Saturday, October 11, 2014


The idea of "graduality" was raised in discussions during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family--it expressed the thought that we can lead people step by step to a full moral life, and in the meantime understand and accept that they are not "perfect" just yet.

The idea has been regarded by others in the Synod as a sellout of moral principles and an accommodation with relativism.

What can one say, pro or con, about this idea?  Let me offer the thoughts of CS Lewis on the topic.  In responding to the idea that divorce should be freely granted, he insists that promises made should be respected and kept:

To this someone may reply that he regarded the promise [of marital fidelity and permanence] made in church as a mere formality and never intended to keep it.  Whom, then, was he trying to deceive when he made it?  God?  That was really very unwise.  Himself?  That was not much wiser.  The bride, or bridegroom, or the 'in-laws'?  That was treacherous.  Most often, I think, the couple (or one of them) hoped to deceive the public.  They wanted the respectability that is attached to marriage without intending to pay the price: that is, they were imposters, they cheated.  If they are still contented cheats, I have nothing to say to them: who would urge the high and hard duty of chastity on the people who have not yet wished to be merely honest?

                                     --Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 6

Are many of us not also in situations where we struggle to do better, yet have not attained "perfection"?  How should we be affirmed in the struggle while still having held out to us the goal of "more," of "better"?  Is all moral reflection intended to be 100% or 0%, with no other possibility?  These are the questions that graduality is attempting to think through.  It wants to reject moral relativism while also avoiding the attitude (condemned by Jesus--Matthew 23:4) of holding others to harsh standards with no concrete help to meet those standards.


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