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2018, May 25

The papacy of Pope Francis has been marked by what media terms “controversial.” But is that it is in reality? Is it not the case that people are not used to a pope that speaks freely without always putting out laws and precepts? Or is Pope Francis true to his desire of bringing to the fore, the dreams and aspirations of Vatican II? Professor Denis Doyle, a professor of religious studies from the University of Dayton, Ohio, in his lecture delivered at the Dominican University, Ibadan, tries to set the record straight. Below is his paper presentation on “Change and Continuity in the Papacy of Pope Francis


            I am honored to give a public lecture here at the Dominican Institute in Ibadan. My topic is change and continuity in the papacy of Pope Francis. Pope Francis is massively popular not only among Catholics but among many peoples in the world. Among other things, he is known for his 2015 encyclical on the environmental crisis, Laudato si’. This document was influential at the talks that led to the Paris Climate Accord in 2016.

Pope Francis often says surprising and even unpredictable things. Yet some people, including some church leaders, are concerned that he is not simply bringing things up to date but is changing the substance of the faith. There are others who do not go quite so far, but who think that he is confusing the faithful.

It appears to many observers that Pope Francis has come into his office with something of an agenda. This fact is nothing new. John XXIII wanted to bring the church up to date and so he called for the Second Vatican Council, which met between 1962 and 1965. One of the main purposes of Vatican II was to overcome the juridicism that had often come to characterize the Catholic Church in the centuries before the Council. Juridicism can also be called legalism or institutionalism or formalism. Juridicism often results from paying so much attention to formulas and rubrics that one forgets the spirit and intention behind them. Vatican II taught that the Church should not be thought of only as a juridical institution, but that it was also the Mystical Body of Christ. Further, it was also to be understood as the People of God.

The exhilarating period immediately following the Council had brought with it some confusion; some might call it wahala.[1] There arose theological divisions within the Church, especially in Europe and the United States. These divisions came to a head in 1968 with the encyclical Humanae vitae, most known for its prohibition of artificial birth control. Progressive theologians protested the encyclical and adopted the image of the People of God as their banner. More conservative theologians reasserted the Mystical Body of Christ as the primary image for understanding the Church. I like to tell my students that this struggle between the Body of Christ and the People of God is not being fought out in heaven. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not struggling against each other. As far as we know, the three persons of the Trinity all get along with each other very well. The battle concerning images of the Church is merely a human battle among theologians. 

John Paul II and Benedict XVI, understandably, wanted to restore order to the church and to slow down the pace of change.  They agreed with those conservative theologians who argued that the image of the Mystical Body of Christ must take precedence over the image of the People of God in order to achieve a proper theological understanding of the Church. They spoke dismissively of the People of God image, claiming that it offered merely a sociological or historical view.[2]  By itself, it does not even directly link the Church with Christ. The Mystical Body of Christ, in contrast, contains the name of Christ within it. This great emphasis on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ was one part of Pope John Paul II’s agenda to slow down the pace of change within the Catholic Church. At times, though, his agenda seemed to conflict with the spirit of Vatican II connected with overcoming juridicism.


The Church as the People of God

I give this background in order for you to understand the significance of a point I am about to make. In Pope Francis’ first major document in 2013, Evangelii gaudium, he referred to the Church as the People of God over twenty-five times. He alluded to the Church as the Body of Christ only once. I need immediately to make an important clarification here. Pope Francis is by no means a part of the group of progressive theologians who reacted against Humanae vitae or who criticized John Paul II. But neither is he a member of the group that reacted against the progressive theologians. His own agenda is to reap the full benefits of the teaching and spirit of Vatican II. He wants to overcome juridicism. He is not at all opposed to doctrines and rules, but he is opposed to those who get so caught up in them that they cannot relate with others in a non-judgmental and merciful way. He wants the Church to be a People of God who really connect with and love one another. He wants a church of the poor, a church in the streets. He wants every Christian to answer God’s call to be a holy person. He wants every Christian to have their own personal synthesis of their faith and be able to share from their heart with others.

So Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Church as the People of God is at the same time an emphasis on what Vatican II labelled “the universal call to holiness.” And it is at the same time an emphasis on what Vatican II labelled the church as “a leaven in society.” There is to be true engagement with people in a way that includes attention to their social and economic situation.

