12. Sep, 2017

Amoris Laetitia the Loss of Clarity Over Moral Living

The Upright Person Will Live by their Faithfulness

There is a lot of confusion over chapter eight in Amoris Laetitia about discerning whether people in irregular marriages, can be in a state of grace.

Paragraph 305 claims that “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace.” Referring to adultery let us be clear this act is intrinsically evil regardless of circumstances, or one’s intentions.

So, if Amoris Laetitia is not proposing the redefinition adultery as not intrinsically evil, it must propose there is a way in which a person's culpability is mitigated. Saying that the force of habit, or the benefit of children, for example, lessens the act of adultery is presumably (there is unclarified #dubia about Amoris Laetitia) the path taken by this exhortation.

The problem is that everyone knows adultery is a grave sin. Some may argue that “unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense, but no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law” (Catechism, 1860). Therefore, there is no defence in claiming that a person’s subjective knowledge or their degree of consent concerning their adultery, lessens their participation in an act of grave, mortal sin.

So, What Does Amoris Laetitia Teach About Discernment?

Amoris Laetitia paragraph 305 is teaching Catholics to discern, determine, and define what is good and what is evil. It is not teaching Catholics to discern the will of God, rather to justify the will of men and women who seek whatever they desire – to get everything they want whilst remaining at rights with God. Of course, this discernment is a participation in the original sin. Just like Eve, the temptation is to justify our infidelity and our desire for what we know is against God’s will.

In Genesis 2:17 God prohibits Adam and Eve from “eat[ing] from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The question becomes: If we can’t make decisions by determining what is good for us, how do we know what is right and wrong?

New School

Let’s skip to the New Testament. Jesus acknowledges the legitimacy of God’s commandments, so they are still in! Other than the commandments there emerges another source of morality – our relationship with Jesus. Our faith in Jesus represents a principle of thought based “not on this world ...[but] on Christ” (Colossians 2:6-15). Our relationship with Jesus is objective, drawing us beyond to belief that there exists knowledge that transcends our own. Bottom line, we trust that Jesus knows what is good for us and base our moral living upon our faith relationship with him. The alternate is to step outside of this covenant of faith—our moral canon— where “everything is sin” (Romans 14:23).

In practice when we make decisions of morality we can consider the consequences of our actions; we can also consider what we ought to do from a rational, worldly perspective; or we can consider what is the most virtuous thing to do would be. However, the guiding principle of morality is the theological virtue of faith. Faith calls us to covenant and the discernment of the will of God with the help of Christ.


The way we think is flawed because we want to weigh up things according to the attainment of our desired outcome, and not be faithful to what we know is God’s will. Unsurprisingly, God wants a covenant mindset where our thinking is established in relationship to God’s revealed Truth – our Lord, Jesus Christ (who is the Way to Truth and Life). Instead of basing our moral decisions on weighing things up, or rationalising our choices, the virtue of faith should be our overarching guide to moral behaviour.

In this way, old school thinking is superseded by the New Testament whilst still retain its moral relevance. Truly, the upright person will live by their faithfulness (Habakkuk 1:4) to God, through fidelity to Christ (Romans 14:23).