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The Pope's Direction: Comments on Casuistry & Marriage | KFP Articles
The Pope's Direction: Comments on Casuistry & Marriage PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 28 February 2014 21:58

There's been much talk and concern about the direction that Pope Francis might be taking the Church with the Synod of Bishops on questons related to family and marriage.  Many fear that he will soften the Church's approach to divorce and remarriage which would likely bring greater devastation to the institution of marriage.  There are too many spouses that have watched their families broken and destroyed by no fault divorce.  In their struggles they have not received support from the Church.  Its not surprising that they fear that things could get even more difficult for them.  So, folks are out there scouring the Pope's homilies looking for clues to where the ship is headed.  It appears the Pope may have just given us a hint with his recent homilies on casuistry.   Casuistry is case based reasoning that applies general principles to situations and has a varied methodological history.  The Pope's use of the term attaches a negative connotation to it by comparing casuistry to the questioning of Jesus by the pharisees.   From the L'Osservatore Romano:

Pope Francis then pointed to “the signs” by which we can recognize “a person who knows what we are to believe but who does not have faith”. The Pope noted two particular signs that we find in the Gospel. A first sign is “casuistry”, and he recalled all those who approached Jesus to present him with cases such as: is it lawful to to pay taxes to Caesar?” Or the case in which “a woman was widowed, poor thing, who according to the law had to marry the seven brothers of her husband in order to have a a child”. This “is casuistry,” the Pope said. And “casuistry is precisely the place to which all those people go who believe they have faith” but only have a knowledge of its content. Thus, “when we find a Christian” who only asks “if it is licit to do this and if the Church could do that,” it either means “that they do not have faith, or that it is too weak”.

The Pope is asking us to not make excuses like the pharisess who treat the faith as a system of knowledge and rules, like a legal system.  He is imploring us to avoid case based examples that break down the faith with the end of generating contradiction and easier answers.  His comments have been in reference ot the pharisees who used the weakness of humans to justify acting in ways contrary to the faith.  I believe the message here is a strong one in support of marriage.  

Casuistry has a long history that has many different connotations but the negative one implored here is the tyoe of case based reasoning that leads to moral relativism, or with the believing Christians that Pope Francis speaks about, it leads to rationalizing and justifying.  I read the Pope as criticizing two extremes, one that judges harshly and shows no mercy and the other that shows too much mercy which leads to moral relativism.  Most telling are his comments in another homily from just the other day.  He called us to imitate Christ's Love for hHis Church.  In that calling you will find no harsh condemnation, weakness or lack of sacrifice for our loved one.  From the Zenit news article

"Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to be attentive that love does not fail by recalling the image of the love of Christ to his spouse: the Church... “Even here we should be attentive that love does not fail! To speak of a bachelor Christ: Christ married the Church!” he exclaimed. “And Christ cannot be understood without the Church and the Church cannot be understood without Christ. This is the great mystery of the masterpiece of Creation. May the Lord give us all the grace to understand and also the grace to never fall in this casuistic attitude of the Pharisees, of the doctors of the law.”


Related articles: Pope Francis issues letter to families ahead of extraordinary synod

Vatican Extraordinary Synod on the Family Will Reaffirm Church Teaching on Marriage and the Family


New Advent in Casuistry - Its right use in Catholic moral theology




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