Cardinal Parolin: Amoris Laetitia Represents New Paradigm, Spirit and Approach

The Vatican Secretary of State’s comments come amid unease that the document is being used by some to alter Church teaching, specifically regarding the Church’s ban on artificial contraception.

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said Amoris Laetitia represents a “new paradigm” that calls us to a “new spirit, a new approach” to help “incarnate the Gospel in the family.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio published Thursday, the Vatican Secretary of State said “at the end of the day, Amoris Laetitia has emerged as a new paradigm that Pope Francis is conducting wisely, prudently and also patiently.” 

He added that the “difficulties” arising from the document and which “still exist in the Church, beyond certain aspects of its content, are due precisely to this change in attitude that the Pope is asking of us.”

“It’s a paradigm shift, and the text itself insists on this, that’s what is asked of us — this new spirit, this new approach!,” he said.

He added that “any change obviously always involves some difficulty, but these difficulties are taken into account and must be tackled with commitment, to find answers that become moments for further growth, further study.” 

Amoris Laetitia, he continued, as well as indicating the Church’s “embrace of the family and its problems in the world today, really helps to incarnate the Gospel in the family — which is already a gospel: the Gospel of the family — and at the same time is a request for help from families that they might collaborate and contribute to the growth of the Church.”

In the same interview, Cardinal Parolin said the Church in 2018 will be especially focused on young people.

He said he believed it important to “search for a new relationship between the Church and young people, characterized by a paradigm of commitment free of every type of paternalism.” The Church, he added, “truly wants to enter into dialogue with young people’s reality; it wants to understand young people and wants to help them.”  


Paradigm of Unease

The term “paradigm shift” in relation to Amoris Laetitia and the Church’s moral teaching has been causing unease of late.

In a book published last year entitled Amoris Laetitia: A Turning Point for Moral Theology, edited by Stephan Goertz and Caroline Witting, it is argued that Amoris Laetitia represents a paradigm shift for all moral theology and especially in interpreting Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The foreword to the Italian edition was written by the president of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, who is also on the board of governors of the Pontifical Academy for Life. 

Proponents of such a change refer to Amoris Laetitia's stress on the objective relevance of extenuating circumstances, the subjective conscience and discernment to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion and apply it to allowing use of artificial contraception in some cases.

At a talk last month at the Pontifical Gregorian University, moral theologian Father Maurizio Chiodi, who presented the Goertz and Witting book at the university, similarly suggested that Amoris Laetitia opened the way for a new interpretation of Humanae Vitae to allow artificial contraception, saying some circumstances "require" it. Father Chiodi is also a new member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. 

Theologians have warned such a paradigm shift in moral teaching would represent a radical departure from the Church’s moral doctrine and could cause “untold damage” to the Church. 

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