The Church as the People of God went hand in hand with the Vatican II theme of collegiality. “Collegiality” refers a sharing in authority of all of the bishops of the church understood as together forming a college. Vatican II wanted to affirm more fully the authority of bishops in their dioceses as well as in the church universal. The unity of the universal church as represented by the pope was to be enhanced by a dynamic relationship with the geographical and cultural diversity represented by the bishops. To empower bishops in their local situations was to acknowledge and encourage diversity. A bishop not only represents the universal church within his local church; a bishop also represents the diversity of the People of God within his local church to the universal church. In contrast with his recent predecessors, Pope Francis has declared himself to be in favor of decentralization. (EG, 19) He does not think that his power as the pope is diminished by respecting the authority of bishops in their dioceses and in their regions.

This is what is new in the papacy of Pope Francis. The German Cardinal Walter Kasper calls it a new phase in the reception of Vatican II. He speaks of Pope Francis’ “prophetic interpretation” of the Council.[3] Pope Francis wants a church in which catholic unity is enriched by the valuing of diversity. He wants the Church to transcend any division between those who emphasize personal holiness and those who emphasize social transformation. He wants a Church filled with people who are truly converted to the gospel.

Pope Francis has a name for the condition of someone who practices religion but who is not converted. There are people who are very religious in many ways but who have not embraced the love of God within.  Borrowing a phrase from the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac, Pope Francis calls this condition “spiritual worldliness.”(EG, 93) Spiritual worldliness labels those whose dedication to religion is ultimately not for God but for themselves. They may outwardly do all the right things, but for the wrong reasons. They are people who are in need of a conversion.


More Controversial Issues

So far I have addressed the newness of Pope Francis in terms of his emphasis on the Church as the People of God and his call for decentralization of authority. For those Catholics who are somewhat troubled by Pope Francis, I have not yet touched on what they might think to be the most important questions.

Pope Francis says surprising things, often spontaneously in the presence of journalists. For example, on a flight home from a trip to the Philippines, Francs affirmed the Church’s ban on artificial contraception, but he added that “Catholics don’t need to breed like rabbits.” He called for “responsible parenthood.” Now personally I was not bothered by his remarks, but I must admit that this is not the kind of thing that we are used to hear popes saying. What did he mean by that?

Pope Francis made a yet more famous and more controversial remark during another exchange with journalists on an airplane. When asked about the subject of priests who are gay, he responded, “who am I to judge?’ In other contexts, Pope Francis has clearly affirmed the Catholic teaching that sacramental marriage is something between a man and a woman. But his remarks on the airplane seemed to indicate that he thinks that homosexuality is a complex matter in today’s world, and that homosexuals cannot simply be condemned.  Again he was making a statement that many people did not expect to hear from a pope. And so I can understand it when some Catholics think that the pope is confusing people.

And the question arises:  Is Pope Francis wanting to make some important changes in church teaching and practices?  It does look as though on some issues he is setting the wheels in motion.

Francis has approved a commission to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons in response to inquiries from women religious. Some commentators have seen in this move a step in the direction not only of women deacons but also of women priests.  Pope Francis has strongly denied that this is the case.  He says that a study commission is set up to study an issue, nothing more.

In other cases, though, Francis acknowledges that he is thinking about making a change, although only on an exceptional basis. He is considering an appeal from a bishop in Brazil, in an area where the ratio of priests to lay people is something like 1 :: 10,000, of ordaining married men whose faith has been tested.  He is also now considering a request from bishops in Germany that Protestant spouses of Catholics be admitted to the Catholic Eucharist. Notice that in both of these cases, there had been a request from a Bishop or group of Bishops. In this way, Francis is not directly putting forth an idea for the universal church, but is affirming requests that have emerged within a particular context. He is approving exceptions.  Yet many observers think that granting exceptions is the first step on the road to broader, more sweeping changes.

These proposed changes are not necessarily all that radical. There are already about 200 Catholic priests of the Roman Rite who are married. They are either former Anglican priests or former Lutheran ministers. Having married priests in the rainforests of Brazil might not be so big of a change. Also, there are already exceptional occasions when Protestants can receive the Eucharist in a Catholic Church. There are times when ministers of their own faith are not available. Sometimes exceptions are made for weddings. In the years right after Vatican II, exceptions were made somewhat more often.  The Ecumenical Directory of 1993 tightened the rules.

