After a long Synod on the Family held in October 2015, Pope Francis revealed his anticipated document on the family, “Amoris Laetita,” on Friday, April 8. The 256 page document did not make any changes in the law of the Catholic Church but Pope Francis, suggested the Church to open its arms and lessen its judgment, according to The New York Times.
The title, “Amoris Laetitia,” is Latin for “The Joy of Love.” In contrast to last year’s environment encyclical, Laudato Si, Amoris Laetitia, known formally as an apostolistic exhortation, wasn’t as forceful. It does, however, echo the same impact of the Pope’s office. The biggest takeaway from the document is the call to lessen the judgment of divorced Catholics.
Another shift in message from the Church is Pope Francis’ call for priests to accept all people from all types of living situation into their congregation, according to The New York Times. This means, for example, single parents, unmarried couples living together, LGBTQ couples, and many more. Francis said, “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.”
With the document mirroring Pope Francis’ familiar ambiguity, the document sent many messages that could be interpreted and debated amongst the more liberal followers versus the more conservative followers. Normally viewed as the reformer, accelerating slowly, Francis also omitted any specific health exceptions in regard to the Church’s ban on contraception, according to The Washington Post.
With the way the document was conceived, many meanings can be left up to interpretation, possibly causing conservatives to acknowledge divorced or remarried members at communion. Literally speaking, no blanket laws were presented in the document. Concurrently, it is undeniable that the overall message to the Catholic Church is that “it all depends, whatever action is to be taken is subjective to the circumstance.” Although Pope Francis suggests that priests need to handle these things on a case-by-case basis, many conservatives don’t have to interpret it this way.
The clearest of all notions from the Pope provided much more clarity than that of other issues. While advocating for the acknowledgement of “the great variety of family situation,” Francis also distinguished same-sex marriage by saying, “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,” according to The New York Times.
The reaction from Catholics varied from opposition to praise. Agatha Capalad stated, “If the church will really be strict and tell us every time, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that’ and ‘This is wrong and that is right,’ it’ll be confusing and may drive away many Catholics from the church. With these teachings, Pope Francis again makes us feel his loving presence and his mercy and compassion.” While Hanna Salska said, “The Church should be more strict, because, for example, the pope shouldn’t say something like this because then other Catholics will think that they can actually not be afraid of God and our church and I think this is the point of our whole religion,” according to ABC News.
Editor’s Note: Information from ABC News, “Amoris Laetitia”, The New York Times and The Washington Post was used in this report.