The Remnant Will Never Forget
The Remnant devotes this section of our exclusively to testimonies by those who lived through the revolution of the Second Vatican Council.
This page is reserved for those who saw what happened, or heard what happened from those who did, and who truly understand how Catholic families were blown apart. Visitors who have personal reflections, or memories of traditionalists pioneers, or reminicences of the revolution are encouraged to tell their stories and share their pictures here. . . so that we will never forget.
RTV Covers Vatican Sex Abuse Summit in Rome
Remnant TV was in Rome this past week covering the Vatican’s clerical sexual abuse summit on the “protection of minors”. It seemed a dismal assignment, to be sure, but the reason it was necessary for The Remnant to be in the Eternal City was so we could throw in with our traditional Catholic allies in Rome who’d organized an act of formal resistance to the Vatican sham summit.
Going in, we all knew that the ultimate goal of the summit was to establish child abuse—not rampant homosexuality in the priesthood—as the main cause of a crisis in the Catholic Church which now rivals that of the Protestant Revolt. (Remnant TV coverage of this event as well as the Vatican summit itself, can be found on The Remnant’s YouTube channel, and for your convenience is laid out below:View items...
Now that Amoris Laetitia, the long awaited post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation has been released, the real debate is over. Don’t misunderstand me, the document itself, as it is digested over the next weeks, will certainly undergo much-needed debate about particular passages. Obviously, there are several key paragraphs that raise immediate concern and these can and should be debated.
Yet, I think that much of that debate will be hampered because of the working assumption that goes into such debates, a key assumption that papal positivists, many conservative Catholics, and the revolutionaries are counting upon. That assumption upon which the groundwork of the revolution is laid is that the words on the page actually mean things and, conversely, don’t mean other things.
From our friends at LifeSiteNews – Priest: Pope Francis’ pastoral revolution goes against 2,000 years of tradition, by Father Brian Harrison.
"Pope Francis’ long-awaited Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Laetitia (AL), was finally been released on Friday, April 8, 2016.
"A proper understanding, appreciation and evaluation of this lengthy document will require considerable time, study and prayerful reflection. But it is already quite clear from certain key passages that, with carefully crafted language, plausible arguments and persuasive rhetoric, the Holy Father is quietly introducing revolutionary change into the heart of the Catholic Church’s moral teaching and pastoral/sacramental practice." READ MORE HERE
REMNANT COMMENT: Please recall that although Father Harrison is an old friend, he is not a 'traditionalist' per se, and has never hesitated to disagree with us here at The Remnant, for example, when he believes we've overstated our case in defense of Tradition. It is for this reason that I've always valued his contributions, since he's spent a quarter of a century proving that he's unafraid to make common cause with traditional Catholics so long as he doesn’t adamantly disagree with us. Father, a true truth seeker, is not partisan.
Father Harrison's position on the Apostolic Exhortation, therefore, cannot be dismissed as a mere reiteration of the 'rad trad' company line. Because of that and because this article appears on LifeSiteNews (and not The Remnant or some other traditionalist site) it is an important polemic to send to honest neo-Catholic friends and family who are on the fence on this issue.
The public neo-Catholic polemicists, by the way, really must choose a side on this. At this point, I’m sorry to say, the public defenders of the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation are either too stupid to understand what they're reading, or they're maliciously covering up the myriad misdirects and errors contained in the text. There is no other option. Are you stupid, or ignorant? Inquiring minds want to know.
Fr. Brian Harrison on Pope's Exhortation: 'Revolutionary Change, Contrary to 2000 Years of Tradition'Written by Michael J. Matt | Editor
“I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to the United Nations and the hope which she places in its activities.”
