Morality & Pastoral Care
It is a challenge to always stand aloof from the ideologies of every age. Pope Francis touches on this when he says “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent, … The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” Here he is confronting the ideology of nominalism and how it has impacted Church teaching.
Recall that nominalism is seeing each personal action and decision as unique and standing alone from others. It is a false but common belief that there is not a “type” of human that we can live up to, but rather a collection of humans obeying a collection of (usually arbitrary) rules.
When Church leaders fail to focus on the universal aspect of humanity, they can sound like they are beating up on particular sins of particular people, and this can disenfranchise those people. While educating consciences as to what breeds communion and sows disharmony is important (and so discussion of particular sins has its place), it is only secondary to understanding that the goal is living a life in communion. Making that first step of turning towards communion with our fellow pilgrims on this earth and turning towards communion with God is what Christianity is all about. If we make following the detailed working out of communion more important than the communion, then we’ve slipped into a Pharisaic understanding of God. We turn the law into a God and worship it, rather than seeing the law as a tool to guide our understanding of how to achieve communion.
This is not meant as an excuse for those with uneducated consciences to keep having uneducated consciences, but rather a reminder that our consciences are all deficient in one way or another. We have a continual obligation to keep on further enlightening our consciences with the teaching of the Church; but one becomes a Christian when they decide to start loving, not when they have completed that journey and love perfectly.