VATICAN INSIDER HOSTS CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN
I dedicate the entire news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend to the just-released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia but there was plenty of time for my special guest on the interview segment, Cardinal Dolan, and this may be one of the funniest you have ever heard on Vatican Insider!
I had spent some time this week with Cardinal Dolan and the 120 members of his archdiocedan pilgrimage group. We have shared a number of meals, I’ve signed a lot of books, and I had asked the cardinal for an interview, knowing very well how full his schedule was but I’m always optimistic.
Last night was the annual elegant, gala fund-raising Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and the cardinal asked that I arrive at bit before the start of the 6:30 reception. I got to NAC about 6:10 and eventually found the cardinal with all the other American cardinals as they were taking a group photo in the gardens. We ended up sitting in two chairs overlooking the garden and just outside NAC’s celebrated Red Room where other dignitaries and guests were enjoying a cocktail. Seating or standing close by were other cardinals.
I started to record our coversation and was shortly in to the conversation when a friend of Cardinal Dolan’s came up, there was a brief conversation – and so the program went! People talking and laughing, the cardinal and I having an excellent time but none of this in the acoustic purity of a studio – so thanks for being understanding about the sounds.
As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=
“THE JOY OF LOVE”: DOCTRINAL UNITY, PERFECTING PASTORAL CARE
If I had to give today’s press conference on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia a title, it would be doctrinal unity – pastoral plurality. No teachings of the Church on marriage and the family were upended, in fact, they were reaffirmed.
We learned in reading Amoris laetitia that this is a very beautiful document written by a man who well understands the beauty of love and marriage and family life but also a man who well undestands the wide varierty of difficulties into which a couple, a family, can fall, and he looks at all those situations, with love and pastoral understanding. In fact, the key words to reading this document – and it should be ready very slowly, at your leisure, to get its full beauty – are respect, discernment, accompaniment.
One of the common threads in this document was Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church, bishops, priests, work much harder to help those in difficulty. Saying, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is troubling,” he added: “Our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to precent the spread of this drama of our times.”
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, explained at the press conference that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia is made up of 9 chapters, subdivided into 325 paragraphs with 391 notes and the final prayer to the Holy Family. (see CNA summary below)
He said, “the title Amoris laetitia (AL) is in continuity with that of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG): from the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family. The synodal process has presented the beauty of the family by speaking of love. This constitutes the foundation of the family institution, because God is love among Persons, Trinity and not solitude. In this document, the Holy Father deepens the “gospel of marriage and the family” (AL 89) and offers concrete pastoral orientations which, in continuity with the previous EG, take on new dynamism and value.
Cardinal Baldiseri quoted Pope Francis: “The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem” (AL 4) – writes the Holy Father, evoking the geometric design of the polyhedron already used in EG (cf. 236). In fact, the results of the Synod Fathers’ work brings together the diversity of experiences and points of view of the particular Churches. Disputes between different opinions took place with freedom and openness, which allowed an almost unanimous outcome to be achieved.
He said, “In full harmony with the Jubilee period that the Church is living, a suitable key for reading the document is “the logic of pastoral mercy” (AL, 307-312). The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine of marriage and the family, especially in Ch. III, and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal….. On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure.
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has been in Rome for a congress on Divine Mercy, noted: “It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.
The cardinal explained, “Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one.
For me, said Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents separated, “Amoris laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium . Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues.
Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany . These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.
The archbishop of Vienna said, “Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35). Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36).
Cardinal Schonborn, on one issue that he called a “hot potato” issue – communion for the divorced and remarried – reiterated St. John Paul’s words in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consorzio, Para 84: “…The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorce persons who have remarried.”
However, the cardinal pointed out that, while there has been no change from that 1981 statement, there has been development, what he called “an organic development of doctrine.” He was quite clear that there is no new canonical disposition. The Pope does not “innovate” but uses pastoral prudence.
Before the press conference, Cardinal Schornborn spoke to Vatican Radio and offered one significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “I think it is very clear there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”
AMORIS LAETITIA: NO DOCTRINAL CHANGES, BUT BETTER PASTORAL CARE
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family.
“The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia.
Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8.
Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages.
The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world.
While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation.
Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.”
The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity.
Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions.
In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said.
“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”
At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”
Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”
In addition, he said that, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”
In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”
That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities.
Pope Francis wrote that, “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors.
The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that, “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.”
Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers.
While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases.
Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.”
Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.
This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability.
“Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”
Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.
The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that, “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”
He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.”
“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”
Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.”
“But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”