- Pope Francis, Address to the UN, September 25, 2015 -
Editor’s Note: One of the most popular regular features in the print- and e-edition of The Remnant is “The Last Word”, by Father Celatus. Father, who is a pastor working in the U.S. at a diocesan parish, enthusiastically celebrates the TLM as often as possible. Father’s call to his brother priests to stand and resist what is happening in Rome speaks for itself, but I’d remind our readers that this courageous priest is not part of the SSPX or FSSP or any other traditionalist fraternity or society. He is a diocesan priest who is protecting his flock and defending Truth at a critical juncture in history. May Father's brother priests heed his call. To catch Father’s regular column, please subscribe HERE. MJM
Dear Brother Priests:
The traditional Gospel of the Holy Mass on the Second Sunday of Easter is that of the Good Shepherd:
For two years, bishops presented their respective cases for two contradicting views of marriage, re-marriage, and the Church's own sacraments. Pope Francis didn't choose between these two options. He chose them both. The pope did not effect some grand synthesis. He merely gave his imprimatur to the Church's own confused practice on these matters and, more frighteningly, to its self-doubt.
As a result, the Joy of Love reads as an admission that God, as Catholics understand him, really isn't merciful or gracious to poor sinners. So priests should try to do better from now on. READ MORE HERE
REMNANT COMMENT: Here's the quotable quote of the week, maybe even the year: "This supposed paean to love is something much sadder. A Church so anxious to include and accept you that it must deny the faith that transforms and renews you. It admits that God's commands are not just beyond our reach, but possibly destructive to follow. Pope Francis is trying to be more merciful than God himself."
Congrats to Mr. Dougherty for having had the intestinal fortitude to say what so many Catholic news commentators know to be the truth but will not admit. It's not popular; it may get you fired or even beat up--but it's the truth and it must be said...regardless of the game of Let's Pretend being played by our friends the neo-Catholics.
"The research was done by Dr. Juan Manuel Miñarro, a sculpture professor at the University of Seville, as part of a project sponsored by the Valencia-based Centro Español de Sindonología (CES) (The Spanish Center of Sindonology).
"The study thus supports what tradition has held for more than two millennia: that the two cloths came from the same historical person, who, according to this tradition, was Jesus of Nazareth. - See more HERE:
REMNANT COMMENT: This is the real, historical Jesus Christ coming to life before our eyes. He really existed. He really lived. He really died. He really was. And if He was then He must have been Who He said he was. And if He was Who He said He was then He was God, Christ the King, Lord of History...and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
What do the Christ deniers say to this? How long do Christophobic haters get to deny history? When do we get to enact laws making it a crime to deny the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
The New Synodal Church at Work
Cardinals Dolan (L) and Wuerl Attend Mass for the Opening of the Extraordinary Synod On the Family in Rome Last OctoberThere is no other way to say this: Despite its protestations to the contrary Amoris Laetitia represents an attempt to achieve a revolution in Catholicism at the expense of the prior teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and reception of the Eucharist.
In addition, and on a more mundane level, it is a tediously long and verbose piece of poorly-written and thought-out amateur post-modern-deconstructionist sociology.
Our Lord says "whoever puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery (Lk 16:18)."
But in Chapter 8 of “The Joy of Love” Francis says: Well, really, it depends on the circumstances.
In keeping with Our Lord’s divine admonition, the Church has constantly affirmed her “practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried” unless, if they "cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” (Familiaris consortio, 84)
"Sanders will then return to New York for the final days of campaigning before the April 19 primary.
"While a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn and an Argentine Catholic pontiff sounds like an odd couple, Sanders said the two shared similar views on many issues — particularly the economy and specifically the 1% of America’s wealthiest people." READ MORE HERE
REMNANT COMMENT: Sanders describes himself as a “big, big fan of the pope,” and has reportedly invoked Pope Francis many times, even on the campaign trail. Pope Francis in return describes the avowed socialist Sanders as a “world leader.”
What's it going to take to wake our friends the neo-Catholics from their interminable slumber?
UPDATE: The Vatican has clarified that contrary to a Bloomberg report stating that Sanders had invited himself to the Vatican, it was in fact the Vatican that formally extended the invitation to Bernie Sanders:
Here's the Reuters report: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was invited to speak at an April 15 Vatican event by the Vatican, a senior papal official said on Friday, denying a report that Sanders had invited himself."I deny that. It was not that way," Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo told Reuters in a telephone interview while he was traveling in New York. Sorondo, a close aide to Pope Francis, is chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting the event.
