In a 256-page treaties titled “Amoris Laetitia”, Latin for “The Joy of Love”, Pope Francis, urged bishops and priests in the world over to be understanding and considerate of Catholics who had divorce and eventually re-married. The Pope makes clear the vision he wants local bishops and priests to follow: as a church that greets families with empathy and comfort rather than with unbending rules and rigid codes of conduct.
“No one can be condemned forever, 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,” said the Pope.
“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,” he added.
The document, however, offers no new rules or marching orders, and from the outset Francis makes plain that no top-down edicts are coming.
Moreover, while Pope Francis seeks an inclusive church, he, however, once again closed the door on same-sex marriage, saying it cannot be seen as the equivalent of heterosexual unions.
The Pope said that “every person regardless of sexual orientation” should be treated with respect and consideration, while “every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence”. However, the Pope also categorically stated in the next section that the church cannot countenance same-sex marriages or unions, citing the second synod’s final report, which said “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
Not everyone is happy with the Pope’s latest apostolic exhortation. Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay Catholics said that the document “does not inspire joy in LGBT Catholics and their supporters”.
“While not expecting a blessing on marriage for lesbian and gay couples, many were anticipating that Pope Francis would offer an affirming message to LGBT people, and not the same ill-informed comments,” said Mr. DeBernardo, who is based in Maryland. “Where is the Pope Francis who embraced his gay former student and husband during his U.S. visit? Where is the Pope Francis who invited a transgender Spanish man for a personal meeting at the Vatican? This Pope Francis is hard to find in his latest text.”
For the most part, however, the Pope’s message of tolerance was resonant. At every opportunity, the Pope has been reminding Catholics that forgiveness and mercy are the heart of their faith.
USA today reports that “the document is the product of a wide-ranging two-year process that included two high-level church councils called synods, and discussions at tens of thousands of local churches where detailed questionnaires for Catholics were used to gauge their views on family issues.”