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WITNESS – Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne Transcript

March 4, 2017
Fr. Rosica: Monsieur le Rector, thank you so much for welcoming us here at the Institut catholique de Paris. We are in the historic heart in Paris. You are the rector of the Catholic Institute, a priest from Nanterre, professor of moral theology, the canon of Notre-Dame Cathedral. We are here today because you were one of the experts at the Synod on the Family in 2015. We were there together. And I’d like to ask you about your experience at the Synod. It was, after all, a rather significant event. First of all, how were you chosen for this Synod, in what capacity, and what does it mean to be an expert at the Synod?
Msgr. Bordeyne: It was a surprise for me. I was coming back from vacation, during the summer of 2015, and I received a letter from the Pope, telling me I was named as an expert. You’re right, I’m a professor in moral theology and for many years now, I’ve been teaching moral theology of the family.
On the family?
Of the family, of the family. It started when I was really young. I was ordained a priest in 1988. I was a chaplain of young people for 10 years, in colleges, universities, student chaplain in my diocese, and at that time, Professor Xavier Thévenot, who had been my teacher in moral theology fell ill, and very quickly asked me to become his assistant, to help him, and is allowed him to peacefully conclude his teaching career at the institute. It allowed me to continue studying and to teach a little while still working with young people. And so I quickly had to orient myself towards sexual and family morality. Then for 10 years I was responsible for the pastoral care of families and of marriage preparation in the diocese of Nanterre. I was eventually invited to speak in different countries… It was the main reason for the Pope’s decision. But it was still a surprise and an important event in my life.
Let me ask you something. Many times, as a priest, who is celibate, and you become experts in the pastoral care of the family, what do you have to say to married couples? You are celibate.
Yes, first I must learn from them, right? As for the preparation for marriage, I continue to do it as Rector, not a lot because I don’t have a lot of time. But it still makes me happy to do it because oftentimes, I get approached by former students who knew me, or find me online, or by people who have had very difficult life journeys, who were involved in a romantic relationship which ended badly, there were highs and lows, and one day they discover that they are ready to follow what the Catholic Church proposes in terms of marriage. To learn from these experiences, with sometimes complex stories, with a positive outlook, that is first what I recognize as a celibate. Also I see young people I prepared for marriage who are finally welcoming their first child whose lives are changing and where new crisis emerge, even though they had been married and lived together for many years… They thought everything had been said and done, and that the arrival of their child would be their greatest happiness, when in fact it brings the greatest disruption, the biggest disruption. I think that as a celibate, I need to first recognize that God’s love manifests itself in that way. When the Synod began, we all had the words of the Pope in Philadelphia who said that the Son of God was not born in a castle...
Nor in a factory, to start a business…
Exactly. He came into this world through a human family. For a celibate, of course, I have my own family, but I’m always discovering that which is accompanied by wonder but also by a shared suffering, with its own periods of crisis, and I’m still learning. As I was telling you, for Branly, he needed something concrete. He made things, we gave him time, we gave him the tools to do his craft. The moral theologian is first of all a craftsman, someone who thinks but who, when I’m asked to give a talk, I start by remembering concrete situations that influenced my thought process, and I’m incapable of doing moral theology without going back to those concrete examples. So I would say, celibate or married, we are all invested in the great adventure of love but we live it in different ways, because we made different life and vocational choices. I never cease learning from couples…
You’ve made an important observation. Before your nomination for this Synod, you knew about the Synod preceding it in 2014...
Of course.
I was there, I remember how the Pope reformed the Synod of Bishops. What was your experience of the Synod in 2014, which was a preparation to the great Synod in which you participated?
For us, at the Faculty of Theology, it was big moment. I had with me my colleague, Sister Catherine Fino, a friend of Quebec, who even published her thesis on a French congregation founded in Quebec in the 17th century. With Sister Catherine, I told her, we have to write a book! And she is the one who led it. It’s called “Divine Pedagogy: the Action of God in the Diversity of the Family” by the Éditions du Cerf publishing house. We wrote the book after receiving the concluding document of the 2014 Synod. The fact that an international survey was conducted before it
Which is important.