He said it was his idea to invite Sanders.
A Bloomberg report quoted Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that Sanders had broken with protocol by failing to contact her office first.
"This is not true and she knows it. I invited him with her consensus," said Sorondo, who is senior to Archer.
An invitation to Sanders dated March 30, which was emailed to Reuters, was signed by Sorondo and also included Archer's name.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella in Vatican City and Alana Wise in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Toni Reinhold)
Remnant Editor's Note: The following is a Q&A overview of the much anticipated Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, followed by a general synopsis. None of this is written or compiled by The Remnant, and it absolutely does NOT reflect our opinion or editorial postion on this exceedingly problematic document. Please look for full Remnant commentary later on today. MJM
Questions & Answers
The following questions and answers may help to focus on some important points of Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family”, the Exhortation written by Pope Francis after the two Synods of Bishops on that topic in October 2014 and October 2015. Included are questions that might well be asked by journalists.
1. What’s new in this exhortation, Amoris Laetitia?
AL draws on a long history of Church teaching, and a very intense Synod experience. It draws on both new and old. What’s new above all is an attitude of accompaniment. Pope Francis, like his predecessors, recognizes the complexity of modern family life. But he puts an added emphasis on the need for the Church and her ministers to be close to people no matter what their situation might be or how far from the Church they might feel: to understand, to accompany, to integrate, and to have their arms open especially for anyone who is hurting. (AL 311) AL is not simply a theoretical text with no connection to people’s real problems. The very title suggests the positive thrust of the document. It continually offers concrete reminders of the beauty of family life, despite all the challenges this vocation can entail. Pope Francis writes eloquently about how forming a family means being part of God’s dream, joining him in building a world “where no one will feel alone.” (AL 320)
2. Why is this such a long document? Can most Catholics read it and benefit from it? Or is it for experts only?
Pope Francis notes in the introduction that nobody should rush through AL, and people should pay attention to what applies most to their specific needs. While AL is essential reading for bishops, priests, and anyone involved with the family apostolate, it is important that all Catholics see the effort the Church is making to be close to them. For example, married couples will be especially interested in Chapter Four on “Love in Marriage,” Ch Five, on “Love Made Fruitful” and Ch Seven, on the “Education of Children.” Pope Francis wants to help Christian couples persevere with fidelity and patience, and encourages everyone to be a sign of mercy wherever family life lacks peace and joy. (AL 5) Readers may be pleasantly surprised by how concrete AL is. Pope Francis, with a pastor’s heart, simply yet deeply enters into the everyday realities of family life.
3. Much of the controversy around the Synod was about Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly receiving Holy Communion. But AL does not pronounce definitively on the issue. Why not?
The Synod discovered that arguments with winners and losers were not productive. What was productive was a deep, respectful and compassionate examination of family life, marriage, and the People of God as they strive to live out their vocation in troubled and complex times. Chapter Eight, “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness,” offers a very profound look at how general rules do not apply straightforwardly to every particular situation. And so there is need to take the complexity of each situation into account. The Pope acknowledges that everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It certainly calls pastors and those working in family apostolates to listen sensitively to anyone who feels wounded, and to help them experience God’s unconditional love.
4. An important word in this document is “discernment.” What does discernment mean for Pope Francis? Does it mean someone can simply look for a compassionate priest to tell him or her that everything is ok?
Discernment is a constant effort to be open to the Word of God to illuminate the concrete reality of everyday life. Discernment leads us to be docile to the Spirit; it encourages each of us to act with all possible love in concrete situations. Pope Francis asks pastors and faithful to discern each concrete situation carefully. Any priest or pastoral worker who is actively involved in helping people grow spiritually knows that there are no easy recipes, no “one-size-fits-all”, no quick and easy exceptions. At the same time, discernment can never be separated from the Gospel demands of truth and charity and from the teaching and tradition of the Church. It requires humility and a sincere search for God’s will.
