Professor explains Pope Francis’ ‘Amoris Lætitia’
Selena Ponio | Tuesday, April 12, 2016
In Pope Francis’ new document “Amoris Lætitia,” he reflects on families and places an emphasis on the complexities of the different lives people lead. In this document, Francis reminds the Church to avoid judgment where there is a lack of understanding of these complexities.
Candida Moss, professor of theology, said one of the goals of the document, which translates into English as “The Joy of Love,” is to give spiritual guidance to members of the Catholic Church.
“The most important take away is that Francis is profoundly pastoral,” Moss said in an email interview. “He wants to meet people where they are, and he is especially attentive to the problems that affect Catholic families in the developing world.”
According to an article titled “Top Ten Takeaways from ‘Amoris Lætitia’” in America Magazine, an important theme in the document is that divorced and remarried Catholics should be more integrated into the Church.
“This seems to me to be primarily about tone and about signaling to the divorced and remarried that they are welcoming,” Moss said. “This isn’t a blanket invitation to participate in the Eucharist, but Francis is especially concerned with encouraging the divorced and remarried to bring their children to church.”
In “Amoris Lætitia,” Frances focuses on family, saying all members are invited to live good, Christian lives because no one is excluded from God’s love. Moss said though the document highlights the theme of acceptance, this does not mean an obliteration of traditional Catholic values.
“Francis is all about inviting everyone into the Church, but this doesn’t mean that it’s an ‘anything goes’ era,” Moss said. “As has been widely reported, he speaks about respecting the dignity of LGBT people and says that discrimination and violence must be rejected, but he followed these statements with strong denouncements of same-sex marriage.”
Other important points the document covers include the denouncement of the term “living in sin” and Francis’ advice that children should be educated in “God’s plan” for human sexuality. Francis also emphasizes a theme of cultural relativism by saying that the magisterium — the church’s teaching office — does not have an answer for every question because solutions vary between geographic locations based on the area’s cultural and traditional needs.
Moss said among this theme of acceptance, the Catholic definition of a family still remains unchanged.
“The only time when he talks about the shape of the family is when he talks about the family as more than the nuclear family as incorporating uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.” Moss said. “This isn’t a new model of the family for any South American Catholic like Francis, and it’s not a new model for the Church historically.”
Moss said while “Amoris Lætitia” sheds light on some new elements of Catholic teaching, overall Francis is mainly reemphasizing Catholic thought.
“Certainly there are elements — like his disapproval of helicopter parenting and promotion of sex education — that are new,” Moss said. “But while it is lengthy, broad and detailed, it doesn’t mark a profound shift in church teaching. Francis’s compassionate tone might seem novel, but I’m sure Jesus would like the credit for the spirit of the statement, ‘Who am I to judge?’”