VATICAN CITY (UPI) — Pope Francis’ proclamation, issued Friday, calls on the Catholic Church to offer more empathy and comfort to families of all kinds while affirming the church’s stance on same-sex marriage and strongly rejecting any government involvement in contraception and abortion.
The Pope’s 256-page “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” pictures the Catholic Church as more inclusive and less judgmental, and appears to offer a path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament of Communion.
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion,” the Pope wrote. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.”
“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence,” the Pope wrote.
“Pastors are to avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition,” one passage reads.
“Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores,” another suggests.
In the document, which does not affect Catholic doctrine but merely offers guidance, the Pope admits that the Catholic Church erred in alienating some families, and acknowledges the stresses on families brought on by poverty, violence, drug abuse and the pace of modern life.
But the Pope stands firm on the church’s opposition to birth control and abortion in the document, writing that the Vatican “strongly rejects” government involvement with contraception, sterilization and abortion. The Pope calls on governments around the world to “help facilitate the adoption process, above all in the case of unwanted children, in order to prevent their abortion or abandonment.”
The document is the result of two synods, or conventions of bishops, on family life which the Pope convened beginning in 2014. Bishops were invited to speak plainly on issues affecting Catholic families and how the Church should meet their needs. The final written reports of those conventions figure prominently in “Amoris Laetitia.”
Reviews were mixed.
“‘Amoris Laetitia’ is a quietly revolutionary document,” said Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large for the Catholic magazine America. “It restores the role of personal conscience and reminds pastors to meet people where they are. It will be a great encouragement especially to divorced and remarried Catholics and anyone who feels they have been unwelcome in the church. The message is: Welcome.”
“I think it’s an ill-judged shift,” said R.R. Reno, editor of the religious journal First Things. “This document clearly opens up the possibility that a priest may determine that a divorced and remarried person is worthy to receive communion, but under what terms and why is muddy.”
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