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Fr. Roger Landry

Joined: Feb. 13, 2013

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Re: Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 13 at 6:17pm | see this comment in context

Continuing… 

There's no need to ask God everything — e.g., "Lord, do you want me to have an apple or an orange for dessert?" — and the Lord wants us to be prudent and responsible, applying what he's already taught us and sound human judgment to the multitude of decisions we make each day. There are also lots of decisions on bigger things that are made prudentially when God doesn't clearly reveal himself and his will in prayer. God, after all, has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to buttress the natural virtue of prudence. 

But I want to insist that this not what discernment is about, as a mere application of moral principles to our decision-making. It's an active listening to God's voice in prayer, not just seeking his opinion and then making the decision on our own, but asking for his guidance to make the right decision, which is the decision that conforms to his plans for us, especially in the big vocational decisions of life. 

Throughout this thread you seem to reduce God's agency in discernment and in prayer, as if God's helping in this way incompatible with human spiritual maturity. It's not. It's foundational. 

Re: Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 13 at 6:11pm | see this comment in context

If I'm understanding you correctly, I think you're exactly wrong about the question in discernment and in conscience. For someone who loves and serves the Lord, the question is precisely, "Lord, what do you want me to do here?" It's not and never will be a question independent of God's will. The whole point of prayer and the Christian life is to seek, find, love and be transformingly united with God, which means we learn to love what he loves and want what he wants. The question, "What should I do?," especially with regard to a big decision like resigning the papacy, is and must be coextensive with the question, "Lord, what should I do? What do you want of me?" Remember, we're not voluntarists pitting our will against God's. We recognize his will is for our good and happiness. 

We're not looking to God to make a decision. We're asking God to reveal to us his purpose for us, who we are, why we're here, what's for our own good, his glory and the good of others. 

You seem to be reducing issues of spiritual discernment to prudential decisions made in the light of God. 

Re: Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 13 at 3:51pm | see this comment in context

The real issue at hand, it strikes me, is what is involved in discernment. I have about 30 spiritual directees — priests, deacons, religious, consecrated women and a few lay people — who are freely and constantly seeking in prayer what the Lord is asking of them. They want what God wants and recognize that the pinnacle of freedom is doing what they ought, not necessarily what may please themselves most. 

Having spent two years studying and preaching about Pope Benedict's writings on prayer (both papal and pre-papal), this is what I'm convinced is the way he looks at the decision. It seems to be quite clear he wanted to resign but he repeatedly consulted the Lord in conscience to determine whether it was the right and moral thing to do, whether it was a decision that conformed with God's will for him and for the Church. I'm convinced that, short of having total confidence that what he was doing was what God wanted, he wouldn't have made the decision to lay down his office, because, precisely, he's not a child insisting on his own will, but a mature adult wanting to do the will of the Lord he loves.

Re: Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 13 at 2:14pm | see this comment in context

Continuing my previous post… 

So while affirming Benedict's full responsibility for the decision, at the same time it wasn't a decision he was making autonomously, but one in prayerful consultation with the Lord, which is not merely a thought exercise but a real dialogue. Knowing his personality, I strongly doubt he would have made the decision to resign unless he knew it was what the Lord wanted of him. Benedict, like his Boss, believes in doing not his own will but the Father's.  

So as to the infelicitous phrase in the original article, I didn't mean to imply either/or, but both/and, something more like Acts 15, "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…" Yes, Benedict is fully responsible in his human acts, but at the same time, I believe, he's cooperating rather than opposing the will of God, saying yes to God now, just as he did at the assumption of his papacy, and at so many other stages in his life. 

One last point: the conscientious obedience of a child of God is free. There's no conflict between freedom and obedience. 

Re: Our decisions belong to us; we are responsible for them

Feb. 13 at 2:02pm | see this comment in context

It's interesting I found out about this dialogue happening from a friend in Spain. 

I plead guilty to imprecise wording in a hastily written article on deadline, the main point of which was to try to help shocked American Catholics recognize Pope Benedict wasn't a quitter — something which was the first reaction of lay people questioning me about it and journalists interviewing me about it. 

I certainly didn't want to minimize Benedict's personal responsibility in the decision. 

But what I did want to say is that it seems to me highly unlikely that Benedict would not have been resigning unless he got the Lord's nihil obstat in prayer — just as he didn't resign from the CDF, despite repeated requests, because he didn't get JP II's. It's clear that from his declaration that such permission was something B16 was asking the Lord insistently. 

What I didn't like about this thread was that, while it is strong on personal freedom, it's inadequate with regard to its understanding of conscience. God can and does speak to us in conscience. We can be misguided in hearing his voice, but I doubt B16 was. 

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