Very important. But I would say that even before that, at the beginning of 2014, the Pope celebrated baptisms, as his predecessors have done, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and that moved me. For someone who has been involved in family ministry, I usually welcome at baptism people that were married civilly, that are making that extra step in their faith journey, or single mothers, and to see that among those chosen for their children to be baptised by the Holy Father, there was a single mother, a civilly married couple who could still walk towards a religious marriage, it gladdened my heart, and it’s something that interested theologians.
And it happened again just before the Synod last year in Saint Peter’s, where 27 couples, if I’m not mistaken, with many couples who had even lived together, to which there was strong criticism, “What is the Pope doing!”, why was his gesture important?
Because the starting point was concrete. From there we raised the notion of divine pedagogy, which appeared at the 2014 Synod and which we explored with our colleagues, Canon lawyers, moral theologians, Biblical specialists, to ask ourselves what is, in fact, the pedagogy of God in Scripture, in the Bible? What is it? How does God deal with his people? And why, when the Pope wishes to revisit questions concerning the family 35 years after the last Synod on the family, why is he focusing on the way God works in men and women. That’s where we find the continuity. And that is the role of theologians at the 2014 Synod. Many Bishops are theologians. I noticed, in 2014, that the Italian Bishops were especially sensitive and creative with this idea of divine pedagogy, and so lots of work was done with catechesis, of bridging the gap between the experiences of families today, which isn’t what it was 50 years ago or 35 years ago, and very different if we’re in Asia, in Latin America, in Europe, in North America, in Oceania, in Africa… All these experiences are very diverse. In order to find clarity, we need to go back to Scripture, go back to the Church Fathers, and to see if what they passed down to us, what they discovered through Revelation, can illuminate today’s current situation. So this idea of divine pedagogy, had been mostly used by the Church Fathers to show how God could progressively bring the Gentiles to the faith.
It’s the story of Christianity.
Exactly. And bring them to a point of reconciliation with their past, discovering God means changing one’s life, always, but not in a way that makes us reject our past, but in a way where we can look at it differently to take a step forward. And in God’s pedagogy, it is the pedagogy of the little steps. And so we understood, after the work of the 2014 Synod - I worked a lot on the documents, I didn’t always pay attention to the media, it can be quite complex…
It’s very complicated.
Exactly. There are different positions. However, in the end, there was a document that was voted for by ? of the Synod Fathers and which contained a certain unity. It is our job as theologians, but we also got the input of students, many people in France are involved in family ministry, and were asking us so many questions. “What is going on at the Synod? Explain it to us.” And that was extremely motivating, as a moral theologian, to see so much interaction between the Synod of Bishops, with its own method, a first survey and then a second one, which was launched after the Synod in 2014, and to see so many groups emerge, people I hadn’t seen in so long would ask me, “We’re part of this group and this question came up, what do we do with, for example, the issue of baptising children of non-married couples, or the whole question regarding divorce, homosexuality, this is important. In France, we went through this whole situation of a law regarding marriage for all.
The famous Manif pour tous, and the large manifestations…
Exactly. It was a difficult time for the Catholic Church. First because we had Catholics with very different points of view. Some people who viewed each other as very close, and as soon as this law arrived, we see them become almost like strangers. We see here what Jesus says in the Gospel, the father will be put against the mother... divisions in the family. This is was we went through. It was a difficult period, and especially about the relationship between the Church and the State. How much is the episcopate allowed to say to mobilize the faithful? It might make them uncomfortable… It was complicated. But if there’s one thing, very important, I was invited in many dioceses between both Synods, and at that moment, there were families who were dealing with the question of homosexuality, their son, their daughter, their nephew or niece, could finally come out of the dark and share, sometimes with tears, sometimes with joy, or with the serenity to finally be able to…
It’s my son, it’s my daughter, it’s my brother…
There you go. And be able to talk. So I went to the Synod in 2015 with that memory.
