Wednesday, January 28, 2015


By Fr. Ranhilio Aquino
If you do not know what “synderesis” is, do not worry. It is a word that should never have come to be in the first place.  It was a misreading of a Greek word that entered into the corpus of writings of Thomas Aquinas and others.  It is however a very interesting if involved concept: There are situations a lawgiver does not foresee when he lays down a precept, and therefore some qualification of the law’s harshness, even an excuse from its commands, may be reasonably inferred under particular circumstances.  With good reason, modern translators use “equity” in place of the more archaic “synderesis” (that we still used in the seminary for moral theology classes — and when we wanted some pious justification for our transgression of seminary rules).
It is interesting that in Pope Francis’ address to families at MOA -- many of his remarks being unscripted -- he insisted that a couple had to be open to new life.  I do not see how anyone can argue against that proposition, whether one is a Catholic or not.  It’s opposite is unadulterated selfishness, and the synchronized egoism of the couple!  But then again there are circumstances that may justify a qualification of this rule, health issues and the finances of the family among them.  When a couple is young, newly married and yet unable, for some reason not of their making, to properly care for and raise children, that is when it can be intelligently presumed that the lawgiver did not intend the precept to apply in the fullness of its severity.  And so, while extolling the prophetic insight of his venerable predecessor, Paul VI, the controversial Humanae Vitae’s author, Francis hastened to add that the very same blessed pope exhorted confessors (wrongly translated by Monsignor Mark Miles as “professors”, obviously due to the fact that he could not hear the word well) to be particularly attentive to “particular cases”.
One UP student holding herself out as a spokesperson of the LGBT segment of Philippine society, over TV, was skeptical: “I have the feeling that Pope Francis said the things he said because he knew people wanted to hear them.”  It is people like many habitués of Diliman who say the most outlandish of things just to be different—and to be noted for their difference—who crave popular attention.  The Pope has no need to court high popularity ratings.  He is extremely popular—no one else can draw 6 to 7 million people to a rain-drenched affair, or cause Cuba and the US to re-think their hardline positions against each other!  He does not pander to mass appeal.  Were that his cheap ambition, all he would have to say is: “Gays, be happy and gay!” and that would be the end of all the bickering against church teaching, and he would certainly win raucous applause.
What is most certain is that Pope Francis has urged the church to be less obsessed with sexual offenses and more concerned with social justice, less bothered by what happens in bedrooms, and more disturbed by what happens on side-walks, hovels and shanties, and, yes, the thieving in air-conditioned, draperied offices!  He has urged the bishops to think and pray over the pastoral care of persons “in problematic situations”: divorced and re-married Catholics and Catholics in same-sex unions.  Foremost in his mind, it is quite clear, was not theological doctrine but pastoral praxis, and while between the two there is hermeneutical dependence, the point is that Francis’ priority was not re-writing Catholic sacramental theology or moral theology. He was concerned rather that in its zeal to uphold its traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality, the Church had left out its sons and daughters “in problematic situations”.  Without lending his seal of approval to all their choices and acts, he was nevertheless instructing the pastors of the Church to look after the sheep that the flock had left behind.
If sectors of our community expect of the Church an “anything goes” policy, then there is no point to being Church.  A church is a creedal community, and by definition it stands for certain beliefs and prescribes for its members a code to live by.  And so when Aiza Seguerra and Liza Dino choose to be married in a jurisdiction that grants legal fiat to such unions, what Pope Francis has been urging is for the church to love them no less, although it must be as firm about its disagreement with their concept of “marriage”.
When a person sees your mistakes, reproves you for your folly and loves you still, he is truly a father.  When a person however pretends that you have not erred no matter how audaciously and remorselessly silly you may have been, what you have is a wimp, and Pope Francis is no wimp!

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