“I simply let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit” was the response that Pope Francis gave recently to a question about what plans he had for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In a recent interview with the Italian Catholic publication Avvenire, the Holy Father made connections between the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the Jubilee Year of Mercy, noting that ecumenism and the Jubilee Year itself were recognizable “fruits of the Council.”
Furthermore, as has been widely reported, Pope Francis responded to the small minority of bishops—including the extraordinarily controversial American prelate Cardinal Raymond Burke—that have been resistant to the teaching of Amoris Laetitia. Pope Francis said that some “continue to not understand” the Apostolic Exhortation, they think it’s “black and white, even if in the flux of life you must discern.”
Clearly there are those, like Burke, who was himself removed from a significant leadership position in the Roman Curia for his reactionary and at times dissident remarks, who would prefer some kind of pre-conciliar “simplicity” in which the world could be categorized as “back and white” without the nuances of actual life.
The privilege that surrounds such an ostensibly hermetic existence stands in stark contrast with the experiences of most women and men, both the laity and the religious and ordained. Those who accompany others in pastoral ministry know the complexities of life and are more open to embrace the teachings of the two Bishops Synods and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia that resulted. While admittedly imperfect, the document strikes a more-realistic and charitable tone that does not “change” Church teaching, but nevertheless shifts the emphasis from the Church as juridical mouthpiece to Church as minister of God’s mercy and love.
That Pope Francis highlights the connection between the Year of Mercy and the Second Vatican Council also affirms this shift, one that has been resisted by some in ecclesiastical authority over the last half century. Reactionary efforts to responding to the “signs of the times” according to the “light of the Gospel” (Guadium et Spes) have brought about great pain and alienation among the People of God. A Year of Mercy and the pastoral recognition of the complications of ordinary life found in Amoris Laetitia strikes me as the appropriate response, and one that is long overdue.
On a related note, due to a number of pressing deadlines and other commitments, many of which I outlined last week in my explanation for my absence on this blog, additional episodes in my video series on Amoris Laetitia have been delayed. But fear not. The rest of the series is forthcoming! And at a time when there remains a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the Apostolic Exhortation, I recognize the need for expert and accessible resources to explain the material. Thank you for your patience.