You had positive expectations, coming into this Synod, is it safe to say that?
Well, I was first very interested. I knew that it could be different, that it could difficult as well, but I didn’t foresee that there would be so much work. You were asking me about the work of an expert, and I must specify that there were only 23 of us…
You worked a lot, I can testify to that as an eye witness.
Day and night! Sometimes we helped Bishops - I was in an anglophone group...
A very surprising thing! I’d like to focus on that. When I was looking at all the anglophone groups, and I got to yours, I thought this poor Frenchman, he got lost on his way here. I was tempted to say, you went through the wrong door. And you said, “No, I was in fact choose to the anglophone group”. How did this happen?
Oh but I didn’t choose it.
You were named!
I was named to it, just like the bishops, I might add.
Another surprise of the Synod.
So I had simply indicated that the language I commonly use was French but that I could work in English.
It is a miracle of the Synod.
What I found most interesting is that it didn’t put the expert in a position being a know-it-all. I made mistakes in English, what was essential was to make myself understood, but next to me there were bishops from Asia, and sometimes from Africa…
A cardinal from the Roman curia…
Exactly. But normally the cardinals from the Roman curia manage fairly well in English… So we were all there with our own weaknesses, the experts… and so I experienced… and for me, the francophones, I would have known them already, if I had been paired up with the French bishops whom I know well, the African bishops, I know many of them… This way, I discovered the whole world. I would even say I made new friends.
Very strong ones.
Very strong. And there were many moments of gratitude at the end of the Synod. A bishop, with whom I didn’t always agree, told me, “I’ve been to many synods, this was my best group, and you weren’t there for nothing”. That made me happy. But it also means that fraternity is born in truth. And what I took with me from the Synod in 2014, what Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, who is the former chancellor of the Institut catholique, gave us the honour and joy of coming - he was co-presider at the Synod in 2014 and again in 2015 - and in 2014, he came to speak at the university. He explained to us how liberating it was, at the end of the Synod, to hear the Pope say you could speak freely, do not be afraid because, in any case, I will be making the decision.
Sub Petro et cum Petro
And I pleaded at the Synod in 2015… Certain bishops wanted to ask the Pope to tells us in advance if the final document would be published or not. I said he shouldn’t tell us because unconsciously the Synod could have risked manipulating the Pope. He must remain free. It is his vocation to be with his brother bishops…
Do you think he was free?
Ah, totally. Totally. Free like Christ was free. That is, oftentimes very silent.
Above and beyond the division and the contrasting opinions, he was there.
Accessible. I was able to talk to him.
During the coffee break, just like that…
With coffee, like that… in an unexpected way. He was very attentive. When I met him, I explained to him what I was working on, and he understood it was a very difficult issue… so very attentive, free, because he kept an appropriate distance from the Synod. And he would lead us in prayer every day, very simply… a father and a brother and a leader.
Let me ask you about the surprises of the Synod. I got to participate in two Synods before Francis, on the Word of God and on the New Evangelization. But I’ve observed that what Francis has done with these last two Synods, he revived the institution of the Synod of Bishops, which found itself in a kind of slumber. But when I saw the interest, not only of the participants but also of people from the outside, people were calling, the presence of the media, there were surprises, what were they for you? Reactions, responses, misunderstandings...
