Dear Brothers and Sisters is Christ,
Scoop, a contributor of this blog, has asked me to respond to a Thomistic philosopher’s critique of Amoris Laetitia in regard to my own comments made on the topic. Instead of being buried in the comment section of my last post, I thought it wise to post my comments for everyone to see for their edification. The article found on Lifesitenews is posted here in full: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/amoris-laetitia-is-ambiguous-not-a-thomistic-document-filial-correction-sig
Fr. Thomas Crean writes:
“St. Thomas’ work is characterized by conciseness and clarity, whereas Amoris Laetitia is expansive, and, on certain key points, ambiguous – at least if we are to judge by the conflicting interpretations it has received. Again, a phrase such as “time is greater than space” is reminiscent not of St. Thomas but of a certain gnomic, metaphorical style of writing which St. Thomas criticized in the works of Plato.”
I would agree with this assessment, which is why I agree that Pope Francis needs to still clarify concerns within the document. When reading Weigel’s assessment of understanding philosophy as a prerequisite for good theology, it brought to mind that many give credence to Pope Francis’ scientific achievements, rather than his theological so it could be quite possible that Pope Francis is a poor philosopher. It could also be possible, as I’ve heard people comment on his demeanor, that he is a very prideful man. I suppose we should pray, in any case, for the humbling of the bishop of Rome. We also have to understand that Pope Francis wants a decentralized church, much like how the Orthodox operate with their patriarchs, maybe it would be prudent to criticize this maneuver of Pope Francis that allows an ambiguity of multiple Bishops’ interpretations as a context for decentralization of Church authority.
However, I’m always wary when we hold men’s opinions to the revelations of God—including Thomas Aquinas. For example, I’ve already stated in a previous post that I reject St. Thomas’ notion that the Incarnation is fitting rather than necessary in favor of St. Athanasius’ theology of non-contradiction. God cannot go back on word, the penalty of our sin must be death. So, in this manner, and to myself, St. Thomas cannot be an ultimate authority, he can be criticized, we must not fall for the fallacy of authority for any statements made by St. Thomas. Notwithstanding, I’m a great admirer of St. Thomas, as a patron of Matt Fradd’s Pint with Aquinas, and subscribe to St. Thomas’ Cosmological arguments.
Fr. Crean goes on:
“Paragraphs 102, 120, 123, 126-7, and 134 fall into this category. For example, they quote his remarks that marriage is the greatest of friendships, that there need be no limit to the growth of charity in this life, and that friendship involves considering another person as a being of great worth.
At other times, Amoris Laetitia quotes St. Thomas accurately, (but) less aptly or even misleadingly. Thus Paragraph 146 cites (him) in connection with the statement that: “A family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that neither stifles nor obscures great decisions and values, but rather follows each one’s freedom.
The reference is not apt, since in the passage cited, St. Thomas is not talking about families or great decisions, or even values or freedom. He is simply discussing whether the virtues co-exist with the moral virtues, and explaining that they sometime do and sometime don’t.”
I admit, as one schooled in the analysis of historical documents when documents quote passages out of context in an attempt to sway someone’s opinion in a particular direction, I’m usually very critical of said documents. If the document is misquoting St. Thomas then we must be wary of any further type of quotation of said document. Although St. Thomas’ quotation would have no bearing on my interpretation of Amores Laetitia on marriage, again, my interpretation could stand on its own merits according to the Catechism’s teaching on mortal sin and the Eucharist with Pope St. John Paul II’s magisterial teaching on the Catechism in FIDEI DEPOSITUM.
Okay, so that being said, sure I can fully admit whenever in college I found multiple errors, I would tell the professors I threw the book they required via the syllabus in the trash. My reply, “How can I believe anything the author writes when they’ve made multiple mistakes, without retractions or re-editions, it’s not worth my time when there are so many other books.” Most of the time, I just had to write papers why that particular author’s opinion isn’t credible. Should I do the same with Pope Francis? Well, on the one hand, if we’re to follow this path, it’s hard to scrap an entire Exhortation from the Bishop of Rome. Again, good Bishops such as Paprocki and Chaput, who may feel the same way, have taken authentic Catholic teaching and applied it to this ambiguity, and at this point with this pontificate with this much at stake, I still believe this to be a wise course of action.
So, I say for anyone to read this article, it’s enlightening on the topic, and yes, it appears the document gets St. Thomas very wrong, and the document should be held accountable for these errors. However, I’d argue, St. Thomas is not necessarily always right with his works, so examine every quotation supplied by Fr. Crean and ask, “how does this relate to mortal sin in accordance with the sacrament of marriage?”
As an aspiring historian, I have no problems with anyone saying to hell with any document that misquotes sources. In fact, I just emailed Catholic Answers about the constant misquoting of Martin Luther by Steve Ray because it makes Catholic apologetics look bad—they didn’t write back.
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”