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Not A Post About Amoris Laetitia

Over the past couple of years when Pope Francis has published major documents I forced myself to sit out the wrangling that began--I started to say "the moment they were released," but really it started well before that. So I waited a few weeks or more before reading them and commenting on them. I think I'm going to go a step further this time and not even read the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, at least not anytime soon. The few comments that have come, unsought, into my field of vision seem agreed, whether approaching it from the conservative or progressive theological side, that it affirms the Church's teachings, but that there are a few ambiguous passages that can be interpreted as undermining certain teachings.

So apparently the controversialists are at each others' throats again, and if I read the document, I'll only be able to read it with that in mind. I'm deeply sick of hearing Catholics snarl at each other. And I doubt it will add anything to my understanding of marriage, or appreciation of the Church's teaching, though I'm sure there are some memorable passages in it. So I ask myself "Why bother?" I've been married for almost forty years, and I think I have a fairly good grasp of the thing, so I don't feel much need for instruction. And I'm not in the position of counseling or educating anyone else on the subject. Just now I saw a headline describing the exhortation as "Beautiful, Moving, and Divisive." And it's 256 pages long, or so I read somewhere.  I'm just going to let this one slide.


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That's a good approach, Mac. Theology types I have spoken to say that the main purpose seems to be in pastoral ministry, and approaching all people with love. I'm happy just to know that; my curiosity goes no further.

In spite of my intention, I keep getting interested because I see links to it (all over Facebook, for instance) that make it look interesting. I think your theology types are right, though. I doubt many married lay people are going to read it. Of those, it would probably be the ones who need it least. One commenter suggested that a brief collection of excerpts for married people could be useful.

Like you, the efforts to bend AL to serve partisan interests don't interest me. However, it seems that this document does raise some .... vexing? ... questions about what to make of it, and I am interested in sincere attempts to understand and assess it. But I don't know if I'll read it; the length is a deterrant.

As you may remember, I was worried about this document, and, based on what I've read, it seems that my biggest worries can be laid to rest. No great crisis of papal authority is being precipitated. At worst, it seems the Holy Father has given us a muddle. That's a relief.

Yes, that's my impression, too, and it is indeed a relief.

In the abstract, I'm interested, too, of course, in understanding and assessing it. I freely admit that my reaction is emotional: exasperation and weariness at the partisanship, and also depression at the way Francis has set all that partisanship in motion again (whether by accident or design). I had really, really hoped that was behind us.

I'm fairly certain that partisanship in every area is the zeitgeist of our age, and that we won't last long enough to see it out--Craig might. People seem to absolutely relish it and not really want it to end.

More and more I think that the only way to communicate with people is on a very small one-to-one or small community basis. The only people with whom you have any credibility are the people who see how you live. It's very hard slogging work. Come to think of it though, it's what Jesus did. Now if I could just work miracles...


If I can manage to get myself out of bed and to work on time Monday, it will be my first miracle. We've been staying up hours later than we usually would.


Preferential option for the poor is partisanship. So not all partisanship is bad.

I wouldn't call that partisanship at all!

No, I would say partisanship has negative connotation.


I'd call it putting the interests of your own party or faction above the general good of the organization (whether it's the chess club or a political party or the Church). Sometimes it doesn't even seem to rise to that level, when the desire to score points and defeat the other side seems the only thing that matters.

And I think your 11:08 comment is correct, Janet.

And I think the last sentence of your first paragraph is the biggest part of the problem. I wonder how much comboxes have contributed to this frame of mind.


Hard to say what contributes to what, but the mentality often displayed in comboxes is definitely part of it.

What are comboxes?

COMment facilities on web sites.

To be fair to everyone in comboxes (that's a comment box, like this one, Stu) this was a problem long before the internet and this whole problem of conflict in the Church was never going to just go away. I do think it's worse now, but really, Cardinal Newman saw this coming and he died in 1891! It will continue to get worse until something starts to change it. I don't know what the something is, but it will be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Remember that this division is due to "Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies" as St. Pius X called it or as Belloc called it "The Great Heresy."

As far as possible we should refrain from attacking people. That does seem to be imperative. But some of us, at least, must challenge ideas.

Yes. It's difficult to do without getting into spiritual trouble of one's own. You see a lot of that in the internal Church fights.

Yes, Newman was right. And Modernism itself is a manifestation within the Church of the spirit of the age, which is profoundly skeptical and materialistic (in philosophy--I had a very confusing exchange with someone on Facebook a while back who thought I meant "materialist" in the casual sense of wanting money and things).

I agree. Well, I guess that blurring of definitions is a big part of modernism. People use words in fairly different ways. These are tough times - and I believe they are tougher than most, at least spiritually.

I think this was more just a case of holes in the person's education--I had the impression that she just wasn't familiar with the philosophical sense of the word. It surprised me, because she has a degree from a pretty prestigious school.