For me, the first surprise was, the bishops who had participated in the Synod in 2014, which meant they were presidents of episcopal conferences, expressed a certain discomfort. They felt that things weren’t sufficiently organized at the synod in 2014. They had been able to express themselves over the course of one week, each for 5 minutes, and then a document seemed to have, according to some, to have fallen from the sky. This text could have been amended but there was a certain dissatisfaction. The surprise was first that they express this, there was this freedom to do so, and then for them to say it was much better at the Synod in 2015, where we had sessions for two days in great assemblies and two days in linguistic groups. As an expert I was deeply invested in making summaries, so as to not completely forget, while we were in our linguistic groups, what had been said in the Aula for the general assemblies. Another really important thing, the secretaries of each of the 17 linguistic groups, for half a day, prepared their reports. I found that fascinating. And I think everyone thought that. We felt the temperature rising. And generally every secretary has a personal touch, I noticed how the secretary of our group worked, but despite the limits, of each bishop’s way of approaching a subject, the fact that we had that kind of rhythm which was repeated three times, 2 days in large group, 2 days in linguistic groups, half a day to listen once again to the work, or rather the intentions, and as an expert I was also seeing the amendments coming out…
How many were there? More than one thousand? What I managed to calculate…
Listen, the number, I don’t have it in my head. But on the last week, I was called to the writing committee, and when the provisional text was presented at the reading, at that moment we had 450. 450 on the final text. So I think that overall there must have been at least a thousand. But 450 amendments which we had to sort through…
So the job of the expert is to make sense of it all, to sort through…
But always with the bishops! The experts were never left alone.
You also had cardinals with you.
Of course. Cardinals, the writing committee, and each language was respected, there was one Synod father and one expert attached to each language, and in each group treating the amendments, there were a minimum of eight people, and I was representing, each time, the French and the German, since there were hardly any Germans, so there was one German speaking group. After that, we held a discussion. For the writing committee, a discussion to receive the amendments, to respect their pertinence, respect the fact that the amendments could make us shift positions, because they came from someone of another culture, and at the same time, be concerned with, since the commission were named to create a document that would stand on its own, so naturally we had to follow the theme that was evidently emerging after listening to these three half days of reports on the general atmosphere of the Synod. What impressed me most was the initial reaction to the provisional text.
Explain a little more. I remember that day very well.
What I mean is, I was saying that in 2014 some felt they were being manipulated, whereas in 2015 it seemed the bishops saw themselves in the text. There could have been details with which they felt less attuned to, on 450 amendments…
For those on the outside, it’s quite the opposite, what I experienced, what we experienced…
And that, really, I think that’s why each paragraph was agreed upon by ? of the voices. Everything was taken into consideration. And that moment, a very strong moment, in an assembly of more than 300 people, when we feel that it’s true. First, there was the work of the Holy Spirit. We weren’t very many and the task was great, and yes I worked day and night, so my strength was lessened… But to see that each person contributed his little stone, in a spirit of honesty and of listening to the directions which the Pope had given, we arrived at a place no one could have imagined beforehand.
That is precisely my sentiment. I felt the Holy Spirit, its unity… It was that day, when we finally - there were a few voices, some differences, but everyone left that day thinking, yes this is ours.
Exactly. One bishop had a powerful word, he said, “This text is not what we were expecting.” Some were expecting it to go one way more than in the other, but…
It is proof of the Holy Spirit.
Yes. And now, we have to recognize that this text, in a surprising way, corresponds to what we are, but that we were unable to say before we experienced it. That for me was an extremely profound moment.
Let’s speak now of Amoris Laetitia. The apostolic exhortation, a fruit of the Synod… Does the final document reflect what happened at the Synod, is it a key to understanding everything presented at the Synod?
All that was done at the Synod, yes, and a little more.
And a little more. We will speak about that little more. What struck you about the content found in Amoris Laetitia?
What was more?
Well, when we look at the book, there are chapters with many quotation marks.
The quotes are astonishing.
Astonishing. And it something new in the way of writing an Apostolic Exhortation, that it carries that many quotes from the final documents of both Synods. And so the Pope took the liberty of choosing from both Synods, more so from the 2015 Synod but also from the one in 2014.
There were also references to the episcopal conferences, quotes from John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, Benedict XVI…
The Council, Gaudium et spes…
The Bible! Because it had been a criticism at the Synod, that there wasn’t enough biblical inspiration, and so the first chapter is biblical. And at the same time, there are chapters that are entirely from the hand of the Pope.
