Amid today’s vast challenges, Pope Francis calls for holding close to Christ and warns against a cold, desktop morality, when addressing participants in a two-day course on ‘St. Alphonsus: Pastor of the Last and Doctor of the Church’ at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Pope Francis on Thursday warned against a cold, desktop morality, and called for giving reasons for our hope, as he addressed participants in a two-day course on ‘St. Alphonsus: Pastor of the Last and Doctor of the Church’ at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.
The Alphonsian Academy is a Higher Institute of Moral Theology located in Rome, Italy, founded in 1949 by the Redemptorists. Since 1960, the Academy has specialized in moral theology as a part of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University. As such, the Academy grants both licentiate and doctoral degrees in Moral Theology.
Alphonsian moral proposal
The Pope expressed his joy to welcome them at the end of their Conference on the relevance of the Alphonsian moral proposal and on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Institute, which they will celebrate on 9 February 2024.
The Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis recalled, states that moral theology, nourished by Sacred Scripture, must help the faithful to understand the greatness of their vocation to bring the charity of Christ into the world.
“Every theological-moral proposal ultimately has this foundation: it is God’s love that is our guide, the guide of our personal choices and our existential journey.”
“Consequently, moral theologians, missionaries, and confessors,” the Pope said, “are called to enter into a living relationship with the People of God, taking on especially the cry of the least, to understand their real difficulties, to look at existence from their angle and to offer them answers that reflect the light of the Father’s eternal love.”
The Holy Father urged them to always stay close to the people, without pointing fingers, walking alongside them in their challenges and struggles.
Not a cold, desktop morality
Faithful to the Alphonsian tradition, the Holy Father noted, they seek to offer a proposal of Christian life that, “while respecting the demands of theological reflection, is not a cold, desk-top morality.” The proposal they seek to offer, Pope Francis said, instead “responds to a pastoral discernment charged with merciful love, aimed at understanding, forgiving, accompanying, and above all integrating.”
In keeping with the work of St Alphonsus, the Pope recalled their conference began by reflecting on conscience and the dynamism of its formation, and said this is an important theme.
“In fact,” he continued, “in the complex and rapid change of epoch we are living through, only people endowed with a mature conscience will be able to exercise, in society, a healthy evangelical protagonism in the service of their brothers and sisters.”
Giving reasons for our hope
Conscience, after all, the Pope observed, is the place where every man ‘is alone with God, whose voice resounds in intimacy.’
The Pope thanked them for their reflections on bioethics and social morality, stressing their timeliness more than ever.
“The environmental crisis, the ecological transition, war, a financial system capable of conditioning people’s lives to the point of creating new slaves, the challenge of building brotherhood between people and between peoples: these issues must stimulate us to research and dialogue.”
In recent years,” he said, “we have faced serious moral issues such as migration and pedophilia; today we see the urgency of adding others, such as profits concentrated in the hands of a few and the division of global powers.” Even faced with these challenges, we are to face them “with confidence, ready to ‘give a reason for the hope that is in us’.”
Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the Academy “to reconcile scientific rigour and closeness to the People of God, that it might give concrete answers to real problems, and that it might formulate humane moral proposals, attentive to the salvific Truth and the good of people.”
“May the Holy Spirit help you to be formators of consciences, teachers of that hope which opens the heart and leads to God.”