'Amoris Laetitia' is built on traditional Thomist morality, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/La Civilta Cattolica

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Seeing, understanding and engaging
with people’s real lives does not “bastardize” theology, rather it is
what is needed to guide people toward God, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Colombia.

“The theology of Jesus was the most real thing of
all; it began with reality and rose up to the Father,” he said during a
private audience Sept. 10 in Cartagena, Colombia. The Rome-based Jesuit-run
journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript from the meeting Sept.
28. The journal provided its own translations of the original Spanish remarks.

Meeting privately with a group of Jesuits and laypeople
associated with Jesuit-run institutions in Colombia, the pope told them,
“I am here for you,” not to make a speech, but to hear their
questions or comments.

A Jesuit philosophy teacher asked what the pope hoped to
see in philosophical and theological reflection today, not just in Colombia, but
also in the
Catholic Church in general.

Philosophy, like theology, the pope said, cannot be done
in “a laboratory,” but must be done “in life, in dialogue with

Pope “Benedict XVI spoke of truth as an encounter, that
is to say, no longer a classification, but a path,” Pope Francis said. It
always has to be done “in dialogue with reality because you cannot do
philosophy with a logarithm table.”

The same sort of dialogue, he said, applies to theology,
which is not “to bastardize” theology or make it impure. Rather, “quite
the opposite” is true. Jesus, who is “the greatest reality” of
all, always started with people’s real lives to lead them toward God.

“It began with a seed, a parable,” a specific
incident, and then Jesus would explain, he said; Jesus wanted to do a
“deep,” profound theology.

“To be a good theologian, in addition to studying,
dedicating oneself, having sharp insight and grasping reality,” one must
reflect and pray “on one’s knees,” he said.

A man or a woman “who doesn’t pray cannot be a
theologian,” he said. He or she may know every doctrine that ever existed
and be a walking “Denzinger,” the pope said, referring to the
19th-century “Handbook of Creeds and Definitions” by Heinrich Denzinger,
“but they will not be doing theology.”

It all comes down to “how you express who God
is,” how the Holy Spirit is manifested, the mystery and “the wounds
of Christ,” he said. “How you are teaching this encounter — that is
the grace.”

The pope then said that he wanted to use the teacher’s
question as an opportunity address — in justice and charity — the “many comments”
concerning the postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris

Many of the commentaries, he said, are “respectable
because they were made by children of God,” but they are “wrong.”

“In order to understand ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ you must
read it from the beginning to the end,” reading each chapter in order, reading
what got said during the synods of bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015, and
reflecting on all of it, he said.

To those who maintain that the morality underlying the
document is not “a Catholic morality” or a morality that can be certain
or sure, “I want to repeat clearly that the morality of ‘Amoris Laetitia’
is Thomist,” that is, built on the moral philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas,
he said.

One of best and “most mature” theologians today
who can explain the document, he told them, is Austrian Cardinal Christoph
Schonborn of Vienna.

“I want to say this so that you can help those who
believe that morality is purely casuistic,” he said, meaning a morality that
changes according to particular cases and circumstances rather than one that determines
a general approach that should guide the church’s pastoral activity.

The pope had made a similar point during his meeting with
Jesuits gathered in Rome for their general congregation in 2016. There he said,
“In the field of morality, we must advance without falling into

“St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure affirm that the
general principle holds for all but — they say it explicitly — as one moves
to the particular, the question becomes diversified and many nuances arise
without changing the principle,” he had said. It is a method that was used
for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and “Amoris Laetitia,” he

“It is evident that, in the field of morality, one
must proceed with scientific rigor and with love for the church and
discernment. There are certain points of morality on which only in prayer can
one have sufficient light to continue reflecting theologically. And on this,
allow me to repeat it, one must do ‘theology on one’s knees.’ You cannot do
theology without prayer. This is a key point and it must be done this
way,” he had told the Jesuits in Rome.

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