Casuistry Is Where You Find It: Francis And The Dalai Lama

Pope Francis stated in a recent interview with Corriere della Sera that “I never understood the expression ‘non-negotiable values.’  Values are values, period….I don’t understand in what sense there can be negotiable values.”  He also suggested that he was not opposed to civil unions: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.  The lay states [he means secular governments as opposed to the papal states, n’est-ce pas?!] want to justify civil unions in order to regulate diverse situations of cohabitation, motivated by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons.”  Not a ringing endorsement of actual same-sex relationships, but notable for lack of gay panic.

Francis praised the “beautiful and profound presentation” Cardinal Walter Kasper made recently on the “abyss between doctrine on marriage and the family and the real life of many [Catholic] Christians,” remarking that he, Francis, “would have been concerned if in the consistory [a preparatory meeting ahead of this fall’s synod of bishops on family and marriage issues] there wasn’t an intense discussion.”  Francis did not, however, seem to want much intense discussion on either the possibility of women in actual church leadership positions (criticized as a wrongheadedly “functional” approach!) or much criticism of the handling of priestly sexual abuse (“the cases of abuses are terrible…but..the Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency….And the Church is the only one to be attacked”).  Francis claimed that “casuistry does not help” solve such issues. I would say that he is getting a bit defensive, a bit pot-calling-the-kettle-black, and that does not suit anyone well.  As a Jesuit, he is well acquainted with the theory and practice of casuistry.  For non-Jesuits interested in learning more I would like to commend The Abuse of Casuistry, a fine monograph by Albert Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin.

The Dalai Lama, for his part, has just leapfrogged Francis.  in a TV interview with Larry King, he has come out as OK with gay marriage!  Age before beauty, apparently: the DL is 78, Pope Francis just 77.


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