I think that Chapter 8, "Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness", is the most problematic section of Amoris Laetitia (AL) for three reasons:
1) Pope Francis seems almost (not quite, but almost) incapable of acknowledging that an individual is sinfully responsible for rejecting the truth of marriage and family. Yes, he upholds the objectivity of God’s “primordial loving plan” (9), of the deepest reality of marriage (AL 10), grounded in the order of creation. Indeed, Pope Francis’s reflections on marriage and family life in AL 8-30 are beautiful, insightful, and, yes, deeply biblical. Furthermore, his reflections on the tradition of magisterial teaching regarding marriage and family life in light of creation, fall into sin, and redemption in AL 61-88, provide a catechesis that is foundational to our thinking as Christians. Yet he almost never holds a person totally accountable for resisting the evidence of creation about marriage (see Rom 1:18ff.). It’s almost as if everyone is invincibly ignorant.
2) In light of 1), furthermore, he puts a heavy emphasis on the distinction between subjective and objective morality, that is, questions regarding moral culpability, on the one hand, and the objective standards of right and wrong on the other, and hence he seeks to find mitigating circumstances that absolve a person of full responsibility for his actions (AL 302).
3) He distinguishes (following John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio) between the different concepts of the “law of gradualness” (which he affirms, AL 295), which is a step-by-step moral advance, and the “gradualness of the law,” meaning thereby that there are “different degrees or forms of precept in God's law for different individuals and situations” (FC 34), which he says that he rejects. With respect to the law of gradualness, Francis urges us, in view of the undeniable challenges of our time, “to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden” (AL 37). He adds, “This is not a ‘gradualness of law’ but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law” (AL 295).
And yet in AL 303 and 305, he suggests that a person not only may be doing the best that he can, but also that such acts therefore are not sinful and hence are right for that person, because the person, in his mitigating circumstances, fulfills the ideal as applied by that individual in those limiting circumstances. This way of thinking was unavoidable because throughout AL Francis apparently emphasizes the “ideal” nature of the normative order of marriage and family life.Read more >>
But how can God be asking one to do X when X is contrary to his will? The pope must think that X is not contrary to the will of God in that specific circumstance, but only contrary to God's ideal will which the person is inculpable for not attaining.
So, with all due respect to Francis, I think that he does imply support for the “gradualness of the law” and hence by implication opens the door to a “situation ethics.” He says, “Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal” (AL 303). It is hard to see why a person needs the grace of the sacrament of confession, and hence the Lord’s mercy, if, as Francis suggests here, that person is doing the will of God.