Pope Francis says "...the human race, renewed in Christ, is destined to grow as God's family. This is the goal of our work!"

Clementine Hall
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your conference on the relevance of the Alphonsian moral proposal and on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of your Pontifical Institute, which you will celebrate on 9 February next year. I thank the Dean for his words and I greet the Moderator General, the Rector of the Lateran University, the teachers, officials and students, grateful for the formative service you offer the Church in the area of moral theology. I would also like to greet the numerous Emeritus Professors, who with their work have left an imprint on the Alphonsian and on the Church, and the many former students who trained with you and continue to make their contribution to the People of God. Thank you for this valuable training service!
The Second Vatican Council affirms that moral theology, nourished by Sacred Scripture, must help the faithful to understand the greatness of their vocation to bring Christ's charity to the world (cf. Decree Optatam totius, 16). Ultimately, every theological-moral proposal has this foundation: God's love is our guide, the guide of our personal choices and of our existential journey. Consequently, moral theologians, missionaries and confessors are called to enter into a living relationship with the People of God, especially taking charge of the cry of the least, to understand their real difficulties, to look at existence from their angle and to offer them answers that they reflect the light of the eternal love of the Father [1]. Faithful to the Alphonsian tradition, you try to offer a Christian life proposal which, in respect of the needs of theological reflection, is not, however, a cold morality, a desk morality, I would say a "casuistic" morality. I say this from experience, because unfortunately I studied a "casuistry" morality at that time. Just think that we were forbidden to read Häring's first book, The Law of Christ: "It is heretical, it cannot be read!". And I studied with that moral: "A mortal sin if two candles are missing from the altar, a venial sin if only one is missing". And all the casuistry like this, I say it humbly. Thank God this has passed, it was cold desk morals. We ask you for a proposal that responds to a pastoral discernment charged with merciful love, aimed at understanding, forgiving, accompanying and above all integrating (cf. Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, 312). Being ecclesial presupposes this: integrating.
In line with the work of Saint Alphonsus [2], you began your Conference by reflecting on the conscience and the dynamism of its formation. This is an important topic. In fact, in the complex and rapid change of times we are experiencing, only people with a mature conscience will be able to exercise a healthy evangelical protagonism in the service of their brothers and sisters in society.
After all, the conscience is above all the place in which every man "is alone with God, whose voice resounds in intimacy" (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 16). The word it speaks is not of him, but comes from the very Word of the Creator, who became flesh to be with men [3]. And it is at his school, at the school of the Incarnate Word, that each one learns to dialogue with others, cultivating an aspiration to universal fraternity, rooted in the recognition of the inviolable dignity of every person (cf. Enc. Fratelli tutti, 8; Gaudium et spes, 16).
You also focused on some bioethical issues. In this complex field, I invite you to cultivate the patience of listening and discussion, as Saint Alphonsus recommends for situations of conflict. Don't be afraid to listen. It will be fundamental for the search for common solutions, which recognize and guarantee respect for the sacredness of every life, in every condition. A decisive enrichment will then come to this listening from the adoption of transdisciplinary research methods (cf. Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium, 4c), which allow us to approach new challenges with greater competence and critical capacity, in the light of the Gospel and of experience human (see Gaudium et spes, 46). Only in this way will it be possible to elaborate, in the bioethical field, reasonable and solid arguments, rooted in faith, suitable for adult and responsible consciences and capable of inspiring socio-political debate. It is necessary to avoid extremist dynamics of polarization, typical more of the media debate than of healthy and fertile scientific and theological research: rather apply the principle, always indicated by St. Alphonsus, of the "via media", which is not a diplomatic balance, no , the via media is creative, it arises from a creativity and creates. Only those who have studied and practiced this can understand it. Isn't it about balance? No, this is not the middle way.
The bioethical proposal must be attentive to the real dramas of people, who often find themselves confused in the face of life's moral dilemmas [4]. For this reason I recommend that you make the fruits of your labor accessible by using the "language of the people" and by elaborating practicable and humanizing proposals for a moral life. "The language of the people". Please, do not forget the holy faithful people of God! But not at the level of thought, but starting from your roots which are in the holy people of God; don't forget that you were taken from the flock, you belong to them, don't forget the people's air, the people's thoughts, the people's feelings. And this is not communism, socialism, no! This is the holy faithful people of God who are infallible "in credendo": do not forget this, Vatican I and then Vatican II say so. To always be on the side of concrete human beings, use the tools of ethical reflection to build solid barriers that defend them from the rampant mentality of efficiency and waste (cf. Enc. Laudato si', 130-136).
The third area of your conference dealt with questions of social morality. In this area too, there is a need for solid reflection today. The environmental crisis, the ecological transition, war, a financial system capable of influencing people's lives to the point of creating new slaves, the challenge of building brotherhood between people and between peoples: these themes must stimulate us to research and dialogue.
"The Lord is the end of history" (Gaudium et spes, 45) and the human race, renewed in Christ, is destined to grow as God's family (cf. ibid., 40). This is the goal of our work! So let us try humbly and wisely to enter the complex fabric of the society in which we live, to get to know its dynamics well and to propose to the men and women of our time suitable paths of maturation in this direction (cf. Gaudium et spes, 26). And I'm talking about the path, adequate paths, not mathematical solutions, adequate paths. Problems are solved by walking ecclesially as God's people. And walking with people in the moral state in which they are. Walking with them and looking for a way to solve their problems, but walking, not sitting like doctors who condemn without worrying with a raised finger. In recent years we have faced serious moral issues such as migration and pedophilia; today we see the urgency of adding others, such as profits concentrated in the hands of a few and the division of global powers. We also welcome these challenges with confidence, ready to "explain the hope that is in us" (cf. 1 Pt 3:14).
In conclusion, the Church expects the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy to know how to reconcile scientific rigor and closeness to the holy faithful People of God, to give concrete answers to real problems, to accompany and formulate human moral proposals, attentive to the saving Truth and to the good of people. Saint Alphonsus was a creator of the moral life and made some proposals… “But he is a great theologian”. Yes, but he was capable – these days I have listened to the songs that you gave me at Christmas – he was also capable of writing those things! How do you explain? This is the way, this is the beauty of the soul, the delicacy, this is belonging to the people of God which must never be negotiated, never. May the Holy Spirit help you to be educators of consciences, teachers of that hope which opens the heart and leads to God. I bless you from my heart, I thank you so much for your work, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.

[1] Cfr Messaggio di per il 150° anniversario della proclamazione di Sant’Alfonso a Dottore della Chiesa, 23 marzo 2021

[2] Cfr specialmente Alfondo Maria de’ Liguori, Trattato sulla coscienza.

[3] Cfr B. Häring, Liberi e fedeli in Cristo, I, 1994, 268.

[4] Cfr Discorso ai docenti e studenti dell’Alfonsianum, 9 febbraio 2019.