5. There are many Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried, struggling to try to do things right and bring up their children in the Church. What does AL offer them?
AL offers them the guarantee that the Church and her ministers care about them and their concrete situation. AL wants them to feel and to know that they are part of the Church. They are not excommunicated. (AL 243) Even if they cannot yet fully participate in the Church’s sacramental life, they are encouraged to take active part in the life of the community. A key concept of AL is integration. Pastors need to do everything possible to help people in these situations to be included in the life of the community. Anyone in a so-called “irregular” situation should get special attention. “Helping heal the wounds of parents and supporting them spiritually is also beneficial for children, who need the familiar face of the Church to see them through this traumatic experience.” (AL 246) 3
6. For a Synod that at one moment seemed to offer broad new acceptance for gays in the Church, AL seems to present precious little. What happened?
Church teaching remains clear: marriage is between a man and a woman, and homosexual unions cannot be placed on the same level as Christian marriage. (AL 250) That said, it is important that we all learn to imitate God’s unconditional love, for everyone. “The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception.” (AL 250) While its focus is on marriage and family, AL also speaks to countless people who aren’t married. These include single parents, widows and widowers, celibate men and women – all of whom have family links. Everyone is a son or daughter; everyone has a family history; everyone has bonds of love with family members; and everyone has friends in difficult and painful situations.
7. AL is critical in talking about past practices (nn 36, 37, 38) including an emphasis on doctrinal and moral issues, and denouncing a decadent world without offering much that is positive. Is that a criticism of past papacies?
A quick look at the footnotes shows how extensively John Paul II is quoted in AL, especially Familiaris Consortio. Pope Francis also makes use of Deus Caritas Est from Pope Benedict. AL offers hope, and hope in abundance. It is not a list of rules or of condemnations but a call for acceptance and of accompaniment, involvement and integration. Even when people –- for so many different reasons -- have not been able to live up to the ideals of Christ’s teaching, the Church and her ministers want to be at their side to help them on their journey. “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.” (AL 295)
8. One of the biggest concerns of many couples is spacing births, yet it’s not a major subject in AL. Why not?
AL actually deals with this subject in several different sections, including nn. 42, 68, 82 and 222. While noting that greater emphasis has to be given to the fact that children are a gift from God and a joy for parents, it also cites Humanae Vitae, stressing that spouses be aware of their obligations concerning responsible parenthood. (AL 68) Moreover, a decision about the spacing of births “takes place as the result of a consensual dialogue between the spouses.” (AL 222) AL cites the Second Vatican Council in this regard, emphasizing the importance of the formation of conscience, where each person is alone with God. The exhortation also encourages natural methods of regulating births, since they respect the bodies and indeed the “whole person” of the spouses.4
9. What’s the greatest challenge of Amoris Laetitia?
The biggest challenge is for everyone to read it without rushing and put it into practice. AL lays out proposals for the Church and her pastors to change its focus regarding the family: to accompany, to integrate, to remain close to anyone who has suffered the effects of wounded love. Above all, AL challenges us to be understanding in the face of complex and painful situations. Pope Francis would have us approach the weak with compassion, and not judgement, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness.” (AL 308)
+ + +
It is not by chance that Amoris Laetitia (AL), "The Joy of Love", the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "on Love in the Family", was signed on 19 March, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. It brings together the results of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015. It often cites their Final Reports; documents and teachings of his Predecessors; and his own numerous catecheses on the family. In addition, as in previous magisterial documents, the Pope also makes use of the contributions of various Episcopal Conferences around the world (Kenya, Australia, Argentina...) and cites significant figures such as Martin Luther King and Erich Fromm. The Pope even quotes the film Babette’s Feast to illustrate the concept of gratuity.
The Apostolic Exhortation is striking for its breadth and detail. Its 325 paragraphs are distributed over nine chapters. The seven introductory paragraphs plainly set out the complexity of a topic in urgent need of thorough study. The interventions of the Synod Fathers make up [form] a "multifaceted gem" (AL 4), a precious polyhedron, whose value must be preserved. But the Pope cautions that "not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium". Indeed, for some questions, "each country or region … can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle … needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied’" (AL 3). This principle of inculturation applies to how problems are formulated and addressed and, apart from the dogmatic issues that have been well defined by the Church’s magisterium, none of this approach can be "globalized". In his address at the end of the 2015 Synod, the Pope said very clearly: "What seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion."
