Sunday, 10 April 2016

Amoris Laetitia: An adequate document; open to misreading!

I successfully avoided reading any news articles or blogs about the exhortation until I had read it through once and got a sense of what it says. It is important to be aware of the balance of the document, as well as the specific issue that can be picked out.

It is a long document, but reaffirms a lot of the Church's teaching:
Divorce is not good, artificial contraception is wrong, same-sex marriage is not the same as natural marriage, the parents are the primary educators of their children.

It does emphasise some ideas more than perhaps in the past:
the death penalty is not right, not everyone in an irregular union (e.g.divorced and remarried) is in moral sin.

And there are some points that raise eyebrows:

  • Condemnation is not forever - well Hell is eternal. But Francis probably means that we on Earth cannot condemn forever... or that the complexities of life are not totally irreconcilable (although, it should be pointed out that not receiving Holy Communion is not the same as condemnation!).
  • His reference, in a footnote, to providing sacraments to strengthen those moving towards deeper acceptance of the Gospel is good, but sounds like he wants more openness without any realistic expectation or hope of change. 
  • He talks about people showing fidelity, but as Edward Peters points out, it is surely true to say that remarried persons are shows infidelity to their first marriage as much as they are faithful to this second. 

These seem to be the issues raised by others. The idea that the document is written to be 'abused' is concerning...though I'm not sure of the Holy Father's motives at times. He doesn't make any reforms to the law, for better or for worse. There is not much insight into the nature of marriage or the relationship between natural marriage and sacramental marriage. Nor is there much of an exhortation for those who live the single life through their circumstances.

The document is a slightly frustrating read in that it repeats itself and oftentimes is quoting from Pope Francis himself or the synod rather than more established documents of the Church (such as the documents of Vatican II). Having said this, it is true that the document clearly values Vatican II and St John Paul II so it is therefore absolutely right for priests and catechists to continue to draw on the riches of those documents and to be sure that they are proclaiming the official Catholic teaching of today.

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