Following the commandments is an obligation or an option?

Among the wide feedback that we have been receiving from around the globe, offering support and useful contributions, some time ago we received a suggestion for an analysis, from a brother priest, regarding one of the topics addressed by Francis in a General Audience, during the preparatory series for the Synod of Bishops on the family. This request already contains some excellent points for this study, and so we decided to make it available to our readers. Obviously, we have excluded the parts of the letter that might reveal the identity of the priest (and have copied from the original English translation passages that our brother priest cites in Spanish).

‘Dear Brothers in the priesthood:

Congratulations for this great work!

I am a priest […] who seeks to teach authentic Catholic doctrine to the faithful. I have observed with sadness that the words of the Vicar of Christ often confuse the faithful, even those who heard of them through the Catholic media.

I read a paragraph from the last catechesis of the Pope [June 24, 2015] that seems to sow confusion regarding the obligation to follow the commandments of Christ. It is the following passage:

It is true, on the other hand, that there are cases in which separation is inevitable. At times it becomes even morally necessary, precisely when it is a matter of removing the weaker spouse or young children from the gravest wounds caused by abuse and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by disregard and indifference.

There are, thanks be to God, those who, sustained by faith and by love for their children, bear witness to their fidelity to a bond they believed in, although it may seem impossible to revive it. Not all those who are separated feel called to this vocation. Not all discern, in their solitude, the Lord calling them. Around us we find various families in so-called irregular situations – I don’t really like this word – and it causes us to wonder. How do we help them? How do we accompany them? How do we accompany them so that the children aren’t taken hostage by either dad or mom?’

We might ask if perhaps the commandments should be obeyed only by those who ‘feel the vocation to do so?’ If within the difficulties encountered in following the commandments of God, I do not recognize ‘a calling of the Lord’, would I no longer be obliged to obey them? If the commandments of God are the truths that makes us free, leading us along the path of fullness, are there contradictory paths by which men may arrive at fullness? May those who feel called to obey the commandments of God and those who do not feel called, equally progress toward sanctity?

It seems to me that Pope Francis contradicts that which Saint John Paul II said in Familiaris Consortio, no. 34:

They [married people] cannot however look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. ‘And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations. In God’s plan, all husbands and wives are called in marriage to holiness, and this lofty vocation is fulfilled to the extent that the human person is able to respond to God’s command with serene confidence in God’s grace and in his or her own will.’( John Paul II, Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops (October 25, 1980) )

The Scripture is also clear with respect to the fact that one may not reach eternal life without fulfilling the commandments: ‘Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1Cor 6:9-10).

The Pope says that he does not like to label as ‘irregular’, the unions that the Bible calls ‘adultery’. A question arises: What does he wish us to call them? Marriages? We cannot stop calling things by their real name, because the faithful may become confused and fail to distinguish between good and evil.

The warning of Isaiah could be applied to us: ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter’ (Is 5:20)!

I hope that this information is of use, for it appears that this part of the Pope’s message may cause much confusion, and I have not found any commentary about it online.

I pray for you so that God bless you and continue granting you his wisdom.’

We could say that in this excellent proposal, our study is already almost prepared, but it is always our duty to investigate the riches of the Magisterium. Meditating about these words, the consoling words of the Savior come to mind: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light’. This passage is reassuring for so many Christians who must face difficulties in order to bear the name of Our Lord with pride, in the midst of this apostate world. It is also the case of those who after suffering abandonment by a spouse, but who then find the strength to remain faithful to God in their new situation. Loneliness is not a very desirable companion, and the perspective of a life without a family may seem sad and bitter. But it is still possible to find happiness in this state. The example of saints and the doctrine of the Church are very clear: true happiness and peace consists doing the will of God, and fulfilling his commandments.

One who strays from the commandments of God and succumbs under the weight of his passions loses serenity, and will find himself obliged to carry a terribly heavy yoke.

Consequently, we cannot but caution those who vacillate between fidelity and sin, that a union outside of the law of God is not a solution to improve your lives. Rather, the solution is found in confiding in God and following his precepts. There is no third path with respect to the commandments of God: we either fulfill or transgress them. In fulfilling them, we enter eternal happiness, while in transgressing them, we receive an eternal chastisement. More on this subject…

4 thoughts on “Following the commandments is an obligation or an option?

  1. Thank you for this clarity. We don’t hear anything about the Commandments now. We spend lots of time talking about how to live ‘in the world’ but how simple it would be just to obey these 10 very little commandments – they are fitted perfectly to our human nature! The precepts of the Church likewise. How simple! Do we need Francis to show us a new way, when the old way has been ignored? Jesus tells us to be perfect, and He lays out the Way to do that. It is so simple! And when we find it difficult because our desires conflict with His Way, He will carry the load so that it feels light….This is what we must hear from Francis…alas no.

    • Absolutely correct. Besides, the commandments were always difficult for fallen human nature. But the apostles did not water things down with pagan Rome. So real pastoral care is not what Francis is doing. He’s just doing what the devil has always done – telling people that they do not need to follow the commandments

  2. Thank you very much for this very informative post. What we basically need at this point is this clear teaching of the Church. Pope Francis can have all the media behind him, but anyone who is true to their conscience knows that the truth is different, though theologically uninformed people like me need help from those like yourselves in order to back up what we know is truth by our faith.

  3. That’s the right word: adulterine unions. Thank you for calling a spade a spade. That’s something that is sorely lacking on the lips of most of our bishops and priests.

Comments are closed.