The Pope clearly states that we need above all to avoid a sterile juxtaposition between demands for change and the general application of abstract norms. He writes: "The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations" (AL 2).
Chapter One: "In the light of the Word" (8-30)
Following this introduction, the Pope begins his reflections with the Holy Scriptures in the first chapter, which unfolds as a meditation on Psalm 128 (which appears in the Jewish wedding liturgy as well as that of Christian marriages). The Bible "is full of families, births, love stories and family crises" (AL 8). This impels us to meditate on how the family is not an abstract ideal but rather like a practical "trade" (AL 16), which is carried out with tenderness (AL 28), but which has also been confronted with sin from the beginning, when the relationship of love turned into domination (cf. AL 19). Hence, the Word of God "is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering. For it shows them the goal of their journey..." (AL 22).
Building on the biblical base, in the second chapter the Pope considers the current situation of families. While keeping "firmly grounded in [the] reality" of family experiences (AL 6), he also draws heavily on the final Reports of the two Synods. Families face many challenges, from migration to the ideological denial of differences between the sexes ("ideology of gender" AL 56); from the culture of the provisional to the antibirth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation; from the lack of housing and work to pornography and abuse of minors; from inattention to persons with disabilities, to lack of respect for the elderly; from the legal dismantling of the family, to violence against women. The Pope insists on concreteness, which is a key concept in the Exhortation. And it is concreteness, realism and daily life that make up the substantial difference between acceptable "theories" of interpretation of reality and arbitrary "ideologies".
Citing Familiaris consortio, Francis states that "we do well to focus on concrete realities, since ‘the call and the demands of the Spirit resound in the events of history’, and through these ‘the Church can also be guided to a more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mystery of marriage and the family’" (AL 31). Conversely, if we fail to listen to reality, we cannot understand the needs of the present or the movements of the Spirit. The Pope notes that rampant individualism makes it difficult today for a person to give oneself generously to another (cf. AL 33). Here is an interesting picture of the situation: "The fear of loneliness and the desire for stability and fidelity exist side by side with a growing fear of entrapment in a relationship that could hamper the achievement of one’s personal goals" (AL 34).
The humility of realism helps us to avoid presenting "a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families" (AL 36). Idealism does not allow marriage to be understood for what it is, that is, a "dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment". It is unrealistic to think that families can sustain themselves "simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace" (AL 37). Calling for a certain "self-criticism" of approaches that are inadequate for the experience of marriage and the family, the Pope stresses the need to make room for the formation of the conscience of the faithful: "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them" (AL 37). Jesus proposed a demanding ideal but "never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery" (AL 38).
Chapter three: "Looking to Jesus: The vocation of the family" (58-88)
The third chapter is dedicated to some essential elements of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family. This chapter is important because its 30 paragraphs concisely depict the vocation of the family according to the Gospel and as affirmed by the Church over time. Above all, it stresses the themes of indissolubility, the sacramental nature of marriage, the transmission of life and the education of children. Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II, Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, and Familiaris Consortio of John Paul II are widely quoted.
The chapter provides a broad view and touches on "imperfect situations" as well. We can read, in fact: "‘Discernment of the presence of ‘seeds of the Word’ in other cultures (cf. Ad Gentes 11) can also apply to the reality of marriage and the family. In addition to true natural marriage, positive elements exist in the forms of marriage found in other religious traditions’, even if, at times, obscurely" (AL 77). The reflection also includes the "wounded families" about whom the Pope – quoting the Final Report of the 2015 Synod extensively – says that "it is always necessary to recall this general principle: ‘Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations’ (Familiaris Consortio, 84). The degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases and factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision. Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition" (AL 79).
