Pope to Jesuits: Help Critics of Amoris Laetitia to See Its Morality Is Thomist

In a question and answer session during his visit to Colombia, now published in La Civilta Cattolica, the Pope again defends the document against its critics, repeating that its moral basis is Thomistic, and dismisses theologians who take a “purely casuistic” approach to morality.

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In comments made during his recent visit to Colombia, but published for the first time today in the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, Pope Francis again responded to critics of his apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia.

In a question and answer session with 65 Colombian Jesuits in the city of Cartagena de Indias on Sept. 10, the Pope said to understand Amoris Laetitia it is necessary to read it from beginning to end, reflect on it, and read what was said at the synod on the family.

He also insisted the morality of the document is “Thomist, the morality of the great Thomas,” and again directed questions in this regard to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Dominican Archbishop of Vienna.

For a critique of the assertion that Amoris Laetitia is Thomistic, see Dominican Father Basil Cole’s commentary here, and his more recent critique of the exhortation here

The Pope said those who criticize the document have a “purely casuistic” approach to morality, and urged his brother Jesuits to 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.”

Here below are his comments in context. The full text of the question and answer session can be read here:

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?”

“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… 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 [the 19th century German theologian who documented all the important teachings of the Church], 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…”