These reflections of mine originally appeared on the Truth and Charity Forum of HLI
It is indeed nuanced, full of Pope Francis’s back and forth style as he shows sympathy for difficult situations in between tackling erroneous viewpoints. Like Christ with the woman caught in adultery, Francis counsels concern and care for sinners rather than simple condemnation, while still holding onto the reality of sin. Anything so thoughtfully balanced is bound to confuse or unsettle some people in a culture accustomed to accusations and polarization….
“In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy. Rather than offering the healing power of grace and the light of the Gospel message, some would ‘indoctrinate’ that message, turning it into ‘dead stones to be hurled at others.’ (AL 49)”
While it is manifest that conception occurred illicitly, children conceived out of wedlock are not uncommon, and we do not know the situation of willingness of either of the two participants. What Pope Francis is saying is that little good is achieved by shunning such a woman. Her situation is trialsome enough. It is precisely such a person who needs a place of welcome, not a bunch of judgemental scowls.
The much hyped question is that of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. And the answer isn’t the clear “yes,” that many media releases want it to be. This question is honestly a footnote to the wider discussion of family life, and a careful reading in continuity with Church teaching, reveals that there isn’t any change in canon law, or the Church’s codes for proper liturgical and sacramental observance. …
Canon Lawyer Edward Peters had this to say on his blog about those who “think that AL fn. 351 and its accompanying text authorize holy Communion for Catholics in irregular marriages.” He states that Francis never does this. The Pope does say that:
Catholics in irregular unions need the help of the sacraments (which of course they do), but he does not say ALL of the sacraments, and especially, not sacraments for which they are ineligible. He says that the confessional is not a ‘torture chamber’ (a trite remark but not an erroneous one). And he observes that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect (thank God), but a powerful spiritual medicine, which it is—unless it is taken unworthily or in violation of law, a caveat one may assume all Catholics, and certainly popes, know without having to say it.
Peters reads Amoris Laetitia in continuity with Catholic teaching, that all that is accepted about reception of the Eucharist still stands, which of course is the only reasonable way to read a papal document.
Did you hear about Amoris Laetitia? Did it seem controversial to you? I have read some good thoughts on both sides.