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Q10 Is the approach of Francis new or old?

Q10 Is the approach of Francis new or old?

Pope Francis makes clear that imposing moral absolutism does not represent the approach of Jesus found in the Gospels:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. […] The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things […]. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. (August 31, 2013)
So, is this approach new or old?  Consider the following three explorers:
#1 Dr. Ron Hamel:

Ethics – The Vision of Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ emphasis on the poor challenges us to move beyond our current ethical preoccupations and turn our attention — or at least increase our attention — to a host of other issues related to justice and those who are vulnerable and on the margins. This challenge is echoed by Lisa Sowle Cahill, PhD, in her book, Theological Bioethics:
I propose that Christian theological bioethics should make justice in access to health care resources its first priority. This priority includes justice in global access to the goods essential to health. While justice for the poor and the reform of health care systems to make them more inclusive might be associated with progressive or even liberal politics, I am convinced that these goals are mandated by the New Testament depiction of Jesus’ healing ministry to society’s outcasts, a portrayal to which all Christians subscribe. According to Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, “On the basis of Jesus’ message, parables, and his praxis of the reign of God, we see how the biblical concept of God is essentially bound up with a praxis of persons who liberate their fellow human beings, just as Jesus did before us.” This work of liberation is not just a secondary pastoral application of revealed doctrine. “No, the option for the poor is a datum of revelation.” The incarnation is “an identification of God in Jesus with the poor, oppressed, and finally executed innocent individual, for whom Jesus stands as a model.”1
Pope Francis has employed images which bring to the fore the centrality of an option for the poor, which in turn has a bearing on ethics in Catholic health care. One image is the church as a field hospital; what the pope says is, at very least, thought-provoking.
“I see clearly,” he says, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds … . And you have to start from the ground up.”2
Then he immediately goes on to say: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. … We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”3
Clearly, Pope Francis’ focus here is on the person in his or her own reality, on healing the person’s wounds, on mercy, and on accompanying the person in his or her difficulty. I wonder if, at times, rules become the main focus of our attention and we lose sight of the well-being of the person, holistically considered, or the overall well-being of the communities in which we serve, understanding them where they are.
What Pope Francis describes is reminiscent of German moral theologian and Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring’s statement that “morality is for persons” and not the other way around. We need to attend to Pope Francis’ comment, after stating that we cannot “insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” that “we have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from the proposition that the moral components must flow.”4 [Click here to read the entire article.]
##Have you made any discoveries here? Have you been unsettled by what has been said?  Have you been pleased?  How so?  Go to the bottom of this page and post your heartfelt reflections. In your post, make clear what text # [1, 2, or 3] you are exploring.  In fact, it might help to copy and paste those lines that are pleasing/confusing/discouraging you.  You may make a second post to focus on another #.
#2 Dr. James Carroll:

The New Morality of Pope Francis

Formerly, in accordance with the Catholic doctrine of the “indissolubility” of marriage, the divorced and remarried were officially shunned. They remained in the pew while most others in the church went forward to the Communion rail. But that shunning is history. “It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church,” Francis declares. How that feeling is expressed in practice is to be determined, he writes, not by “a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases,” but by “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases.”
The Pope—to the disappointment of many liberals, no doubt—is not replacing an old set of harsh and restrictive rules with a new set of flexible and merciful rules. Rules, actually, are not the point. It is true that this document does little explicitly to uproot the structures of misogyny and homophobia that have long corrupted the Catholic tradition, but it does give a fresh impetus to change on these issues. Francis’s watchword is mercy, but mercy adheres, first, not in alterations of doctrine but in the new way that Catholics are invited to think of doctrine. When human experience, with all of what the Pope calls its “immense variety of concrete situations,” is elevated over “general principles,” a revolution is implicit. Francis explains: “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.”
The pastoral solution lives in this realm of “particular situations,” where, as Francis insists, “constant love” must prevail over judgmentalism. Every situation is different, and a subtle moral discernment is required to see how general principles apply to it. For centuries, the assumption of the Catholic hierarchy was that lay people were not capable of such discernment, but, with Francis, that is no longer true. “The Joy of Love” is directly addressed to the laity, who are encouraged to pursue conscientious moral discernment by consulting not only pastors but one another. Who knows the ins and outs of married life better than married people?  [Click here to read the entire article.]
##Have you made any discoveries here? Have you been unsettled by what has been said?  Have you been pleased?  How so?  Go to the bottom of this page and post your heartfelt reflections. In your post, make clear what text # [1, 2, or 3] you are exploring.  In fact, it might help to copy and paste those lines that are pleasing/confusing/discouraging you.  You may make a second post to focus on another #.
#3 :

