By Bishop Richard J. Malone on
5/4/2016 9:26 AM
Pope Francis' eagerly awaited
apostolic exhortation, fruit of the two Vatican synods on marriage and
family, has arrived. It is titled "Amoris Laetitia," or the "Joy of
Love." The title, as is the custom with major papal documents, is taken
from the text's first line: "The joy of love experienced by families is
also the joy of the Church." (This sentence is reminiscent of the first
line of Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World ("Gaudium et Spes") which reads "The joys and the hopes, the
griefs and anxieties of the people of this age ... these too are the
joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ."
While the Holy Father does not avoid the
difficulties and challenges experienced in family life - in fact he
address them candidly and straight on - "The Joy of Love" is from
beginning to end a celebration of the gift of marriage and family to the
Church and, indeed, to the world.
This is a long text at 260 pages. Most media attention has focused on
Chapter 8 - "Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness" - where
the sensitive and often neuralgic issues of divorce and remarriage are
treated. However, the great part of this monumental exhortation is
devoted to lifting up the profound meaning, radiant beauty and
irreplaceable role of marriage and family for all to behold. Chapter 8
does leave the reader with a number of questions that will need further
reflection, for example, what does "internal forum" really mean, and not
mean, in practice?
Regarding the document in its entirety, consider a few of the chapter headings:
The Experiences and Challenges of Families
Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family
Love in Marriage
Towards A Better Education of Children
The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family
As you can see, this is very rich, real, evocative, challenging stuff.
"Amoris Laetitia" is a long read, but well worth the effort. Pope
Francis urges us all to read and ponder his teaching slowly and
carefully: "I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text." Anyone
expecting dramatic changes in doctrine will be sorely disappointed.
Examples: Marriage is and will always be exclusively the union of one
man and one woman. Artificial contraception is contrary to the moral
law. (The pope encourages Natural Family Planning.) At the same time,
the pope is very strong in his admonition that no one is ever to be
excluded from the Church's embrace. The theme of accompaniment of all,
whatever their life situation may be, is a golden thread woven
throughout the text. God's abundant mercy requires of us no less.
The bottom line is expressed in these words of the Holy Father: "It is
my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and
cherish family life, for 'families are not a problem; they are first and
foremost an opportunity.'"
We will be developing ways by which the beautiful teaching of "The Joy
of Love" can be made accessible to all in our diocese. This is a
document that must not become another dust collector on a shelf.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and
inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God's plan. Amen.