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!