By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis met Friday with participants in the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, thanking members of the dicastery for their “delicate service” to the Church, and noting the “particular bond” between the Congregation and the “successor of Peter, who is called to confirm the brethren in the faith, and the Church in unity.”
In defence of the Faith and the Sacraments
The Holy Father thanked them, too, for their commitment to supporting the magisterium of the Bishops “in defence of the faith and of the sanctity of the Sacraments” with regard to current questions requiring great “pastoral discernment.” In particular, the Pope mentioned the work of examining cases concerning “graviora delicta” (more serious crimes, such as clerical sexual abuse or grave abuses of the Sacraments), and questions of the dissolution of marriages “in favour of the faith” (the so-called “Petrine privilege”).
In this sense, the Pope said, the work of the Congregation “in recalling the transcendent vocation of man” and the relationship between man’s reason and the values of truth and goodness, realized through faith in Jesus Christ, “appears decisive.” He continued, “Nothing can help man recognize himself and God’s plan for the world than opening himself to the light that comes from God.”
Work of the Congregation
Pope Francis also expressed his appreciation for the work the Congregation has undertaken during its two-year Plenary Session, including: studying Christian salvation in reference to modern tendencies to “neo-pelagianism” and “neo-gnosticism”; reflecting on the importance of an adequate anthropology in the field of economics and finance; and addressing “delicate questions concerning the accompaniment of the terminally ill.”
With regard to the latter, the Pope noted the growth, in many countries, of requests for euthanasia “as an ideological affirmation of the will of power of man over life.” This becomes possible, he said, wherever “life is not valued for its dignity, but for its efficiency and productivity.” In response, the Pope said, “it is necessary to repeat that human life, from conception to its natural end, possesses a dignity that renders it untouchable.”
Contemporary man, the Pope said, often finds it difficult to reflect on the realities of pain and suffering, of life and death, with “a gaze of hope.” One of the services the Congregation can render to the men and women of today, he said, is to offer to them “a trusting hope” that can allow them “to live well, and maintain a confident prospective toward the future.”
An eminently pastoral visage
This the Pope said, gives the mission of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “an eminently pastoral visage.” Authentic pastors, he said in conclusion, are those “who do not abandon man to himself, nor leave him as the prey of his disorientation and his errors, but with truth and mercy bring him back to rediscover his authentic face in the good."