Reflecting on divorce and remarriage on Friday, perhaps the key issue in debates over his document on the family Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said the key is to hold justice and mercy together, not becoming obsessed with the fine points of legal interpretation.
The pontiff’s remarks came during his morning homily in the chapel at the Domus Santa Marta, the Vatican residence where he lives, and were prompted by the day’s Gospel passage in which Jesus responds to legal scholars asking him about the rules for divorce.
The pope said Jesus “doesn’t respond as to whether it’s licit or not; he doesn’t enter into casuistic logic,” using a term from moral theology referring to the application of broad principles to concrete cases.
Francis, however, appeared to be using the term “casuistry” not in that sense, but rather as a synonym for a legalistic approach to interpreting God’s will.
“They thought about the faith only in terms of ‘you can’ or ‘you can’t, up to what point you can’t and at what point you can’t’,” Francis said, referring to the legal scholars.
“Jesus always speaks the truth,” Francis said, “and explains things as they were created.”
For that reason, Francis said, Jesus said bluntly to his disciples: “Whoever repudiates his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if the wife repudiates her husband and marries another commits adultery.”
Jesus spoke, he said, “without casuistry, and without permissions.”
Francis then asked, if it’s true that Jesus defined adultery as a grave sin, how is it possible that Jesus also spoke with an adulterer and said to her at one point, “I don’t condemn you, go and sin no more?”
“The path of Jesus, and we see this clearly, is a journey from casuistry to truth and mercy,” Francis said.
“Jesus sets aside casuistry,” Francis said. “To those who want to test him, those who thinks in terms of the logic of ‘can or can’t,’ he describes them – not here, but in other passages of the Gospel – as ‘hypocrites.’”
According to Pope Francis, it’s not careful legal reasoning but the integration of mercy and justice that marks the path of Christ.
“When temptation touches the heart, this path of exiting from casuistry to truth and mercy isn’t easy, it needs the grace of God so we can go forward in that direction,” Francis said.
“A casuistic mentality would ask, ‘What’s more important to God, justice or mercy?’ That’s a sick way of thinking,” Francis said. “There aren’t two things, only one. For God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”
“The Lord helps us understand this path, which isn’t easy, but it will make us happy, and will make lots of people happy,” he said.