By Stefano Fontana
Some people may argue that any radical transformation of moral theology is not underway at all, and that Amoris laetitia is in no way its focal point. Therefore, before examining the various aspects of the paradigm change in moral theology, it would be useful to demonstrate that the transformation is underway and is not an invention of my own.Worthy of note first of all is the fact that published during the years right after Amoris Laetitia (2015) were various miscellaneous works whose titles were crystal clear: CIPRESSA, S. (edited by), La teologia morale dopo l’Amoris  laetitia, Cittadella, Assisi 2018; GOERTS, S – WITTING, C. (edited by), Amoris laetitia. Un punto di svolta per la teologia morale?, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 2917. The question mark in the second title is pleonastic.Next needed to be mentioned along much the same lines is the resolute effort of the Jesuit review “La Civiltà Cattolica” to publish articles intended to bestride the wave of innovation in moral theology, for example: FARES, Diego SI, Amoris Laetitia e il rinnovamento del linguaggio ecclesiale, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, n. 3981, 14 May 2016, pgs. 209-222; SPADARO, Antonio SI, La sfida del discernimento in Amoris Laetitia, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, n. 3985, 9 July 2016, pgs. 3-16; Id., Amoris Laetitia. Struttura e significato dell’Esortazione apostolica post-sinodale di Papa Francesco, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, n. 3980, 23 April 2016, pgs. 105-128. It is well known that one of the main innovations of the Exhortation is considered to be the language used, while “discernment” is to be considered the main key of the new moral theology.

Many works have been published about “discernment”, the key granting access to the restructured moral theology, and especially so by the theologians of the Faculty of Milan. This commitment regarding such an important point is a sign of a will for radical renewal. Here are a few examples: CHIODI, Maurizio, Coscienza e discernimento. Testo e contesto del capitolo VIII di Amoris laetitia, San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 2018; Id., ll profilo morale del discernimento cristiano, “Teologia”, 44 (2019) 1, pgs. 11-34; Id., Coscienza e discernimento: quale rapporto con la norma? Riflessioni sul capitolo VIII di Amoris Laetitia, “Teologia” , XLIII (2018) 1, pgs. 18-47. The theme of discernment also evokes the theme of the relationship between conscience and norm that is also revisited: Id., Coscienza e norma. Quale rapporto? A partire dal cap. VIII di  Amoris laetitia, “La rivista del clero italiano”, 98 (2017), pgs. 325-338.

Considering these works by Prof. Chiodi, it becomes difficult to assert we are not face to face with a new moral paradigm. Moreover, he is the same person who argued that  Amoris laetitia doesn’t have to be read in the light of Humanae vitae, but just the other way around. Such an affirmation would suffice to  demonstrate the radical change of perspective underway.

In addition, the Salesian teologian asserts that Christian matrimony needs to be revisited in the wake of Amoris laetitia: Id., Le linee pastorali di Amoris Laetitia e i compiti della teologia del matrimonio, “Teologia”, XLIII (2018) 1, pgs. 48-67. And Aristide Fumagalli wrote  La legge morale in Amoris Laetitia, “La Rivista del clero Italiano”, 99 (2018), pgs. 512-523, in which he illustrated the full extent of the innovation of the concept of moral law in the Exhortation.

The new paradigm’s diffusion is very widespread, and it is also making its way into theology faculties and reviews that could have been considered immune.  The review “Alfa Omega” of the “Regina Apostolorum” (Legionaries of Christ) recently published an article blatantly open to the renewal underway: RAJĈÁNI, Jakub, La coscienza situata come “polo opposto” alla norma morale, “Alfa Omega”, XXII (2019) 1, pgs. 103-117. The Theological Faculty of Lugano is ordinarily a rather balanced academic institution, but in 2016 it published an article substantially accepting the innovations: VOLONTÉ, Ernesto William, Esortazione apostolica dopo il Sinodo dei Vescovi. Papa Francesco alle famiglie: gioia dell’amore e responsabilità, “Rivista teologica di Lugano”, XXI (2016) 1, pgs. 193-198.

One of the most disruptive texts of the radical change underway is Fabio Magro’s Discernimento, coscienza, norma. Verso una nuova oggettività morale, Studia Patavina 66 (2019) 3, pgs. 407-417, where we can find all the strategic elements of the new moral theology. A professor of theology at Pordenone and Udine, and at the Institute of Religious Sciences of Gorizia, Trieste, and Udine, the author completely outstrips the approach of Veritatis splendor, and reasons in a decidedly historicist ambit. He defines the norm (moral) as the sedimentation and community sharing of moments of discernment verified in experience  (411).

I have dwelt on a selection of recent theological works and articles to demonstrate that a radical change of moral theology is really underway, and the point where it all comes together, is confirmed, and is launched anew is the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia. I am well aware that many of these processes have been underway for some time, and that Veritatis splendor had been published precisely in order to counter them. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that we are faced with a radicalization and – here is  the principal innovation – it is being confirmed by rather lofty authorities of the Church.

Stefano Fontana



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Stefano Fontana

Direttore dell'Osservatorio Card. Van Thuận