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Title: Untying the Gordian Knot
Subtitle: On the Strengthening of Moral Theology by Amoris laetitia
Author(s): MÜLLER, Sigrid
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 27    Issue: 1   Date: 2021   
Pages: 49-70
DOI: 10.2143/INT.27.1.3289474

Abstract :
The article begins with the proposal that the 'Gordian knot' regarding the situation of remarried divorced people in the Catholic Church is caused by the interweaving of moral theology with canon law, dogmatic theology, and pastoral theology. That the various theological disciplines have developed their own logic in the course of their historical differentiation has led to a lack of compatibility in dealing with remarried divorced persons. The article aims at showing how Pope Francis, especially in Amoris laetitia, is contributing to untying the knot which hinders the application of principles developed in moral theology to the concrete situation of these Catholics. Therefore, it analyzes developments in canon law, dogmatic theology, and pastoral theology that gradually will make it possible for moral theology to act more in accordance with these other disciplines. With regard to canon law, pastoral care for people who experience difficulty in regard to the church’s legal processes has led Pope Francis to introduce reforms in canon law intended to facilitate the declaration of nullity. According to the pastoral requests developed in Amoris laetitia, these efforts would need to be complemented by an adaptation of the authentic interpretation of canon 915, since this canon in its current interpretation impedes the full appreciation of subjective elements required for pastoral discernment in pastoral work with divorced remarried persons. With regard to the entanglement of dogmatic theology and moral theology, the pastoral approach of Pope Francis has led to new considerations. Regarding the understanding of the Eucharist in the light of an ecclesiology of the Body of Christ, new light has been shed on the presence of grace in remarried divorced persons in the church. Pope Francis has consequently built on the steps developed by his predecessors and rightly concluded that being divorced and remarried does not automatically result in exclusion from the Eucharist. This has contributed to bringing the positions of dogmatic and moral theology closer together. Equally, pastoral principles taken from the context of the practice of confession show that discernment is necessary and that different individual situations need to be distinguished with regard to what, from an exterior point of view, seems to be the same. By stimulating these developments and discussions, Pope Francis has undertaken important steps towards the untying of the Gordian knot. His discreet but trend-setting interventions into canon law and his indications of the need for development and reflection in some dogmatic and pastoral fields create the necessary space where the insights of moral theology regarding the situations of divorced and remarried persons can be brought to bear consistently and without contradiction on other theological disciplines.

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