Given the Catholic Church’s complex history concerning divorce and remarriage, it’s not surprising that the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia in 2016 caused such a stir among the laity, the press, some theologians, and even some bishops.
This book endeavors to introduce concepts and contexts that will help all these groups understand the document in a new light, explaining what the rule of law actually means, and hopefully open a door to further discussion among theologians and clergy whose critical comments have so often missed the point of Francis’s apostolic exhortation.
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Gerald Bednar, Catholic priest, experienced attorney theologian and pastor, has provided a much-needed study of Amoris Laetitia. "Mercy is not an alternative to the law. It is a way of applying the law." Bednar has provided a rich resource for all who seek to understand and to live Jesus’s words: 'I have come to call not the righteous but sinners' (Mark 2:17), in the light of the magisterium of Pope Francis.
This is a brilliant book, reflective of the author’s training in law and systematic theology as well as teaching for three decades in a major seminary. On every page one detects the skillful theologian-lawyer summarizing and applying the teaching of Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia with precision, respect and care. The numerous examples from the daily lives of laypersons bring this book to life as Bednar applies Pope Francis's teaching in focused and nuanced ways.
An incisive and illuminating reading of Amoris Laetitia, Gerald Bednar’s book is pastoral theology at its finest. He utilizes the breadth and depth of Scripture, tradition, and a wealth of ministerial experience in order to argue for the continuity of Amoris Laetitia with the Catholic church’s enduring concern for distressed families and marriages. Patient, careful, and measured, this book models the nuance that immediate popular reception of the 2016 apostolic exhortation often lacked.
'The rule of law, not the law of rules' reflects that God’s mercy is God’s justice, and divine justice is divine mercy. Fr. Bednar builds on this theological premise of Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia, and then articulates a clear, compelling, effective pastoral application of this foundational Christian teaching to couples trying their best to live a wholly holy life. Something that not only theologians and parish staff will want to study, but married couples and those moving towards married life as well.
In Mercy and the Rule of Law, Bednar urges discernment. He maintains that subtle and complex circumstances demand a loving, merciful application of canon law. His book is a masterful demonstration of that approach.
Mercy and the Rule of Law provides a theological reflection on Amoris Laetitia rooted in Scripture, tradition, ecclesial history, and pastoral practice that will be particularly valuable to those engaged in or preparing for ministry.
Gerald J. Bednar holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University (1990), a master’s degree in government from Georgetown University (1971) and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame (1974). After having practiced law in Washington, DC, for five years, he entered Saint Mary Seminary in Cleveland, where he earned a master of divinity degree in 1983. Fr. Bednar taught at Saint Mary Seminary for thirty years before his retirement in 2021.