“Amoris Laetitia” and the chasm in modern moral theology

It is long accepted that the pre-Vatican II moral theology of the manualist tradition was characterized by a legalistic mindset. What is not always recognized is that both those who initially rejected the fundamental moral theological teaching of  HV = Humanae Vitae (#14) and those who defended it shared in fact the same fundamentally legalistic mindset. Veritatis Splendor attempted (authoritatively and convincingly) to resolve that debate, but the debate itself was based on a legalistic approach to morality. With the publication of the Catechism, thanks primarily to the influence of the Dominican moral theologian Father Servais Pinckaers, the Church recovered a radically different approach, that of St. Thomas and the whole classical tradition. Virtue now is—or should be—the overarching context for moral discourse (intrinsic to which are also moral norms and rules but now understood in the context of the process of becoming virtuous). But this paradigm shift, it seems, has not yet, on the whole, seeped into the consciousness of many theologians and bishops. Has the adoption of this new approach to morality (the language of virtue) influenced AL=Amoris Laetitia?
The matter of casuistry
Casuistry is one of the most salient traits of a legalistic approach to moral theology—and it marked the controversy surrounding the two Synods on the Family from the very start. Cardinal Kasper’s address to the consistory in February 2014 set the (legalistic) parameters for the debate. That address culminated in two difficult moral casus affecting the divorced and remarried. In other words, the cardinal was engaging in casuistry. It is surely significant that there is no mention of such specific cases in the apostolic exhortation, though there are echoes of them in the footnotes. Indeed, Pope Francis states that “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules [Spanish: una nueva normative general; Italian: nuova normativa generale] canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (#300).
Nonetheless, the term “case” or “cases” occurs on a number of occasions, above all in Chapter 8 (# 79, 241, 294, 298,300, 302, 305), admittedly without mentioning any specific casus in detail. [1]  Moreover, by speaking about “particular situations” (#304) or “exceptional situations” (#307) the text would appear to be simply using other terms (preferred by situation ethicists) for the traditional term of casus. And yet, casuistry is rejected as “intolerable” in the first reference (#304), while relativism is explicitly rejected in the second (#307). [2] . . .
Pope Francis has left us in no doubt as to his attitude to casuistry, which he castigated in no uncertain terms in one of his daily meditations at Mass (May 20, 2016). But he seems to be blissfully unaware of the fundamentally casuistic approach of those, who like Cardinal Kasper, campaign to admit remarried divorcees to Communion. One key text for a proper interpretation of compassion in AL is, it seems to me, the following:
The answers given to the pre-synodal consultation showed that most people in difficult or critical situations do not seek pastoral assistance, since they do not find it sympathetic, realistic or concerned for individual cases.  This should spur us to try to approach marriage crises with greater sensitivity to their burden of hurt and anxiety” (#234). [Click here to read the entire article.]
##Have you made any discoveries here? Have you been unsettled by what has been said?  Have you been pleased?  How so?  Go to the bottom of this page and post your heartfelt reflections. In your post, make clear what text # [1, 2, or 3] you are exploring.  In fact, it might help to copy and paste those lines that are pleasing/confusing/discouraging you.  You may make a second post to focus on another #.

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