Illinois bishop responds to Cardinal McElroy’s view on 'fundamental option'

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, the Bishop of Springfield, Illinois has given a response to Cardinal McElroy's theological concept of the "fundamental option." (Photo by Engin Akyurt from Unsplash)

In an article with the Catholic World Report, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, the Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, offered a response to Cardinal McElroy's theological notion of the "fundamental option."

He highlighted points such as the reason for exclusion and lack of accompaniment.

Fundamental Option

In the article, Paprocki emphasized the importance of recognizing Cardinal McElroy's attempt to revive the discredited theological notion of the "fundamental option."

According to Paprocki, the fundamental option grew in popularity in the 1960s.

This theory states that individual acts do not change the fundamental relationship with God, and only a change in the fundamental option against God results in a loss of grace. 

This means that a person can commit particular sinful actions without losing the state of grace.

However, Paprocki cited Pope St. John Paul II, who rejected the fundamental option theory in his 1993 encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor.

In this letter, the Pope stated that separating the fundamental option from concrete kinds of behavior contradicts the moral agent's substantial integrity or personal unity in their body and soul. 

That said, the morality of human acts cannot be deduced only from one's intention, orientation, or fundamental option. 

It must also include a determined binding content and positive effort to fulfill the different obligations of the moral life.

Response to Exclusion, Lack of Accompaniment

According to Paprocki, all seem to boil down to the Cardinal’s views on sin.

Cardinal McElroy argues that judgmentalism is the worst sin in the Christian life and that Catholicism's judgmentalism leads to an exclusion rather than committed sins. 

However, Paprocki stated that the Church has always excluded those who engage in grave sin from Communion until they have repented and received absolution. 

He, then, clarified that this is not a punishment but a consequence of their actions.

Apart from the issue of exclusion, Cardinal McElroy suggested that the Church needs to do a better job of accompaniment.

This involves avoiding judgment of the heart of others while still judging their actions. 

This approach requires people to love others like Jesus did, seeing beyond their sins to the person. 

In response, Paprocki stated that a Christian’s responsibility is to support and guide others while keeping their best interests in mind, regardless of the choices they make. 

However, this can be challenging, as people tend to favor one aspect over the other.

Despite this, Paprocki stated that Christians should strive to love others like Jesus did, looking beyond their sins and offering them a path toward redemption. 

In today's world, which is often confused about sin, Paprocki stated that it is important to balance both acceptance and rejection of sinful behavior to move forward positively.

On Sexual Immorality

On Friday, Feb. 3, Cardinal McElroy had an interview in which he had caused concerns due to his views about sexual immorality. 

He suggested that the church is too focused on sexual sins, while the Church takes all grave sins seriously. 

However, he clarified that sinfulness could exist in sexual lives, but not all sexual activity is condoned. 

The cardinal seemed to be calling for the Church to devalue the gravity of sexual sin.

However, as Paprocki stated, sexual sin is part of the “framework” found in God’s Word.


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