The long-awaited-for document from Pope Francis finally arrived in my inbox. Reading Amoris Laetitia is mesmerizing, relaxing actually. It’s almost as though the man in white is sitting next to you, sipping peppermint tea on the porch, and asking us to meet people where they are, to consider that our moral compass is not the only one in the boat, and that other people’s moral decisions are theirs as much as ours are ours.
It’s meant to encourage us to love more and judge less; to make good decisions, to guide the Church’s pastors to a deeper level of understanding and mercy. It reminds all of us about the things in modern life concerning family and marriage that we so often get wrong, and helps us to discern what is morally right. It helps inform our conscience and is an excellent read.
I promised the cliff notes, so with a little help from America magazine, here they are:
- Judge not. We are not to judge others using rigid rules that leave no room for personal or pastoral discernment. Welcome all into church and treat all with mercy. Avoid thinking that everything is black and white. (305)
- Pray, then decide. Pastors are being asked to help people made good moral decisions about family and married life, not to simply and blindly follow rules, but to practice prayerful decision-making and follow an informed conscience. (304)
- Keep the door open. Pastors should never close the church door to the divorced or remarried, but encourage counseling to seek a degree of participation in the church. Dispel the old misunderstanding of excommunication of the divorced and remarried and help them to feel as being part of the church. (243)
- Love is valuable. Married couples, children, siblings, and relatives are not perfect and everyone has to put up with one another’s imperfections. Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be valued. (122, 113)
- Put down the rocks. Forget the phrase “living in sin” and all the moral judgements that we carelessly sling around. People living in “irregular situations” (like single moms and gay persons) need understanding, comfort and acceptance (49) not stones thrown at them.
- We are not all alike. Pastors need to be sensitive to someone’s ethnic culture and traditions because what makes sense in one country, doesn’t in another. It’s why every question can’t be settled by the magisterium, the church’s teaching office. (3)
- “No” on same-sex marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is indissoluble; and same-sex marriage is not considered marriage. But what the pope wants is for seminarians and priests to be better trained to understand the real-world complexities of married life and to do better at counseling married couples. (36, 122, 202)
- Talk to kids about sex. Children must be educated about sex and sexuality. The world cheapens sexual expression and presents the body as “an object to be used.” (153)
- Respect gays. While same-sex marriage is not permitted, the pope wants us to respect the dignity of gay people and not discriminate against them unjustly. Families with LGBT members are to seek respectful pastor guidance from the church so gays and lesbians can “carry out God’s will in their lives.” (250)
- Have mercy. In this Year of Mercy the pope encourages all people to experience the “joy of love” and holds up the family as an essential part of the church, calling it the “family of families.” (80)
Thank you America magazine, Top Ten Takeaways from “Amoris Laetitia”, April 8, 2016, for helping us define the top ten issues facing Christian families.