No answer to all questions

No answer to all questions

Eagerly awaited and now here: the papal letter "Amoris Laetitia" on marriage, family and sexuality. Father Bernd Hagenkord of Radio Vatican with a first classification of the contents.

Radio Vatican: What you need to know about "Amoris Laetitia"?

Father Bernd Hagenkord: First, that it is not an answer to all the questions about how to deal with remarried divorcees. Let's not beat around the bush, everyone is asking this, everyone wants to know this, and most people, after seeing that there is no decision on this in the text, will dismiss the letter as weak, backsliding, compromise, failed, or otherwise.

But it must be said so clearly, this is not what the Pope is about at all. Let me quote: "It is not just a matter of presenting norms, but of offering values, and thus responding to a longing for values" (AL 201), so it continues in the dynamic that the Pope began in "Evangelii Gaudium". In a nutshell: if you are only looking for a decision, you will not be happy with the text.

Vatican Radio: But then why did Pope Francis start this debate in the first place? After all, it was Cardinal Kasper's lecture that started the process in early 2014, and the lecture was about, among other things, a way to deal with remarried divorcees. Nothing remains of it?

Hagenkord: Yes, exactly a process. And in a certain way it is absolutely right to begin with the complex questions, because there it becomes clearest why it is going on and what the sticking points actually are.

But then the process has moved on. The questions have not disappeared and no one will say that they are not important. But it has turned out that once again it is necessary to speak fundamentally about the whole breadth of the subject of marriage and the family, in all its concreteness, and not just limited to one or two ies.

And this is exactly what the paper is doing now. And it makes a second, it sets out the procedure to be followed. The Pope is very process-oriented, we already know that from "Evangelii Gaudium", and that is exactly how he is proceeding here. The key words here are "discernment" and "conscience", so it is not a matter of formulating rules, but of discerning the will of God in the concrete situation. Listening to reality means listening to the Holy Spirit. And that's where this document can help.

It is no longer a single authority that decides everything, but rather, after consultation and with a view to Scripture and Tradition, it determines the path to be followed. Here is what the Pope means by synodality.

Vatican Radio: Can you summarize the document in a few key words?

Hagenkord: No, certainly not. It is deliberately very broad and deals with a large amount of individual topics. Also here the keyword: concrete. One or the other time one can think, why do I need a Pope's statement on child rearing of all things, but this is exactly the Pope's intention: he wants communication.

I can well imagine a couple or a marriage preparation course or a parish council taking a part of the document to debate the ies. To distinguish reality spiritually, to use this word again, the secret star of "Amoris Laetitia".

Perhaps the central part is about love, starting from Scripture and then looking at it in all dimensions. Here is not only the basis of marriage and family treated, but also the method set out. And the pope proves to be wise, a judge of character and spiritually wise. Many people can certainly relate to this. But a brief summary would touch on too much of the whole breadth of it. One does not have to read everything at once.

Radio Vatican: What exactly the pope wants to achieve with his letter? After two synods and more than two years of debate, something must come out?

Hagenkord: To me it looks like a concern that the Pope has already formulated in "Evangelii Gaudium" and that also appears in "Amoris Laetitia": missionary conversion. Pastoral care must make it possible to experience what faith has to say about the family (AL 201). And pastoral care is not just applying principles negotiated elsewhere to a reality. Pastoral is communication, is discernment, is in general the place where church is church. Not in books and teachings, but in people's lives. And this is exactly where Pope Francis wants to lead with his thoughts.

Perhaps the intention of the letter can be summarized in a shortened way like this: The goal is integration, the inclusion of all. The mode for this is mercy, which is not only a quality of God, but also a criterion to recognize who is God's child (AL 310). This mercy is unconditional, because anything else would liquefy the gospel (AL 311). And the means for this integration, the pastoral way, that is the discernment and the accompaniment. Everything else seems to me to be hung up on this basic framework.

The interview is published with the kind permission of Radio Vatican.

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Christina Cherry
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