The over 1.3 billion Roman Catholics around the world have been awaiting Pope Francis as he prepared to make public the conclusions of a papal document procured from his two already held synods which was meant to share and propagate discussed views about family life, contraception, bringing up children and marriage.
The papal document which is known as an Apostolic Exhortation is now out and it is entitled “On Love in the Family”. It is the culmination of three years of work by the Pope, the document was expected to contain pronouncements on various aspects of family life which will include bringing up of children. With this papal document, the Pope has not changed Catholic doctrine, but has rather encouraged a more culture-centred view on certain issues. To arrive at the it, the Pope had sent questionnaires to families across the world and held two synods where he brought together bishops and cardinals to debate and disagree on divisive issues.
For a document with such important issues as family life and marriage a good number of minefields can naturally be expected. Before we summarize some of the more important determinations however, here are some key quotes from the document;
“As for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, 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.”
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.”
This two quotes both disavow anyone of the notion that homosexual marriage will be placed on an equal footing with heterosexual institutions in the Catholic church and shows the Pope’s concern that doctrine may be making some to not be attuned to real problems occuring in families in this day and age.
Prior to the release of the document, one such lingering minefield was the Catholics church doctrine pertaining giving communion to the divorced or civilly remarried, with the conclusions in the papal document, that will be up to the pastor of the particular congregation. Other determinations that may interest you include;
- He says yes to sex education providing it is within a framework of education about love
- He calls on the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming to gay Catholics, but the Church’s attitude towards lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) families remains basically unchanged with his recommendation for “respectful pastoral guidance” falling way short of the recognition for gay families and same-sex marriage that many LGBT activists had called for.
- He criticizes individualism especially in the West which leads to people valuing their own personal satisfaction over their spouses needs
- He emphasizes on better pastoral care; better preparation for couples on what marriage involves, and more understanding from parish priests and others for human frailty.
Taken all together, the papal document is very careful and neither side; conservative or liberal can claim a full victory. He suggests that bishops in each country seek solutions best suited to their culture and asks for better integration into the Church of people who are in irregular situations. Some people may view this as a harbinger of chaos where the current “one size fits all” Church would no longer be attainable. Others however will be disappointed that there is no greater acceptance for gay Catholics.