Saturday, September 06, 2008


Since Vatican II, the word "pastoral" has been bandied about with never a clear indication of exactly what this means. There's no definition of it in the CCC, even though Vatican II itself was said to be "pastoral".

An article at Catholic News Service uses this concept of "pastoral" in a discussion of something unrelated.

Even when Pope Benedict XVI speaks, of course, it's not always with full papal authority. In question-and-answer sessions with priests, he sometimes prefaces his remarks by emphasizing that he's only offering them pastoral advice, not infallible directions.

How often does a pope speak "pastorally", and what does it means when he does so? Is this a way of speaking out of both sides of your mouth, saying yes on the right and no on the left? Does it mean that it's ok to take this as gospel truth today, but tomorrow it may not be ok at all? Does it mean a suspension of tradition that may be only temporary? Does it mean I haven't got a clue but this seems logical? And the real question--does it mean that if we act in some way that in the present circumstances seems to be a reasonable and responsible response to them even though it isn't in line with official doctrine, that there will be no penalty due to sin for our actions? That last is what it appears to mean to me.

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