Amoris Laetitia: A Turning Point for Moral Theology?

by Juliana Freitag  •  •  May 10, 2017   

New book pushes heterodox view of marriage and the sacraments

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The Pontifical Gregorian University was the stage for the presentation of a controversial book on Amoris Laetitia, titled Amoris Laetitia: A Turning Point for Moral Theology? Edited by Stephan Goertz and Caroline Witting, moral theology professors at the University of Mainz, Germany, the book was introduced at an event promoted by the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, and pushes a heterodox interpretation of marriage and the sacraments.
The universities joined to promote a series of meetings to discuss the apostolic exhortation. The first colloquium occurred on March 11, 2017 and the next will take place on November 11, 2017, with the book presentation serving "an extra occasion for public discussion of some of the perspectives brought forward by Amoris Laetitia."
One of the speakers at the meeting, Giuseppe Bonfrate, professor of Sacramental Theology, contributes on the subject of "Church form," stating:
The complexity can't be reduced to uniformity; this regards the consciences of the Church and the Magisterium. ... We are called to form consciences, not to force them to obey. ... Family and marriage Christian spirituality can't descend from above, but should come from below, passing through the reality of weaknesses, wounds and limitations.
Antonio Autiero, professor of moral theology at the University of Münster and editor for the Italian printing of the book, was categorical about the innovative nature of Amoris Laetitia:
[AL] is a contribution to a question moral theologians make regarding their identities. Moral theology questions itself when facing this document. Is AL a turning point? The answer is yes ... [AL] is a turning point in moral theology because it rethinks man's way of being, and it gives him the hope to be accepted and helped to rebuild his path.
Professor Autiero co-wrote with Stephan Goertz an interesting final chapter titled "In regard to doubts, errors and distinctions," dedicated exclusively to the criticism directed at the exhortation. This is obviously in reference to the subject of access to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist by the divorced and civilly remarried:
Amoris Laetitia really must be understood as an ulterior development of the affirmations made so far by the Magisterium. Here, it's about ceasing to consider that faithful in the "irregular situation" of a second marriage are in a sinful state of objective refusal of the law of God. And why? Because the pontifical document and our life experience tell us so — a remarried couple can be a couple of people who love each other and take care of each other in the Faith, and together, with love, take care of their children. It's not possible any more to say that everyone in a "irregular" situation lives in mortal sin, deprived of the holy grace. ... Until now it was requested of these partners to give up their sexuality, if they wished to have access to the sacraments. Now, this obligation expressed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio (84) isn't valid in every case anymore, from the moment that such a renouncement, in certain conditions, puts the relationship in danger. ... When it comes to access to the sacraments, we must necessarily refer to the judgement of their consciences.
The authors affirm, "The divorced and civilly remarried can receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist when the ethical discernment of their situation in life is configured as described by Amoris Laetitia. "
The authors then added to the reflection the words of Cardinal Kasper, "who'd already given us an answer, precisely in the sense of Amoris Laetitia: 'There aren't divorced and remarried, but various situations of divorced and remarried, who must be accurately distinguished. There isn't even the objective situation that prevents them from participating in the Eucharist, but many different situations.'"
This is the second time a book claiming Amoris Laetitia contradicts Church teaching on marriage is welcomed by theologians in the Vatican and in the most prominent Catholic universities in Rome. Earlier this year, Cdl. Francesco Coccopalmerio presented a booklet in a Vatican press conference whose content endorsed access to the Holy Eucharist by civilly remarried couples in an objective state of sin. Meanwhile, the conference, organized by the laity in search of guidance amidst the confusion caused by the spreading of these various interpretations, took place on the outskirts of the Vatican and was dismissed by the press as a reunion of "despicable anti-Bergoglio conspirators."


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