In my opinion, it is through this process of decentralized decision making that Francis will allow for major changes to gradually take place within the Catholic Church. He has been encouraging bishops to speak their mind, to say what they really think. Like it or not, this is how most changes will be brought about.

Some of Pope Francis’ critics think that he acts in a collegial manner when he already agrees with requests from bishops, but that he acts in an authoritarian manner when bishops want something that he does not like. Recently, all of the bishops of Chile graciously offered their resignations in the face of scandals concerning clergy sex abuse and its cover-up.  There are reports alleging that these resignations were actually demanded by Pope Francis. Some are asking, where is the collegiality in this case?

I do not have enough information to make a final judgement about this case myself.  As I understand it, though, those bishops pleaded with Pope Francis just a few months ago that they were innocent.  Pope Francis believed them and himself and not only defended them publicly but also accused the victims of slander.  Now, after an extensive study was completed, Pope Francis has found that these bishops had been lying to his face. He has himself had to apologize to the victims and figure out what to do about widespread corruption.  Of course I acknowledge that matters such as these have a great deal of complexity.  But I do not think that a strong response to corruption represents an inconsistent use of collegiality.

There is another matter that Pope Francis’ critics find even more worrisome. There are some church leaders who openly suggest that Francis is in the process of making changes that alter core teachings of the church. The key issue that they point to is Francis’ teaching in the 2016 document Amoris laetitia that Catholics who are divorced and remarried without an annulment can in some cases be readmitted to receiving the Eucharist through a process known as “internal forum.” (AL, 300) These critics claim that what is at stake is not simply a matter of practices but of sacramental theology. A marriage is a bond between a man and a woman made before God and that lasts as long as they both shall live. A person who is married to one person but who lives intimately with another is committing adultery. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “The Old Law said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt 5:31-32)The Catholic Church has a long tradition of giving that passage a strict interpretation. The very definition of sacramental marriage and its indissolubility are thought to be at stake here.  Some cardinals have publicly raised questions for Pope Francis that Francs has refused to answer.[4]

What we have here between Pope Francis and his critics is on one level a difference in mentality. The critics think that what Pope Francis is endorsing is not simply a matter of ethical practices or pastoral concerns. They think that what is at stake is a matter of sacramental theology based on clear and consistent teaching found in scripture and tradition. It is not only the Church that teaches that marriage is indissoluble. They believe that this is a teaching that comes from Our Lord.

John Paul II, in his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendour, insisted that negative moral norms admit of no exceptions. Concerning this point, however, moral theologians were themselves divided. Some critics of John Paul II judged that this pope himself was introducing an innovation in moral theology. There are centuries of pastoral practice by which confessors were permitted to discern particular circumstances that could lessen moral responsibility. There is a long tradition of practice in the Church known as casuistry by which the distance between the rule and the application of that rule could be acknowledged.[5]

Of course casuistry itself has its own history of controversy.[6] There has always been disagreement about this. And so I again emphasize that we have a difference in mentality. One side thinks that when it comes to negative prohibitions, there can be no exceptions. Another side thinks, as the old saying goes, that “the exception proves the rule.” The exception puts the rule to the test. An exception does not mean that there is necessarily anything wrong with the rule. One can say that a certain rule is a good rule, but for a variety of reasons and circumstances it does not apply directly in a particular case.

But one must confront the question:  Can there be exceptions when it comes to the indissolubility of marriage? Francis takes the positon both that a sacramental marriage is indissoluble and, at the same time, there may be cases when someone who has been divorced and remarried can, through a process of pastoral discernment, be readmitted to the Eucharist. He does not think that there is a contradiction here.

I find it interesting that both John Paul II and Francis can draw upon Thomas Aquinas for support of their positions. Aquinas himself makes the distinction between negative principles, such as “do not steal,” that should never be violated, and positive admonitions, such as “give to charity,” that always require a judgment concerning how much or how little.[7] But what Aquinas is doing here is making a distinction. When compared with a positive admonition, a negative prohibition is something that should never be violated.  But that does not necessarily mean that when Aquinas considers negative prohibitions in themselves he will insist that they absolutely should never be violated. In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary. For it is Aquinas who insists that there is a great difference between general principles and how human acts in particular situations are to actually be evaluated. 

