Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Love and the Law

Father Raymond J. de Souza writes:

To follow the law is to be under a burden, to be compelled, to be constrained. To love, on the other hand, is to embrace the capacity to choose, to be creative, to be liberated.

In his recent book, Light of the World, Pope Benedict considers that way of thinking as having wrought catastrophic damage in the life of the Church. The opposition of love to law, as if the former required an abandonment of the latter, is an error widespread in society too, with similarly deleterious consequences. The context for the Holy Father's comments was the sexual abuse scandals.

"The archbishop of Dublin told me … that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950s; admittedly, it was not perfect – there is much to criticize about it – but nevertheless it was applied," Benedict said. "After the mid-'60s, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people."

Even those with a rudimentary knowledge of canon law were aware that severe penalties existed for clergy who were guilty of sexual misconduct of all sorts. Yet the punitive sanctions of the law were not applied. It is true that today there are stricter laws and more severe punishments, but what has principally changed is that the Church's law in such cases is being more vigourously enforced.
 Read the whole piece at the Catholic Education Resource Center.

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