Chapter four: "Love in marriage" (89-164)
The fourth chapter treats love in marriage, which it illuminates with Saint Paul’s Hymn to Love in1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This opening section is truly a painstaking, focused, inspired and poetic exegesis of the Pauline text. It is a collection of brief passages carefully and tenderly describing human love in absolutely concrete terms. The quality of psychological introspection that marks this exegesis is striking. The psychological insights enter into the emotional world of the spouses – positive and negative – and the erotic dimension of love. This is an extremely rich and valuable contribution to Christian married life, unprecedented in previous papal documents.
This section digresses briefly from the more extensive, perceptive treatment of the day-to-day experience of married love which the Pope refuses to judge against ideal standards: "There is no need to lay upon two limited persons the tremendous burden of having to reproduce perfectly the union existing between Christ and his Church, for marriage as a sign entails ‘a dynamic process…, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God’" (AL 122). On the other hand, the Pope forcefully stresses the fact that conjugal love by its very nature defines the partners in a richly encompassing and lasting union (AL 123), precisely within that "mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures" (Al 126) which indeed make up a marriage.
The chapter concludes with a very important reflection on the "transformation of love" because "Longer life spans now mean that close and exclusive relationships must last for four, five or even six decades; consequently, the initial decision has to be frequently renewed" (AL 163). As physical appearance alters, the loving attraction does not lessen but changes as sexual desire can be transformed over time into the desire for togetherness and mutuality: "There is no guarantee that we will feel the same way all through life. Yet if a couple can come up with a shared and lasting life project, they can love one another and live as one until death do them part, enjoying an enriching intimacy" (AL 163).
Chapter five: "Love made fruitful" (165-198)
The fifth chapter is entirely focused on love’s fruitfulness and procreation. It speaks in a profoundly spiritual and psychological manner about welcoming new life, about the waiting period of pregnancy, about the love of a mother and a father. It also speaks of the expanded fruitfulness of adoption, of welcoming the contribution of families to promote a "culture of encounter", and of family life in a broad sense which includes aunts and uncles, cousins, relatives of relatives, friends. Amoris laetitia does not focus on the so-called "nuclear" family" because it is very aware of the family as a wider network of many relationships. The spirituality of the sacrament of marriage has a deeply social character (cf. AL 187). And within this social dimension the Pope particularly emphasizes the specific role of the relationship between youth and the elderly, as well as the relationship between brothers and sisters as a training ground for relating with others.
Chapter six: "Some pastoral perspectives" (199-258)
In the sixth chapter the Pope treats various pastoral perspectives that are aimed at forming solid and fruitful families according to God’s plan. The chapter use the Final Reports of the two Synods and the catecheses of Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II extensively. It reiterates that families should not only be evangelized, they should also evangelize. The Pope regrets "that ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families" (AL 202). On the one hand, the psycho-affective formation of seminarians needs to be improved, and families need to be more involved in formation for ministry (cf. AL 203); and on the other hand, "the experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon" (AL 202).
The Pope then deals with the preparation of the engaged for marriage; with the accompaniment of couples in the first years of married life, including the issue of responsible parenthood; and also with certain complex situations and crises, knowing that "each crisis has a lesson to teach us; we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart" (AL 232). Some causes of crisis are analysed, among them a delay in maturing affectively (cf. AL 239).
Mention is furthermore made of accompanying abandoned, separated or divorced persons. The Exhortation stresses the importance of the recent reform of the procedures for marriage annulment. It highlights the suffering of children in situations of conflict and concludes: "Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times" (AL 246). It then touches on the situations of a marriage between a Catholic and a Christian of another denomination (mixed marriages), and between a Catholic and someone of another religion (disparity of cult). Regarding families with members with homosexual tendencies, it reaffirms the necessity to respect them and to refrain from any unjust discrimination and every form of aggression or violence. The last, pastorally poignant part of the chapter, "When death makes us feel its sting", is on the theme of the loss of dear ones and of widowhood.