Aquinas distinguishes between an abstract objective act and a concrete human act.[8] Considered as an abstract objective act, killing is wrong. When killing is done as a concrete human act, however, the morality of the act must be discerned according to intentions and circumstances.  Aquinas did not think it was wrong for a state to execute a criminal, for a soldier to kill in a war, or for a citizen to kill in self-defense. (I might mention that today the Catholic Church opposes capital punishment.)

Pope Francis stresses that realities are more important than ideas. Real people need to be met and accompanied in the real life situations in which they live. Francis gives the example of a couple who have been civilly married and have been raising children together for several years. He does not say that in every case these people should be readmitted to communion.  He also thinks that those who could be readmitted must go through a process by which they confront the reality of what they have done. But he observes further that there are cases in which interrupting the present reality may make things much worse than they currently are.

It is not hard to imagine some particular cases. Perhaps there is a woman with several children who was abandoned by her husband. After some time there is a man who comes into her life and they make a new home, a new family.  Maybe she did have some part in why her husband decided to leave her. Maybe she is a completely innocent victim.  In either case, does she need to be excluded from receiving the Eucharist?

Maybe her first husband lives in another country and has his own new family. Is she forever to remain a single mother for the rest of her life even if another opportunity arises? Many will say that this is her cross to bear. It is better to obey God than to seek self-fulfillment.

Pope Francis thinks that there are bigger issues in this world.  There are other crosses that Christians should be lifting up. In response to the media’s focusing so exclusively on this issue, he said:

When I called the first synod, most of the media were concerned with one question: Will the divorced and remarried be able to receive communion? Since I am not a saint, this was somewhat annoying to me, and even made me a bit sad. Because I think: those media that say all these things, don’t they realize that’s not the important issue? Don’t they realize that the family, all over the world, is in crisis? And the family is the basis of society! Don’t they realize that young people don’t want to get married? Don’t they realize that the declining birth rate in Europe is enough to make us weep? Don’t they realize that the shortage of jobs and employment opportunities is forcing fathers and mothers to take two jobs and children to grow up by themselves and not learn how to talk with their mothers and fathers? These are the big issues![9]

I want to repeat that Pope Francis does not think that his position in any way detracts from the indissolubility of marriage. He states clearly that divorce is an evil and that the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. He thinks that the basic principle that sacramental marriage involves a life-long commitment is important. He thinks that violations of that commitment include some element of sin. 

But he also thinks that sins, even big sins, can be forgiven. He does not agree with those who insist that a marriage is primarily a metaphysical reality that exists eternally in the mind of God. For Francis, concrete human reality comes before metaphysics. This is one way of naming the difference in the two mentalities we have been discussing. It is a difference in how one casts the relationship between metaphysics and concrete human experience.

Pope Francis does not think it appropriate that someone living in a new situation for many years, a situation that has to be appreciated for those elements of goodness to be found within it, should be continually accused of adultery. He thinks that God is just, but that even more so God is merciful.





Mercy is a key theme of the papacy of Pope Francis. I want to mention that Pope Francis has been influenced by the German Cardinal Walter Kasper regarding this theme. About three days before he was elected pope, Kasper gave him a copy of his book entitled Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life.[10] Pope Francs praised this book highly in the early days of his papacy. This theme of mercy will help us to understand something of what I have been calling Pope Francis’ mentality.

Have you ever been in a situation in which you’ve had to hold people to strict standards? Maybe you’ve had to do this as a teacher, a parent, a supervisor, or even just as a friend. You know the kind of strength and power it takes not to give in, not to be manipulated. Are there also situations, though, when you need to be merciful?  Or is mercy a sign of weakness?  Is mercy a sign of giving up on appropriate standards?

Pope Francis thinks that being merciful is the greatest manifestation of God’s power. The way in which Pope Francis emphasizes mercy gives support to his vision of a church that reaches out, that tries to include people, a church that respectfully accompanies people, a church that realizes that none of us is perfect and that is willing to be patient, a church of mercy that is hesitant to judge and quick to offer forgiveness.

            A couple of years ago, Pope Francis even proclaimed a Jubilee Year of Mercy. A Jubilee Year is a special year of forgiveness. In the Old Testament, a Jubilee Year meant that debts were to be forgiven, slaves and prisoners set free, the scales that measure human relationships to be set back to zero.  A Jubilee Year represents a fresh start.

