Tracking back to posts on page 57 and page 63 of this thread …
The Space Between: A Criticism of Lawler’s Lost Shepherd
Philip Lawler, in his book Lost Sheperd, argues that Francis is creating confusion intentionally as a means to usher in radical changes that could not be carried out through the formal processes of the Church. By introducing question marks into bedrock doctrines of the Christian faith, the Pope is setting the stage for liberalizing change.
There are a few problems with this interpretation of events, however. First, it seems to underestimate the cadre of faithful Catholics and clergy who are very interested in preserving the Church’s clear teaching. …
The second problem with this interpretation is, to be sure, a rush to judgment regarding the proposals themselves. For example, anything less than absolute uniformity and rigidity on matters of the moral law is seen as a failure of the Church’s mission to teach and form the faithful. …
The third problem with this interpretation of events is that it neglects the reality of people who live in the space between clear doctrines of the Church. In the process of neglecting the day-to-day lives of Catholics or their “concrete realities” in the language of Francis, Lawler implies that a billion Catholics are eager to live by the clear teachings of the Catechism but also full of people looking to change that Catechism. Lawler leaves little to no room for faithful Catholics to exercise well-formed conscience in areas where the Catechism is unclear on specific direction. In other words, just because a person is exploring how best to live in these “gray areas,” this does not mean that person is somehow a “bad Catholic.”
When Lawler accuses Francis of “creating confusion,” therefore, he misunderstands the Pope’s objectives. Francis is not setting out to create confusion as a means to a sinister end. What he is doing is trying to explore those areas between the Church’s clear teachings. He is asking questions that can help guide those who have to live their lives where the Catechism does not, nor cannot, offer direct advice. By arguing that Francis is creating confusion, Lawler seems to reveal himself as one uneager or uninterested in helping those currently suffering today in the “outermost fringes of society.”
Francis shows in Amoris Laetitia and elsewhere how the world is becoming increasingly complex and family situations are becoming more difficult. Catholics are struggling to live the faith well in a world that is filled with sin and a variety of modern challenges for which the Catechism offers no practical response,.
Pope Benedict described these challenges in philosophical ways, as a world ravaged by materialism and relativism. Francis describes these challenges in very “subjective” ways, or ways that situate the individual in the context of a sinful world. Francis references divorce, cultural changes in which the family no longer offers as much support, individualism, consumerism, stress, the fast-paced nature of modern life, (mis)organization of society and labor, widespread uncertainty and ambiguity, misunderstanding of true freedom, fear, etc.
My point is that many Catholics are already confused. While we must acknowledge that there are clear teachings of the Church that are immutable, their applicability to specific situations is often less clear to say the least. Amoris Laetitia, in its most controversial passages, is a faithful working out of one complex area of life in which an increasing number of Catholics sadly find themselves, through varying degrees of culpability or none at all. We defend the orthodoxy of the recommended pastoral practices throughout this website.
One can accuse Francis of “creating confusion,” but one does not create confusion by revealing it and discussing it for the benefit of the faithful. And this is precisely what Francis is doing.