Chapter seven: "Towards a better education of children" (259-290)
The seventh chapter is dedicated to the education of children: their ethical formation, the learning of discipline which can include punishment, patient realism, sex education, passing on the faith and, more generally, family life as an educational context. The practical wisdom present in each paragraph is remarkable, above all the attention given to those gradual, small steps "that can be understood, accepted and appreciated" (AL 271).
There is a particularly interesting and pedagogically fundamental paragraph in which Francis clearly states that "obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience… If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy" (AL 260).
The notable section on education in sexuality is very expressively entitled: "Yes to sex education". The need is there, and we have to ask "if our educational institutions have taken up this challenge … in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished". Sound education needs to be carried out "within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving" (AL 280). The text warns that the expression ‘safe sex’ conveys "a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance" (AL 283).
Chapter eight: "Guiding, discerning and integrating weakness" (291-312)
The eighth chapter is an invitation to mercy and pastoral discernment in situations that do not fully match what the Lord proposes. The Pope uses three very important verbs: guiding, discerning and integrating, which are fundamental in addressing fragile, complex or irregular situations. The chapter has sections on the need for gradualness in pastoral care; the importance of discernment; norms and mitigating circumstances in pastoral discernment; and finally what the Pope calls the "logic of pastoral mercy".
Chapter eight is very sensitive. In reading it one must remember that "the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital" (AL 291). Here the Holy Father grapples with the findings of the Synods on controversial issues. He reaffirms what Christian marriage is and adds that "some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way". The Church therefore "does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage" (AL 292). As far as discernment with regard to "irregular" situations is concerned, the Pope states: "There is a need ‘to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations’ and ‘to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition’" (AL 296). And he continues: "It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community, and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy" (AL 297). And further: "The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment" (AL 298).
In this line, gathering the observations of many Synod Fathers, the Pope states that "the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal". "Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services… Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church… This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children" (AL 299).
In a more general vein, the Pope makes an extremely important statement for understanding the orientation and meaning of the Exhortation: "If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations, … it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is needed is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same" (AL 300). The Pope develops in depth the needs and characteristics of the journey of accompaniment and discernment necessary for profound dialogue between the faithful and their pastors.
For this purpose the Holy Father recalls the Church’s reflection on "mitigating factors and situations" regarding the attribution of responsibility and accountability for actions; and relying on St. Thomas Aquinas, he focuses on the relationship between rules and discernment by stating: "It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule" (AL 304). The last section of the chapter treats "The logic of pastoral mercy". To avoid misunderstandings, Pope Francis strongly reiterates: "To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown" (AL 307). The overall sense of the chapter and of the spirit that Pope Francis wishes to impart to the pastoral work of the Church is well summed up in the closing words: "I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church." (AL 312).
On the "logic of pastoral mercy", Pope Francis emphasizes: "At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel" (AL 311).
Chapter nine: "The spirituality of marriage and the family" (313-325)
The ninth chapter is devoted to marital and family spirituality, which "is made up of thousands of small but real gestures" (AL 315). The Pope clearly states that "those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union" (AL 316). Everything, "moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection" (AL 317). He then speaks of prayer in the light of Easter, of the spirituality of exclusive and free love in the challenge and the yearning to grow old together, reflecting God’s fidelity (cf. AL 319). And finally the spirituality of care, consolation and incentive: the Pope teaches that "all family life is a ‘shepherding’ in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others" (AL 322). It is a profound "spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them" (AL 323).
In the final paragraph the Pope affirms: "No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love … All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together. (…) May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us" (AL 325).
The Apostolic Exhortation concludes with a Prayer to the Holy Family.
As can readily be understood from a quick review of its contents, the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia seeks emphatically to affirm not the "ideal family" but the very rich and complex reality of family life. Its pages provide an openhearted look, profoundly positive, which is nourished not with abstractions or ideal projections, but with pastoral attention to reality. The text is a close reading of family life, with spiritual insights and practical wisdom useful for every human couple or persons who want to build a family. Above all, it is patently the result of attention to what people have lived over many years. The Exhortation Amoris laetitia: On Love in the Family indeed speaks the language of experience and of hope.