The Personalist Project

Some day I'll get to the new encyclical, Laudato Si. Right now, I'm working on article on the problem of clericalism and reading the one that came out some years ago: Evangelii Gaudium, The Gospel of Joy.

The (surprisingly long and detailed) section on homilies includes a passage relevant to yesterday's post. Moral teaching can be presented without love, and when it is, even though it may be objectively true and sincerely ordered to the good, it still be can be unloving and do harm. Love involves more than "willing good."

It reminds us that the Church is a mother, and that she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child, knowing that the child trusts that what she is teaching is for his or her benefit, for children know that they are loved.

Notice the order of the logic. The child receives what her mother has to say, because she trusts her mother has her good in mind. She trusts, because she knows she is loved.

In the absence of personal trust, in the absence of the lively experience of being loved, moral correction comes across very differently. It doesn't encourage; it wounds and alienates.

Moreover, a good mother can recognize everything that God is bringing about in her children, she listens to their concerns and learns from them.

This too is absolutely key. It is a point constantly stressed by Francis, as well as John Paul II, and other great modern thinkers about love. Love is receptive, open and responsive to the good in the beloved, even the beloved who is doing wrong. Love listens to her concerns and learns from them

It is because the lover is receptive, that his "acts of will" can be counted as acts of love. Where there is no receptivity, no listening, there is no love.

If we want unbelievers and sinners to be open to the Church's moral teachings, we have to begin by convincing them that they are genuinely loved by us—we see and honor the good in them; we listen to their experience and learn from it. It doesn't work the other way around.

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