I have more or less tuned out the many kerfuffles about Pope Francis, and Amoris Laetitia is one of them, writes Mark Shea to a Catholic friend at the Catholic Weekly.
What little I have gleaned is that this is controversy about a pastoral document that was deliberately intended to allow as much flexibility as possible to pastors and which presented to enemies of the Pope their hoped-for shot at suggesting he is heterodox.
(My English friend writes:)
I get what the article is saying and the whole "we can read this in a way that's okay" thing but I can say "this is the correct way" and somebody else can say "no, this is the correct way" and it's all down to individual interpretation which is nice and all but don't we have a magisterium to avoid that situation?
Actually, very rarely do we have a Magisterium for the purpose of closing debate. Usually, we have one that helps us debate well and gives us a few ground rules to keep us from going out of bounds. There have been arguments in the Church that have lasted for centuries.
If I want to get at the "truth" then I have to make my own assessment of what the Magisterium has consistently said through the ages and if I do that I find myself facing inconsistencies, i.e. If I look at Amoris and say "hey, this only matches previous teaching if I read it this way" but I don't do the same thing with other documents, I'm being inconsistent.
I can only answer for myself, but it seems to me that primary function of the Magisterium, through most of its history, has not been to conclude debates, but to make sure that no party to a debate and no partisan of a custom, school of philosophy, pastoral approach or political theory is allowed to tell everybody else "my way or the highway". This is the norm in the Church's history. Romans 14 in action.
Mark Shea: A Conversation About Amoris Laetitia (Catholic Weekly)