It’s here…Amoris Laetitia!

Pope Francis’s long awaited Apostolic Exhortation on the family,  Amoris Laetitia; On Love in the Family was released today in Rome. Cyberspace has been hopping with “hot of the press” commentaries. While there are no earth shattering changes in doctrine reported, there is a definite paradigm shift taking place in our church. And, this shift will be rocking many doctrinal stalwarts who prefer the old days of judgment to the Francis era of mercy.

Joshua J. McElwee, NCR’s Rome correspondent, gave an excellent summary in an article titled Francis’ exhortation a radical shift to see grace in imperfection, without fearing moral confusion. Here are just some of the hope filled quotes from Amoris Laetitia as reported by McElwee.

Stressing the importance of discernment over black and white judgment, Francis writes,

Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits…By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God…

Here’s a winner quote on the importance of personal conscience,

We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations…We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them…

For those who focus on criticizing secular culture, Francis has this to say,

We have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness…

Again, for those who demand no flexibility in the church’s teachings,

I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion…But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street

His practical advice includes the need for dialogue within a relationship,

Take time, quality time…This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right

No document will please everyone, and there are some disappointments. On gay marriages, Francis writes,

As for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family

I encourage you to read the full NCR article. It’s long, but the document is even longer…over 200 pages! For those who can, it’s always best to go to the original source, and Pope Francis’s words are a joy to read. If you’re wanting to get to the good bits fast, NCR’s Fr. Thomas Reese suggests you begin at Chapter 4!

I hope to explore the document on this blog in the weeks to come. Please do come by and join in the dialogue!


5 thoughts on “It’s here…Amoris Laetitia!

  1. God has graced us through the open heart of Pope Francis. We had an ALLELUIA moment this morning with the brief glimpse of the document on a T.V. Newscast.. Many of us are welcoming these words. Over the years the graced thinkers were criticized if we thought for one moment out of the BOX. Looking forward to reading the document and sharing with those who chose God’s free will over man’s rules and regs.

    1. “thinking out of the box”….hmmm….as in not depending on the priest in the confessional to dictate our moral decisions? Thinking outside of the BOX suddenly has new meaning! Joining you in hopeful joy, Chris! 🙂

  2. This document seems to be another step in redefining the role of Church — for the hierarchy, and reinforcement for where the laity has already set-up its tent. It is a proverbial “set-up” in addition to its specifics. He is saying, I think, that the Church, and specifically the institutional capacity, is a compass- a pastoral, religious, moral, societal compass, rather than a “herder”. An authoratative resource to quest and question. The pastoral acumen of Christ which has hardened over the years into canons, codes, definitions, directives, dogmas has led to a perceived role for clergy as defenders, custodians of corollary, bulwarks and fences. The institution is now challenged to become contributors, nurturers and “way-pointers” respectful of personal authenticity and autonomy.
    This is not only a pastoral challenge for the present but a fundamental rethinking of the who, what and how of formation. As a corollary, the Church cannot meet this challenge without those who fundamentally possess the capacity to be “mothers” as well as “fathers” at the core.

  3. It’s very true, Dennis, that many of us laity have already “set-up” our tent in the camp of personal conscience and discernment. So, really nothing new here. And, frankly, we will not be automatically running to pastors for help with these decisions or for their blessing. Perhaps my hope for this document is that our “personal authenticity and autonomy” will, indeed, be respected and we will no longer be judged as sinners if we cannot live out in truth each and every doctrine of the church…or be asked to leave.

  4. The way you put it, it seems that “A.L.” is in a sense, albeit limited, a rather pointed message from “us” via Pope Francis to the institution. That is how I see some of what he has said and done, while dealing with his own background and desire to mediate.

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