For example?
The first chapter. He said that his desire was for the Synods to speak of every family, and the first chapters of the bible speak in fact of the diversity of families…
It is a wonderful biblical panorama.
Absolutely. So that is the first chapter. Then we have Chapter Four and Chapter Five…
Oh, what a wonderful chapter. I’m a Biblical Scholar and when I read it, I said to myself, here’s a manual for married couples and all those celebrating wedding anniversaries. It is a splendid exegesis.
Yes, and you know, we wrote a commentary on it, with 25 theologians, an annotated edition of Amoris Laetitia. All 25 of us, from different institutes, held a first meeting, and each one of us said, finally a text we can give to every couple preparing for marriage! Starting with Chapter Four. I also had the opportunity to lead one of my student’s thesis studies, Marie-Dominique Trébuchet, and there again, as I had been assigned to a group at the Synod, I was assigned to someone and I lead her thesis, and it was the first time we were writing a commentary together, an introduction with notes… It was a magnificent experience, man and woman, and each chapter was written by a man and a woman. So Chapter Four is the one I hold most dear. I have particular affection for one word, when the Pope says, emotions, passions, love, what are they? It is that which manifests itself within me when the other manifests his or her presence. That is very interesting. It is in a way the key to this chapter because the Pope explains each time how managing one’s emotions is hard work, it disturbs me… anyone who does not allow himself or herself to be moved by this experience, will not experience true love. This the Pope explains in a very simple manner, in an encouraging way saying, that within the couple, pleasures change, and aggressively takes up lots of space. Parents know that children can be aggressive, there can be aggressively between…
It is a splendid way of talking about the reality today…
It’s realistic. And what I like about Amoris Laetitia, is that the Pope is realistic. There is some self-criticism… He says the Church should do a self-reflection. The more she proposes an ideal, which is her mission…
It is very important.
It is important. He repeats it many times. But by continuing to show this ideal cut off from people’s real-life situations, we are discouraging or we are not drawing in, we are not missionary… I really think that the Pope’s recurring theme, his personal touch, is to say that all families have a role to play in the transmission of the Gospel message. And that is very evangelical. There are three people who keep coming back: the adulterous woman, the Samaritan, and the sinful woman. And then he is discreet about his personal story, but we see very clearly that while he was still very young he experienced that double shock of an encounter with God, which is first to experience forgiveness because he was personally loved, and to be immediately compelled by the gift of forgiveness and sent on a mission. And that is the message he wants to send to every family. Perhaps some have known divorce, crisis which they overcame, you have a child living with a handicap…
Despite all that, because of that…
Especially, especially. On questions regarding the family, whether we wish to admit it or not, the Church often appears to be judging, because she upholds an ideal, and she acts as though certain people had lost their dignity because they’ve known a grave crisis, separation, remarriage… I think the first message of Amoris Laetitia is “you are worthy”. You are not worthy because of… but because God renders something worthy and continues to render you worthy. Steps can always be take. And these steps are made possible by the grace of God. The message is, “Believe that God is still working in your life.” The past, he can erase it. It doesn’t mean to be irresponsible. The Pope is very clear on the responsibilities that are demanded, when we bring a child into the world, it’s for life. And when we commit ourselves to marriage, there are responsibilities there too. But once it is all done, we must rediscover our worth, which comes from God. So confidence is placed in the family, in their diversity, it is extremely dynamic. For me, if there’s a message I want to leave to our viewers, is to start by reading Chapter Four of Amoris Laetitia…
Yes I tell everyone to start with Chapter Four.
Exactly. And we have to reread Evangelii Gaudium.
Because they go together.
