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Pope Francis Responds (?) to Criticisms of Amoris Laetitia

In an interview from La Civilta Cattolica quoted in the blog Whispers in the Loggia, Pope Francis says, as I near as I understand, that we have to go beyond theology and Thomism–they’re not that useful nowadays.    He also says that the morality of Amoris Laetitia is Thomist.  (Is there a contradiction here?)   I don’t see that, but then I’m not a theologian nor a philosopher.   Here’s the quote–judge for yourself.

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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Bob Kurland, Ph.D.

Retired, cranky, old physicist. Convert to Catholicism in 1995. Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith. Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland). Extraordinary Minister of Communion, volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC.
Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

17 Comments

  1. What a load of BS. By the way, the Vatican is starting a two year effort to plead the case for more migrants. Yeah, right. This Pontiff is as sharp as a bowling ball.

  2. “Benedict XVI spoke of truth as an encounter, that is to say no longer a classification, but a road.” Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ.
    Divorced and remarried without annulment are not remarried. So when speaking of “families” Pope Francis cannot be speaking of divorced and remarried families, because there is no such thing.
    Cardinal Schonborn wrote the catechism of the Catholic Church. It had to be rewritten within the next two years to remove his errors.
    Thomism, Thomism, Thomism…where?

  3. “[W]e have to go beyond theology and Thomism–they’re not that useful nowadays. He also says that the morality of Amoris Laetitia is Thomist. (Is there a contradiction here?)”

    No, there is no contradiction. As the Holy Father has said previously, ““The church has experienced times of brilliance, like that of Thomas Aquinas. But the church has lived also times of decline in its ability to think. For example, we must not confuse the genius of Thomas Aquinas with the age of decadent Thomist commentaries. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism.”

    A good starting point to explore the distinction is the Cahiers of Joseph Maréchal SJ (1878-1944) on Transcendental Thomism, that influenced Rahner and Lonergan. Also the application of the historical method to St Thomas by Marie-Dominique Chenu OP (1895-1990) in Le Saulchoir: Une école de la théologie.

    The error of the Neo-Scholasitics was elegantly exposed by Bl John Henry Newman who, as a philosopher, anticipated the Analytical philosophy of the Vienna Circle a hundred years later:- “All things in the exterior world are unit and individual, and are nothing else; but the mind not only contemplates those unit realities, as they exist, but has the gift, by an act of creation, of bringing before it abstractions and generalizations, which have no existence, no counterpart, out of it.”

    Hence, “[w]e look at nothing simply for its own sake; we cannot look at any one thing without keeping our eyes on a multitude of other things besides. “Man” is no longer what he really is, an individual presented to us by our senses, but as we read him in the light of those comparisons and contrasts which we have made him suggest to us. He is attenuated into an aspect, or relegated to his place in a classification. Thus his appellation is made to suggest, not the real being which he is in this or that specimen of himself, but a definition. If I might use a harsh metaphor, I should say he is made the logarithm of his true self, and in that shape is worked with the ease and satisfaction of logarithms.” The Holy Father’s reference to logarithms may even have been suggested by a recollection of this very passage

    Wittgenstein put it even more succinctly: we confues the phenomenon (this specimine here) with the concept (the common noun)

  4. Michael P-S, I’m sorry, but I find your comment less than convincing. Although I’m not all that well versed in philosophy I can’t credit that the thoughts of Bl. Newman led to the dead end of the Vienna Circle, the sterility of the logical positivists. And to be frank, I don’t really understand a lot of what you say or quote. Stupid old physicist me! But I will say, what the Pope has said in his comment is, in the logical and philosophical sense, incoherent (put in less elegant terms by some of the other commenters)–it doesn’t hang together, it doesn’t make sense.
    I’ve read elsewhere (and will try to resurrect the reference) that the present battle in the Church is between those who want to follow the Benedictine mode, trusting, in forms and those who want to follow the Jesuit mode, relying on personal experience. The latter way is that which leads to Protestantism. And as a Benedictine Oblate, I prefer form over following what Screwtape tells me is right.

  5. Stated differently:
    “I am not trained in theology beyond that of the most basic requirements to get through the seminary. I do not understand what my critics are talking about because I am not qualified to debate them. I am, however, Pope. I am in charge and anyone who disagrees with me or offers a critique is an enemy of the movement that centers around me. I choose to crush them like the traitors they are and only regret that, in the modern world, I cannot send troops to arrest them and imprison them in towers. I can, however, use my legion of similarly incompetent followers to harass and alienate them so that they fall away and leave the Church, leaving it in my possession to do with what I will.”

  6. “I can, however, use my legion of similarly incompetent followers to harass and alienate them so that they fall away and leave the Church, leaving it in my possession to do with what I will.”
    Useful idiots to a man who says: I WILL NOT SERVE

  7. “The theology of Jesus is the real thing” : as in “I say to you that every man who divorces his wife, except for (pornea) makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32)?

  8. Bob Kurland
    “Thomism” can be used in two senses: the thought of St Thomas hiself and the development and elaboration (and often distortion) of that thought by his followers over the centuries.

    It is not helpful to use it in these two different senses in the same passage, as the Holy Father appears to have done but, if we take it in the second sense, when it first occurs (“[W]e have to go beyond theology and Thomism”) – the Thimism of the Neo-Schoastics – and in the second sense (faithful to the thought of St Thomas) when he says, “[T]he morality of Amoris Laetitia is Thomist” then there is no contradiction.

  9. “and in the second sense (faithful to the thought of St Thomas)”
    I meant to write “in the first sense…”

  10. “Benedict XVI spoke of truth as…a road.” Yes, but one has to be very aware that the truth of Christ is not merely some temporal GPS that needs to be updated or tossed out as no longer of value.
    Ye

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