In praise of the family
Pope Francis seeks to reach out to those in imperfect unions who want to be part of the church without undermining its core values
In embracing not the “ideal family” but the complexity of family life and its multiple often “imperfect” manifestations, Pope Francis has sought to reach out to those in imperfect unions who want to be part of the church without undermining its core values. In yesterday’s Amoris Laetitia (AL), “The Joy of Love”, his post-synodal “apostolic exhortation” “on love in the family”, Francis returns to a regular theme of his pontificate in warning the Church against turning a deaf ear to those who do not live up to its standards. “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them”, he writes in what is an essay on pragmatism and realism, no counsel of perfection.
“No one can be condemned forever,” the pope insists, “because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves,” the pope said.
Without changing fundamental church teaching on the divorced and communion - and in so doing opening up divisions with more conservative bishops – he manages to open a window to those trying to find a way back. He could “not provide a new set of general rules ... applicable to all cases”, but he called for “responsible, personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases”.
Through the “logic of pastoral mercy” - the old “find yourself a sympathetic priest” – divorced and civilly remarried Roman Catholics seeking communion will find a way through their difficulties in parts of the church, while elsewhere it will remain a cold home.
In other sections of the wideranging and thoughful exhortation, Francis said young people had to be better prepared for a life-long commitment, praised the “erotic dimension” of love within marriage, and said the Church needed a “healthy dose of self-criticism” for in the past preaching that procreation was the “almost exclusive” reason for marriage.