Discern and Accompany: Indications from ‘Amoris Laetitia’

Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ

 Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ / Issue 1711 / Published Date:14 December 2017/Last Updated Date:26 November 2018

It is the merciful love of the Father with which he loves his Son as “the concrete-living one,” says Romano Guardini, and God loves each and every one of us individually in Christ as “concrete-living beings” in our unrepeatable uniqueness.  It follows that such a type of universality and singularity does not correspond in morality to a mere unequivocal and ahistorical casuistry, nor to an equivocal and relativistic situation ethics.

What is required is an accurate discernment, like the one proposed by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, a personal discernment, accompanied by an ecclesial pastoral discernment that confirms it. In the always singular and unique history of these “concrete persons” that we human beings are, there is Christ – as the Gospel teaches – the final objective criterion of discernment, and the Spirit, his most intimate subjective mover.

The eighth chapter of Amoris laetitia has this title: “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.” It is not the central chapter of the exhortation, nor is it the most important, but it is the one that for many is a cause for concern. It promotes the path of discernment that comes from mercy faced with human weakness; and it continues to recognize, following Vatican II, the objective worth of subjective conscience.

In no way is there discussion of changing the doctrine on chastity before marriage or the indissolubility of Christian marriage; it is a matter of looking anew at the consequences, especially with regard to what has been called “state of sin.” It must be recognized that, even if such a state is objectively present, it is not automatic that those living in such a state are always deprived of the grace of God.

Obviously, self-deception cannot be excluded. This is why there is a need for ecclesial accompaniment and for listening to spiritual masters with their counsels and rules of discernment; above all there is need for a true ethical and religious conversion. This always includes an affective conversion to seek and find the authentic will of God in the choice of the best possible good in a given existential and historical circumstance, that is to say in a given “here and now,” dynamically open to new steps of spiritual growth. Such a work of conversion is gradual in the measure of the possible, according to the limits of each moment, and that it must continue for all of life.

The author is a professor for the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel at the Universidad del Salvador in Argentina.