The Sweetness of the Yoke of Christ: hope for those struggling to live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae
There is an unmet pastoral need for couples who are trying to be open to life and follow the Church’s teaching on family planning but who feel utterly cornered because they live in fear of their marriage deteriorating, of the health risks that would come from pregnancy, or of cutting themselves off from God by living contrary to Church teaching. How can we minister to couples who feel like they are in an impossible situation so that they do not resort to permanent sterilization, walk away from their faith, or remain Catholic but grow deeply embittered at the Church?
I have had multiple conversations with people—people who love the Lord, receive the sacraments, and live a life striving for holiness—who have said something like:
“I’m not normally scrupulous, but when it comes to _______ area of my life, I’m afraid one slip up will be a mortal sin that sends me to hell.”
I’ve experienced this same scrupulosity until just a few years ago and know first hand how it distorts our faith in ugly ways. I say distorts, because this kind of scrupulosity is not what the Church teaches. It is not the Gospel.
A god who damns a person to hell just for breaking a rule is not a good god.
Traditionalists will cite Pope Benedict’s “hermeneutic of continuity” to criticize Pope Francis and the liturgical reforms, but in doing so they fundamentally misunderstand Benedict and fall into their own hermeneutic of discontinuity.
Simply put, a materially simple life—only possessing what one needs for their vocation and state in life—is what Christ expects from his followers. Amassing material wealth and being rich is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian life. Based on Christ’s words, the Church Fathers, and the consistent teaching of the popes, I’m left to conclude that simply being wealthy is per se contrary to the Gospel, regardless of how that wealth was obtained.
the ancient doctrine of theosis has illuminated every aspect of Catholicism I have studied, including Pope Francis’s teachings about pastoral accompaniment and the law of gradualism. However, much of the commentary on these two issues has been more concerned with the pope’s orthodoxy than seeking to understand and implement his teaching. Therefore, I would like to explore Pope Francis’s pastoral instructions beginning from theosis. This perspective not only roots Francis’s magisterium in the deep theological and liturgical Tradition of the Church, but it also leads to a very personal and practical guide for pastors accompanying others through difficult situations.
The mission of Christendom and the mission of the Church (as laid out by the Council) are very different. The former seeks to occupy spaces of power and influence over others. It is grasping at social privileges while living with a tremendous fear of losing power. Having this mindset means viewing every loss of space in the public square as “persecution.” But the Second Vatican Council taught that the Church’s mission is to proclaim the “Gospel to every creature” and “bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church.” If the goal is power, then the mission ultimately rests on coercion. But if the goal is proclamation of the Gospel, then the mission rests on the credibility of the Church’s witness.
“Nowadays, a firm belief in the common destination of the earth’s goods requires that this principle also be applied to nations, their territories and their resources. Seen from the standpoint not only of the legitimacy of private property and the rights of its citizens, but also of the first principle of the common destination of goods, we can then say that each country also belongs to the foreigner, inasmuch as a territory’s goods must not be denied to a needy person coming from elsewhere.” (Fratelli Tutti 124).