They go together. Because everything which is said in Chapter Eight, on the integration of people, of the integration of fragile situations, in fact these words - I studied them very closely - come from Evangelii Gaudium. And so when the Pope talks about integration, it isn’t integration to validate, it’s not integrating to give ourselves points, it’s integrating so that every person can take on a missionary role in the Church. And so the Church truly goes out. Integrating is always linked to the Church which goes out. So we could believe that the goal of integration is so that we can create a little club, no! That’s what’s so paradoxical. The Pope says that we have to integrate to open up. That is really the movement of God.
Since we’re talking about Chapter Eight. The most popular one in the exhortation. It was very much contested, some who say there was a lot of ambiguity, confusion; others received it with joy. In your opinion, what is at the heart of Chapter Eight? Why is it contested, discussed, open to questions?
I believe it is discussed, open to questions, because the Pope highlights very important points of the moral tradition of the Church, which had been forgotten, which are rarely studied very much by theologians today, and which are very important to broach these questions.
For example?
I’ll explain. Pope John Paul II said very clearly in Familiaris Consortio…
Which is the fruit of the Synod in 1980 on the family.
Exactly. Therefore an apostolic exhortation as well. He clearly stated that when people found themselves, after a divorce, in a new union, which lasts many years…
With children also…
With children, new obligations are born. Pope Francis... so, if we asked these people - the Church cannot ask them to separate, which would mean again breaking commitments made. In other words, I got divorced, I remarried, and 10 years down the road, of course there remains a rupture in the sacramental union, but since then I made new promises. And so we can’t erase that that part of our past. And John Paul II said this very clearly. Francis is saying it again and also says it very clearly. What’s new is that Pope Francis is extremely realistic, he likes the concrete - he says, at that moment, we cannot ask people to do the impossible. We can’t ask them to separate because this would be a mistake. What we will ask them, then, is build their future with God. And we will ask them to evaluate the quality of their new union. The Pope is very clear, he says we are not setting down a discernment on access to communion, on penance, when we have just remarried. It’s out of the question, he says this very distinctly. But once things have been established through time, we can regret the choices we made before. Many people, I’ve met a lot of them who told me, “If I had known, I would have never divorced.” You see? There are a number things we could have done in our life, but there comes a time when we have to be realistic. And Pope Francis’ realism, the Christian’s realism, it is to look at what God is doing in our life, so that where we see the irreversible we can still move forward. And the Pope says, that in the personal and pastoral discernment, these people will first have to look at what they are doing today to respond to God’s promptings, to God’s impossible promptings! Not to God’s call to stay faithful to the first union, it’s been dead for a long time, but to what he is inviting us to today. In this new union, with new children, how do I educate them, and in what way am I a model for others, a word from the Synod which the Pope uses? The virtue of faithfulness, I wasn’t able to fully put it into practice. But what about the other virtues, where am I at with those? I can be charitable, I can help my neighbour, and then we can let emerge - I see many families, meaning couples who are remarried, who care for children from both families, and who care for the elderly parents in both families, with parents suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, all the affection this demands - all these things are responses to God. The Pope says, instead of fixating on a past, look at what you need to do today. If I had to translate everything the Pope is saying, it would be, “Do all that you can but only what you can.” And sometimes we’re thrown off course when we try to do something which is impossible. He is so realistic, because he saying, what you must do today is what God is asking of you. He explains it, this is very much a text from the Pope, he says that way people will be able to acquire with sufficient conviction that they have done what they could to respond to God. He gives people a way which allows them to find their own worth, not in a glorified way, but because it is given by God.
I believe one of the fruits of the Synod, found in Chapter Eight, is the whole question of conscience. It is a gift, in paragraph 37, if I’m not mistaken, this theme of conscience and the role of the Church in forming consciences. What are your thoughts on this?
