Make the past the source of inspiration, not the destination

We need to use the past as a source of inspiration while moving forward, instead of wanting to go back to the way things were in the past, says Pope Francis. It’s not Christian.

Wanting to go back in time is different from drawing inspiration from one’s roots in order to move forward with Christ.

Finding inspiration in the past is good because “without roots we cannot progress,” he says.

“But to go in reverse is to go back in order to have a form of defence, a safety measure that saves us from the risk of going forward, the Christian risk of carrying the faith, the Christian risk of journeying with Jesus Christ.”

Wanting to turn back “does so much harm to the Church,” either out of fear or because of a lack of ingenuity or a lack of courage, he says.

Speaking to an international conference exploring Amoris Laetitia, his 2016 exhortation on the family, Francis told participants of his disappointment in backward-focused people.

There are “many” who are part of the church “who crop up like mushrooms, here, there, over there, and they present themselves as a proposal of Christian life,” he said.

To illustrate his point he offered the example of “casuistry” – the practice of setting general laws on the basis of a few exceptional cases or using a form of reasoning that is legalistic and stripped of God’s love and mercy.

Casuistry is “the foodstuff” of his and his generation’s studies in moral theology, Francis said.

It’s outdated, but can still be resurrected and disguised with proposals of what one can or cannot do.

“Amoris Laetitia,” on the other hand, is an example of the living doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas. The saint taught that there are factors, such as ignorance, that might diminish the culpability of an objectively sinful act.

Francis explained that this approach “helps us move forward taking risks, but in obedience. And this is not easy.”

The changes will see families having a significant tole in the Church’s future.

Francis said their role encompasses the “pastoral conversion of our communities and the missionary transformation of the church.

“For this to happen, it is necessary there be, including on an academic level, theological reflection that is truly attentive to the wounds of humanity.”

Priests and theologians need to recognise “the inseparable relationship, despite the ordeals and difficulties of life, between the human conscience and the good.

“Gospel morality is far from being moralism, which becomes a literal observance of norms” in order to secure being just before God, and it is not a kind of idealism “which, in the name of an ideal good, discourages and distances from the possible good.”

The good is “an appeal, a voice that liberates and stimulates the conscience,” in which resides a law written by God — to love good and avoid evil.


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