Digging deeper into Amoris Laetitia

The inclusion of the Argentinian bishops’ guidelines on Communion for civilly remarried Catholic divorcees in “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”, the official record of Vatican documents and acts may clarify chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia but it will not end the controversy surrounding it.

Peruvian theologian Dr Rocio Figueroa, systematic theology lecturer at Good Shepherd College in Ponsonby, said while this might shed light on some issues raised against the exhortation, she does not think it will not silence the critics.

Dr Figueroa lectured in spiritual theology for five years at the Giovanni Paolo II seminary in Salerno, Italy and Universidad Popular Autónoma in Mexico. She also worked for the former Pontifical Council for the Laity, networking with various international Catholic organisations to promote the dignity of women.

“I don’t know if the controversy will have an end,” Dr Figueroa said. “Usually the ones who are against (Amoris Laetitia)… they have a mindset. They have to process a new pastoral approach.”

In the first week in December, Pope Francis ordered the official publication of his letter to a group of Argentine bishops and the Argentinian bishops’ guidelines for the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. He described both the guidelines and his letter as “authentic magisterium”.

“It clarifies his posture,” Dr Figueroa said. “But he already published that letter. And all the people read the guidelines of the Argentinians.”

She said those, mostly theologians, who have a very rigid interpretation of Church teachings will struggle with the fact that there are exceptions to the rule.

“They will have to accept (the Pope’s decision),” she said. “But they need time to assimilate the truth.”

The controversy that has surrounded Amoris Laetitia may be taken as a sign of a lively Church, Dr Figueroa said.

Speaking on the papal post-synodal apostolic exhortation in Auckland on November 23 and in Wellington on December 3, she marvelled at how it generated so much discussion within the Church. (The talks were sponsored by The Catholic Institute and Good Shepherd College).

She said these Amoris Laetitia discussions and controversies provide the Church with “new opportunities to retrieve certain truths that have become dormant”, she said, quoting Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Dr Figueroa said she considers it necessary to have a wider vision of Amoris Laetitia and to understand its content.

“I don’t think that the Pope has touched or changed the essence of our doctrines but he has changed the approach,” she explained.