“We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” Just before that, we read something very important, conscience must discern what God is asking with our limitations. A word very important to Pope Francis. The faithful, they are the ones who are better placed to know what they must do with their limitations, since they are aware of their limitations more than anyone else. In other words, no one can know the extent of another person’s limitations. I have mine, you, Fr. Rosica, have yours, and our consciences is not only given to us to attain the ideal but also to discern all that is possible for us to do with the awareness of our limitations. For me what is new in the way it is being presented, the teaching is very well-known, everyone recognises that conscience is the new norm of morality. It is conscience which must guide our action and no one can put themselves in its place.
This isn’t new.
This isn’t new. What is new is this expression, is to bring closer together the theme of conscience and the theme of limitations, a very contemporary idea, that psychology helps us understand how we can work within our limitations, but the Pope adds that grace is also at work in our limitations. And so enlightened by the Holy Spirit, another important theme, the baptised have received the Holy Spirit so that our conscience can discern the way of truth, the way that is suitable, all that is possible within our limitations. There is at once a realism but a real demand. That’s why the Pope has such strong words, to denounce the culture of waste, he says it about couples as well, so many couples today have lazily abandoned, because at first they felt loved and had positive feeling, and then all of a sudden, there are no longer positive emotions so we let them go. But he says, that’s going to be a real injustice, and our conscience is aware of it. Search your consciences. And then he goes on to give recipes, rather guides for life, to work on the negative emotions, and go find - there beautiful words which express this, if you haven’t yet discovered that pleasures change with age, you letting great joys pass you by. And we find there the theme of the joy of love. Conscience is given to us to go good but it also given to us to find the road to joy within our limitations. In paragraphs 36 and 37, what I find most important is that the ideal is always set against the concrete. And the conscience of the faithful is always set against their limitations.
There, a road emerges, and all are called to reach a personal and ecclesial discernment. This road passes through the ideal, in concrete situations, and which calls upon the conscience of pastors and of the lay faithful, all the while aware of the limitations. If we forget one of these terms our discernment becomes muddled. Or if we forget grace, as is indicated in paragraphs 36 and 37, if we forget that grace is given for growth, the discernment won’t be right. Recently I was travelling to a diocese in the South of France. I was pulling my suitcase through the gardens of Luxembourg, so I had my suitcase on wheels in the morning, and I could hear behind me “tac, tac, tac, tac”. It was a little girl, about 10 years old, on a scooter. She passed right by me and she was graceful. I said to myself, Pope Francis it would seem, had this pedagogy, which expresses that grace is a movement. It is a movement of beauty. It is a movement of growth. She was going much faster than I, she was younger than I, and I think he has a very evangelical way, like Jesus in the parables invites us to look at life with the eyes of faith, and well he sheds light on very concrete realities in families, with a look of hope, a look of joy, a look of growth…
The Pope did talk about the three women, which you mentioned earlier: the sinful woman, the Samaritan, and the adulterous woman. I’m always struck by John 8, and Saint Augustine’s commentary… when his comment comes at the end, they are the only two left, the others have gone, they dropped their stories, Saint Augustine uses a beautiful Latin phrase, Relicti sunt duo: misera et Misericordia. How is this Synod, how is Amoris Laetitia, the expression of this mercy? And yet, you see so many people who can only see the misery, the difficulty, how was mercy present in this Synod, and in this document?
I think in the way that the document considered our limitations, our hidden wounds. Our wounds, we can only look at them with sufficient serenity and with a loving gaze and a gaze that helps us grow. I told you at the beginning of our conversation, for 10 years I was in charge of adolescents. It challenges us, right?
I was once a chaplain, I certainly understand.
There you go. I had man, many students who were group leaders. And adolescents - one of our psychoanalyst François Bulteau, spoke of the lobster complex. Adolescence is an extremely fragile period, a vulnerable time, and also of great sensitivity. I had the joy of baptising a great many young adolescents, I saw parents from the period of 1968 asking themselves, you covered a duck! We tried to raise our children without the faith and now they want to become a Christian after we rejected it. And so in this vulnerability, there is a sensitivity, an openness to grace, and so for me this misery, and this mercy…
They are our roots… Misera et misericordia...