I’ll tell you a personal story. My wife and I raised four boys who were born about two years apart. I remember back in 2000, during the time of Pope St. John Paul II, when we celebrated a Jubilee Year. In 2000 our eldest son, Tom, was eighteen, and he was in a heap of trouble. Mercifully, I don’t remember exactly what he had been doing, but coming toward Easter he was grounded for six months and he owed us about $600. The tension in the house was high. Somewhere between my wife and me, we got an idea.  On Easter Sunday of the Jubilee Year of 2000, in the parking lot after mass, we told Tom that since it was a Jubilee Year we- this one time only—forgave him for his misdeeds and set him free from his grounding and his debt.  I’ll tell you the rest of the story in a few minutes. Until then, when I speak of “Thomas,” I’ll be referring to Thomas Aquinas.

             Pope Francis draws significantly upon St. Thomas Aquinas on the theme of mercy. In the Papal Bull that announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy, he is drawing upon Thomas when he says: “It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests being all-powerful particularly in this way”   In his Summa Theologiae, Thomas addressed the objection that showing mercy is a sign of weakness. He responded that only a person who has real authority can show mercy; those with lesser authority have to follow the rules. Mercy does not contradict justice; it goes beyond justice in showing generosity and love. When it comes to God, God does not have to worry that showing mercy will be a sign of weakness. Not only does mercy not take away from God’s power, but it is the greatest sign that God is all-powerful. God has nothing to lose through being generous.  In fact, all of us depend ultimately upon the mercy and love of God.[11]

            I will mention a few more points that Pope Francis draws out from St. Thomas that help to express his vision of a church of mercy. First, this theme helps Francis with his emphasis that the church is not primarily a bunch of rules and regulations but a community that lives out the love of God. Francis notes how Thomas says that Christ and the apostles passed on very few precepts or rules to the early church.[12] Those that would be added later should be put forth moderately so as not to be a burden to people. Being Christian is not a state of servitude. Yes, the church needs some rules and regulations and these have their importance, but the deeper reality of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts prompting us to act out of love. God’s mercy has willed that we be free.

            A second point that Francis draws from Thomas is the meaning of Christian love. From Thomas, Francis draws the point we must consider the other “in a certain sense as one with ourselves.”[13] We need to get in touch with a meaning of beauty that goes beyond mere surface, a meaning that is more connected with goodness. Francis then connects this meaning of love of beauty with the option for the poor. A church of mercy is a church that takes the option for the poor. The option for the poor is not an option against those who are materially better off.  It is something in the interest of the entire Christian community. All of us should be aware of what life is like from the point of view of those among us who are poor. It is in the interest of everyone that special concern be given to improving the conditions of the poorest among us. We need to come to recognize the beauty of those among us who are poor. In this way, the poor person can be esteemed as of great value.  In this way, the option for the poor becomes not just another political ideology but a way of living out Christian love as charity.

            A third point Pope Francis emphasizes is that we all need to be patient with each other. A merciful church is a patient church. The church needs to be able to meet people where they are and listen to them and accompany them. Francis draws upon Thomas to say that a person can have faith and charity and still be struggling with living out some of the virtues.  To say it another way, just because a person is not perfectly living out all of the virtues does not mean that that person does not possess faith and charity in a real way.[14] Francis endorses a principle of gradualness.  Walk with people, listen to them, and accompany them patiently and respectfully along a path of spiritual growth.

I have already mentioned that Pope Francis draws upon Aquinas when he makes his point about allowing Catholics who are divorced and remarried in a civil union to receive communion. Francis relates Aquinas’ distinction between abstract objective acts and concrete human acts, the one I referred to earlier, to the distinction between science and practical action.  In both pure science and in practical action there are first principles that should never be violated. In science, however, even as you move away from first principles, when exceptions arise there is something wrong.  When there is an exception, you need to re-do your experiment.  Science seeks general principles that account for all of the data. In practical matters, however, the more you move beyond first principles, the more legitimate exceptions can arise. The more particular the case, the more circumstances need to be taken into account.[15] When it comes to divorced and civilly remarried couples, Francis’ point here is about mercy. A couple must come together with a priest and discern honestly the reality of their present situation. They are not to dismiss easily wrongs of their past. They are to face up to things they have done. But no one, says Francis, should be condemned forever.

