunt what could've been a significantly more potent act of defiance. (On a related front, meanwhile, as the issuing group said their missive had been hand-delivered to Francis in August – and, as of its public release, received no response – it's worth noting that what had been rampant expectation before the summer hiatus that a reconciliation of the three-decade-old Lefebvrist schism was within reach has since palpably cooled.)

Between the new document and the prior dubia over Amoris submitted last year by four cardinals – two of whom have since died – a central argument of the efforts' champions has been that Papa Bergoglio has further manifested the alleged "errors" by not answering the claims against him. Yet during his standard informal meetup with his fellow Jesuits (above and below) during his trek to Colombia earlier this month – its transcript only revealed this morning by the Society's Italian journal, La Civiltà Cattolica – Francis delivered his clearest reply to date.

The dialogue published simultaneously in the original Spanish, as well as in Italian and English, at the tail-end of a half-hour among his confreres, the Pope was queried and responded as follows – raising Amoris on his own volition:
Fr. Vicente Durán Casas stands to ask another question: “Holy Father, again thank you for your visit. I teach philosophy and I would like to know, and I speak for my teaching colleagues in theology too, what do you expect from philosophical and theological reflection in a country such as ours and in the Church generally?”

[Pope:] To start, I’d say let’s not have laboratory reflection. We’ve seen what damage occurred when the great and brilliant Thomist scholastics deteriorated, falling down, down, down to a manualistic scholasticism without life, mere ideas that transformed into a casuistic pastoral approach. At least, in our day we were formed that way… I’d say it was quite ridiculous how, to explain metaphysical continuity, the philosopher Losada spoke of puncta inflata [Ed. "an inflated point"]... To demonstrate some ideas, things got ridiculous. He was a good philosopher, but decadent, he didn’t become famous…

So, philosophy not in a laboratory, but in life, in dialogue with reality. In dialogue with reality, philosophers will find the three transcendentals that constitute unity, but they will have a real name. Recall the words of our great writer Dostoyevsky. Like him we must reflect on which beauty will save us, on goodness, on truth. Benedict XVI spoke of truth as an encounter, that is to say no longer a classification, but a road. Always in dialogue with reality, for you cannot do philosophy with a logarithmic table. Besides, nobody uses them anymore.

The same is true for theology, but this does not mean to corrupt theology, depriving it of its purity. Quite the opposite. The theology of Jesus was the most real thing of all; it began with reality and rose up to the Father. It began with a seed, a parable, a fact... and explained them. Jesus wanted to make a deep theology and the great reality is the Lord. I like to repeat that to be a good theologian, together with study you have to be dedicated, awake and seize hold of reality; and you need to reflect on all of this on your knees.

A man who does not pray, a woman who does not pray, cannot be a theologian. They might be a living form of Denzinger, they might know every possible existing doctrine, but they’ll not be doing theology. They’ll be a compendium or a manual containing everything. But today it is a matter of how you express God, how you tell who God is, how you show the Spirit, the wounds of Christ, the mystery of Christ, starting with the Letter to the Philippians 2:7.... How you explain these mysteries and keep explaining them, and how you are teaching the encounter that is grace. As when you read Paul in the Letter to the Romans where there’s the entire mystery of grace and you want to explain it.

I’ll use this question to say something else that I believe should be said out of justice, and also out of charity. In fact I hear many comments – they are respectable for they come from children of God, but wrong – concerning the post-synod apostolic exhortation. To understand Amoris Laetitia you need to read it from the start to the end. Beginning with the first chapter, and to continue to the second and then on ... and reflect. And read what was said in the Synod.

A second thing: some maintain that there is no Catholic morality underlying Amoris Laetitia, or at least, no sure morality. I want to repeat clearly that the morality of Amoris Laetitia is Thomist, the morality of the great Thomas. You can speak of it with a great theologian, one of the best today and one of the most mature, Cardinal Schönborn.

I want to say this so that you can help those who believe that morality is purely casuistic. Help them understand that the great Thomas possesses the greatest richness, which is still able to inspire us today. But on your knees, always on your knees....
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As for an elucidation of the answer, of course, this isn't the first occasion on which Francis has highlighted Schönborn, now the Dominican archbishop of Vienna who, as a 41 year-old professor, was tapped by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as principal editor of what would become the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the first universal volume of its kind since Trent  overseeing a daunting six-year process which drew input from two millennia of texts and a cast of thousands, including all the bishops of the world.

In a foreshadowing snub of his since-deposed CDF prefect, the current pontiff instead tapped the Austrian to present Amoris on the day of its release (above) in the Vatican Press Office, a choice that came after Schönborn reportedly navigated the sole German-speaking group at the 2015 Synod (which, for clarity, indeed included Cardinal Gerhard Müller) to adopt a "unanimous" consensus for a case-by-case "discernment" on the integration of civilly remarried couples.

The agreed-to framework was modeled on a five-point examen the cardinal – himself a child of divorce – had previously devised in Vienna.

While Schönborn re-sketched the concept in a subsequent conversation with Civiltà's editor – the papal confidant Fr Antonio Spadaro – in mid-July the cardinal gave his most extensive treatment on the document, including its most contested piece, in English at a conference on family life in Ireland ahead of next summer's World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which Francis is all but officially confirmed to attend.

Much as the full 83-minute talk is worth a spin, here below is the salient piece given the fresh developments....