Exactly. Exactly. Another word that comes up as well is humility. The Pope speaks of humility, when he says that discernment can lead to integration into the Church. He even speaks of a sacramental reintegration, not in terms of marriage, which is not repeatable, but for confession and the Eucharist, in certain cases. The criteria he gives is growth, that is people who are really receiving the grace of God, who are converting themselves, who are on the path to growth, and as they are on this path, so they are motivated by God’s mercy, they are so miserable, they suffer so much, that this path to growth runs the risk of collapsing because the Church refuses to offer assistance through the sacraments. I think these cases will be rare, already the view we have of the moral life, I think that, and I already spoke about it with many different groups, I think that to look positively at the quantity of love we have in our life, is already a cause of integration. But for certain people, misery will be so great, the situation will pull the person away from the sacrament of penitence and of the Eucharist, to which the Pope will say to pastors and to the faithful themselves, do not forget that the sacraments are a help for man in his misery. (46:48)
Finally, some have wondered why the Pope did not position himself clearly on the question of sacraments, on access to the sacraments. Why did he not say it’s possible or it’s not possible? There’s a note at the bottom of the page… Why do you think the Pope didn’t pronounce himself clearly on this question?
I think he was clear, but he as clear as one can be when we propose a path of discernment in individual situations. If he had given a general word, he wouldn’t have been faithful to the tradition of the Church. In fact, Amoris Laetitia is not the sacramental discipline of our Orthodox brothers. Many Catholic theologians pleaded with the Roman Catholic Church to follow a bit… But this is not what the Synod wanted nor what the Pope wanted. And I think the Pope deeply respected - I don’t know what he thought about it before - but in any case, if he had gone down the Orthodox route, he wouldn’t have respected the Synod. Effectively, he is saying more than the Synod but he is saying it so that his words be a guide for real discernment. So he marks things out clearly, I said it earlier, he says right away that the period following remarriage is not the time to engage in that kind of discernment. I think this will be freeing for many pastors, for people hear things, “The Pope is making everything possible”, so there are times and moments… There are a certain number of criteria. I myself am involved, I will meet with priests, with consecrated persons, with the laity, pastoral councils in different regions. I see people are interested because it’s not simply ready to act. The Pope gives us food for thought, and food which is worthy and respectful of the work and of grace present among the faithful. I was involved for nearly 4 years, it was one of my favorite ministries. The bishop of Nanterre had given me the responsibility of adult catechesis. And, there you have it, those who prepare the lay people who accompany catechumens, it requires a great discernment. And as soon as the Church gives a criteria, has a conversion started to happen? I worked with groups for 4 years. It was difficult to know if there was a starting point. Was it sufficient? It’s always a risk. Discerning means taking a risk. If the Pope had said, “this is the way it’s going to be”, he would have prevented the Christian people from taking the risk it must take when he desires to listen to the Word given by God for each person’s life. My life, your life, it’s not the same. So it takes work, and we’re not living in the same culture, the Pope mentions this in paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia, so his words are clear but for some deceiving because he doesn’t draw a clear line. Rather, he says, let’s walk together, here are the criterias, and I am asking you to begin the journey. It is in part very clear but demands waiting, hoping, and getting to work.
Monseigneur, Canon of Notre-Dame, Rector of the Institut catholique, Professor of Moral Theology, but also Father, pastor, chaplain, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Today I understood why the Pope named you an expert at the Synod, because you brought your pastoral and theological expertise, your intelligence, at a very crucial moment in the Church. Thank you and I hope this isn’t the last time that you join us on Salt and Light TV. Thank you.
Yes, a big thank you to you as well, Father Rosica, you’re always welcome at the Institut catholique de Paris, and thank you for your availability. And thank you for fellowship. I didn’t get to tell you at the Synod, I’ll admit I was little lost in the beginning, and you were kind enough to encourage me and give me confidence, and that too is part of the life of the Synod.
Watch the full interview below:

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