We thus see a pattern in the way in which Francis draws upon Thomas to make his points.  These are points in support of a church that is more than a bunch of rules and regulations, a church that loves not only justice but also people, a church that accompanies people respectfully and patiently, a church that does everything it can to include people, especially those who are struggling.   Francis doesn’t want a church whose main characteristic is being harsh and judgmental He envisions a church of mercy that is hesitant to judge and quick to offer forgiveness. For Francis, going in this direction helps to carry out the call of Vatican II to move beyond juridicism.

I come back to the story about my son, Thomas. I didn’t hear much about the forgiveness episode of Easter 2000 for about twelve years. At some family gathering or other Tom said that he had been meaning to tell me something. In 2010 when he was in an RCIA program as a sponsor for his fiancé, Andrea—who is now the mother of their three children—the group was asked to share stories about moments in their life when their faith was strengthened. Tom shared the story of Easter 2000, when his parents spoke to him in the parking lot after mass. He had been grounded for six months and he owed them $600. His parents told him that it was a Jubilee Year and that they forgave him.  He was no longer grounded and he did not owe them any money. He told the RCIA group: Forgiveness! It’s so powerful!



The analogy between the case of my son and what Pope Francis is talking about is not a perfect one.  Our son did not go through any process.  We just forgave him. 

Also, what we did with our son was a one-time deal on Easter Sunday of a Jubilee Year. I think it can in many cases be important to hold people to certain standards. There is strength and courage at work when you hold people to standards. One can’t just go around offering people cheap forgiveness or caving in to people’s lack of discipline. Still true mercy shown at the appropriate moment is not a sign of weakness but a sign of an even greater power.

What I want to emphasize with my story is simply the power of mercy and forgiveness. Situations can get to a point where it simply does not make sense to continue in the same direction. Something has to change. Forgiving my son took as much pressure off my wife and me as it took off of him.  Justice is important, but there are situations that cry out for mercy. Mercy does not contradict justice. My wife and I had every right to forgive our son. I am grateful that my son remains a Catholic. Maybe our expression of forgiveness had something to do with that. Only God really knows if that is so.

            I did not come here this afternoon to declare that Pope Francis is always right and that his critics are completely wrong.  It is true that I do favor Pope Francis, but I can see that the points raised by his critics are serious ones.

I realize that I have said a lot about change and not so much about continuity. Pope Francis is trying to further the goal of Vatican II of bringing the church up-to-date. Vatican II itself had the goal of expressing the faith that comes to us through Scripture and Tradition in a way that communicates with the modern world. Continuity is found in handing on the revelation of Christ in an authentic manner. This is what Pope Francis intends to do.

Pope Francis is the head of a church that he thinks is in need of some changes. Too often we act like a church in which the rules and regulations are more important than the people. Did Jesus not teach that the law is made for human beings, not human beings for the law?

Jesus’ remarks about divorce are not the only important lines in the Sermon on the Mount that we need to pay attention to.  He also said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (Matt 7:1) And Jesus also said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt 5: 7)


Dennis M. Doyle

University of Dayton



[1] A Nigerian Pidgin word of Yoruba origin meaning “trouble.”

[2] See John Paul II, Christifideles laici, (1988), #19; Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, trans. Salvator Attanasio and Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1985 [Italian edition, 1985] 47.

[3] From an article by Cardinal Walter Kasper appearing in L’Osservatore Romano 11 April 2013, as reported by John Thavis, accessed at

[4] Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Burke Addresses the ‘Dubia’ One Year After Their Publication,” National Catholic Register, 14 November 2017,

[5] James F. Keenan and Thomas A. Shannon, eds., The Context of Casuistry (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1995).

[6] Albert R. Jansen and Stephen Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

[7] ST II-II, Q 33, a 2.

[8] ST I-II, Q 7, a 2.

[9] John L. Allen, Jr., “Why Was Pope Francis So Quick to Answer These ‘Dubia’?” Crux, 23 October 2017,

[10] Cardinal Walter Kasper, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key To Christian Life, trans. by William Madges (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2013 [German orig. 2014]).

[11] ST I, Q 25, a 3, ad 3; also II-II, Q 30, aa 2-4.

[12] ST, I-II, Q 107, a 4.

[13] ST II-II, Q 27, a 2; also I-II, Q 110, a 1; also I-II, 26, a 3.

[14] I-II, Q 65, a3 ad 2.

[15] ST I-II, Q 94, a 4.


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