Are the times "tougher than most, at least spiritually"? I often wonder about that. I'm inclined to agree, but am not sure. I don't suppose we can be sure.

Well, I'm not sure about that at all. I expect it seems that way because we know so much about every little thing--or think we do. But even in the New Testament, things are a mess.


I had minutes of discussion with a philosophy student at a prestigious university about his insistence it was ludicrous to believe in a personal God, before it became apparent he thought "personal" meant "anthropomorphic".

Clearly, Christians do in some sense believe in an anthropomorphic personal God, but that he should think that the term limited God to that astounded me.

There's a lot of misunderstanding about the term "personal God." Many, maybe even most people seem to think it means "personal" in the sense of something that belongs to me--my personal belongings, my personal beliefs, rather than a God Who is a person.


In my experience, even those who understand the concept of God who is a person don't see any difference between the One God and, for instance, Zeus. And from that point of view you can understand why they ask why anyone should believe in our God rather than Zeus.

IF these times are more difficult than most spiritually, it's not because things are a mess, either inside or outside the Church, which as you say they always have been. It's the denial and rejection of fundamental realities, such as the difference between men and women, the difference between human beings and animals, and so forth, things that were taken as obvious in the past. As far as I know this is a new thing in history, at least with respect to its success. Gnostic philosophies and such may have denied that such distinctions had meaning in the spiritual world, but I wonder if any of them would have maintained that there was no difference between a man and a woman marrying, and two men or two women marrying.

Still a big "if", though.

True. It's the complete loss of reason--not just men without chests but men with neither chests nor heads.


Well, the title of this post is very accurate. It really isn't about the joy of love. ;-)


The anthropomorphism of God has always interested me, along with the Jesus as personal savior idea that the evangelicals have. Both seem mildly heretic, but I cannot support this thought of mine very well as I am too far removed from my Theology studies of several years ago. I guess it is that word "personal" that is interesting to me, rather than the much broader terms that I believe in with regard to Jesus.

I think the ban against religious images should have been maintained regarding God the Father. Those pictures of bearded old men have done a great deal of damage.

I don't see anything necessarily wrong with "personal savior." I've always taken it just as an emphasis on the importance of personal commitment, God's concern for every individual soul, and so forth. But there may be heretical reasons behind the emphasis--the whole Anabaptist rejection of a visible Church, denial of infant baptism, no doubt others that I can't think of right now.

I'm curious about the type of damage you are talking about.

"Personal savior" can be good or bad, I guess, depending on the personal meaning of the person who is saying it. It can mean "nobody can tell me what to do," or "I was so amazed when I found out that Jesus loved me personally." Sometimes it's annoying as hell and sometimes it's really sweet.


"Are the times "tougher than most, at least spiritually"? I often wonder about that. I'm inclined to agree, but am not sure. I don't suppose we can be sure."

I suppose we can't know for certain.

I am, however, hopping mad, because I have just read today that someone I hope to see convert to the Faith is doubting there would be any point, on the basis that the Pope has issued AL, with all the doubtful material it contains. It's not his only objection, but it's just another rather large stumbling block and there's not much joy of love in that. I will say no more.

That's a shame. I wonder if he's getting some questionable views of AL, and/or of how the magisterium works. Even if there are doubtful things in AL, as bad as some people are saying they are (which personally I doubt), AL is only an apostolic exhortation, not any kind of doctrinally definitive word.

Anyone considering coming into the Church really ought to recognize the possibility of a pope with bad judgment or worse. Maybe the person you're talking about could come to see it that way.

What I mean about the damage, Janet, is that I think an awful lot of people have that image of God the Father in their heads. It's no wonder they think he's the same kind of thing as Zeus and have trouble attributing infinite attributes to him.

"attributing attributes"--well, blog comments are generally not the place one looks for good writing.

My Catholicism and faith certainly do not depend on who the Pope is and what he writes. By this statement I do not intend in any way to say something negative about Pope Francis.

The reason I was asking is because I think that some people might object to some of the pictures because they give the impression of an angry God, or some people might think He isn't angry enough or something, but I gather that's not it with you.

I like the images where Father and Son--and sometimes the Holy Spirit look the same. Do you object to those?

I don't object to the ones you don't like, though, because I think the image of Father is important--personal--instead of some kind of amorphous blob.


"Anyone considering coming into the Church really ought to recognize the possibility of a pope with bad judgment or worse. Maybe the person you're talking about could come to see it that way."

Thanks, Maclin. That's a good reminder.

You're welcome.

I see your point, of course, Janet. It just seems to me that the harm is greater than the good. And no, it isn't just the angry depictions that I think are a problem. I haven't seen any of the images you refer to as being the same for all three.

I I imagining things, or is there some tradition in the iconography of the Orthodox churches that the Father should not be depicted?

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