I am back in Denver. I did not get much done here and online as I have been living a pretty vigorous public schedule since last Thursday. Yesterday I spent most of the day in transit back to the Rockies. I have a bit of a head cold and a nasty sore throat that threatens to turn into laryngitis, so I reckon I will stay quiet most of the day today and see if I can get this to pass. It is not a problem I normally have. Ha! After bringing such snow and storms with me to New England, I am just thinking of this little bout that makes me be quiet as a “nor’easter.” Coming up this week I have guest column by Dan Lynch on Addie, then pieces on the California Attorney General’s over-reach on raiding David Daleiden’s apartment, one on the world after the Rescue, a recap of my wonderful visit to New England, and a piece I have been working on since Easter.
For now, I wanted to put up what was originally a comment by our reader, Fran. It was so good – and I know that only about a third of readers follow the comments, that I wanted everyone to consider it. One of the great disorders of our age is that few people really contemplate. Rather, they make an emotional decision of what they expect to see first, then only see things that support what they already want to believe while ignoring all that contradicts it. While some may think this is righteousness, it is merely self-righteousness – and leads to bearing false witness and routine defamation of others. Fran’s piece marvelously shows how we are called to consider and respond to each other.
I read just a few commentaries or summaries on Amoris Laetitia before I decided that I was not going to read any more until I read the document itself. I just did that yesterday after praying to the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and help me to understand without any preconceived notions. This was already happening to me by reading headlines and comments by those who are looking for what they want to see in it. I did not want to be influenced by what some on either the progressive or traditional sides were saying, but just wanted to read it with an open mind and heart. I also wanted to read it with an element of trust that our Holy Father really is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who has something to teach us.
Unpacking all that is in it will take some time for anyone, but I think every priest should read it in its entirety, and not just parts of it because reading it that way can easily lead to a person applying his/her own ideas into it.
All of that being said, the first thing I can say about it’s content is that anyone who says that our Pope (or the Bishops for that matter) are “out of touch with the modern world and families” and are “just a bunch of old men in robes who know nothing about marriage” could not possibly think that after reading this. Pope Francis even gave me insights that I had never even thought of after being married for 30 years, blessed with seven children, and now seven grandchildren. This is true with our past Popes as well. People who say that cannot have really absorbed the insight in some of their most important documents about love, the family, and sexuality.
Secondly, I can honestly say that before reading it and with my initial reading of commentaries, I had the feeling that Pope Francis may have opened a pandora’s box, and I was very uneasy. However, while I was reading the document itself, I was several times so deeply moved that i had tears. I had the very real sense that the Holy Spirit was working through Pope Francis and this apostolic exhortation. And I don’t know why but I kept thinking of Jesus writing in the sand while everyone was standing around ready to condemn the adulteress. What was he doing and why? I feel like there is some meaning in that for us with this and I am still pondering it.
What I took from Amoris Laetitia is that Pope Francis is very firmly affirming Church teaching, and did so repeatedly saying marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman ordained by God, and elevated by Jesus Christ into a Sacrament. He did so in many other aspects as well regarding such things as divorce, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, gender ideology, and the education of children among some of the most important ones. What he does coax us to open our heart to though, is the idea that every person is loved by God, has a different journey to Truth, and some people’s history and journey is very complex and they may even be stuck in an almost impossible situation, a “lost sheep” caught in the brambles. He gives examples of some people’s situations in irregular marriages, and how they got there, but he very clearly states that these people must also be open to the Truth of the Catholic Church’s teaching, but with the guidance of a pastor who is helping them and clearly guided by this Truth * may* be able to receive sacraments under circumstances in which the pastor may determine they are not completely culpable for their situations. This may be because of poor catechesis, immaturity, abuse or any number of things. They may have remarried, trying to the best of their ability and knowledge, to enter into a loving and permanent relationship which may include children who also need a loving and stable home. That being said, he also makes it very clear that we as a Church should be helping families who are in these situations and wish to be a part of the Church to be able to participate in some ways with the guidance of the pastor, and feel that they too belong while at the same time moving them along with the help of the Holy Spirit to the ideal… which is a Sacramental Marriage. (He also agrees with the Bishops that the annulment process needs some streamlining.) He seemed very clear to me that people should not decide this for themselves especially with uninformed conscience, nor should a pastor simply wave all culpability away for each and every couple who asks for his help with their situation. ( And I personally would be VERY concerned with anyone receiving the Eucharist with serious sin on their soul, so this would have to be taken very seriously.) This is in part what I think he means, however, when he says that just like what happens in individual families, sometimes working things out can be “messy”, and why he says that while he understands and agrees that we must have rules, and we cannot change God’s laws, we should not beat people over the head with them so to speak, and turn them away, but help them little by little to see and reach the light of Truth. That is the way God works with each of us. And it is is okay if it is messy because as long as we have God in the middle of the mess, it can all work out for good. Especially in this year of Mercy, the Pope is trying to reach as many as possible I think.
These are just some of my initial thoughts after reading it, and I am still pondering it all, and will now read others comments as well. I didn’t mean for this comment to be this long, but I hope it at least will encourage others to read it for themselves. It sounds daunting at 260 or so pages, but they are really not very long pages, and it is very worth while to read for yourself. I think that, in this Year of Mercy, and correctly applied, it is full of Light and Truth. I don’t think it is Pope Francis’ intention to cause confusion or dilute Church teaching in any way, but to show us that you can’t sternly and stubbornly hold onto truth without mercy and love mixed in, because then we are not helping or showing our brother or sister a way, a path, to Him and heaven.
If I have misinterpreted or misstated anything, I hope that one of the good priests or Bishops here will correct me. I will be interested to read their reactions and comments to the document and yours as well, Charlie. God bless you all~