Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Amoris Laetitia

Amoris Laetitia can be read here.

Sadly, as I predicted would occur back during the synod, the Pope has not made any actual change with his exhortation, not in doctrine nor in pastoral practice either .... see conservative Damian Thompson's article, Pope Francis’s revolution has been cancelled, and in an article in The Tablet Mary Hunt, writes ...

Amoris Laetitia is a study in ambiguity that gives new evidence for the use of the term “jesuitical”. Published under the name of the current Jesuit pope, the document is really several somewhat disjointed pieces — a biblical study, some reflections on families that border on New Age, restatement of institutional Church teachings on the topic, and some toying with change that does not amount to much of anything new.

Effective contraception is still banned; same-sex marriage is still seen as completely different from heterosexual marriage. Those who are divorced and remarried are told in pastoral practice to do what they think is best in conversation with their local priest.

Alas, the hetero monogamous ideal remains in place while lip service is paid to the remote possibility of other options. Clearly the input of lay people at the two Synods amounted to little or nothing. All in all, this is a missed opportunity for Pope Francis to demonstrate that there is anything new under the Vatican sun.

In an article in The New Yorker on Amoris Laetitia, James Carroll tells of the already common use of the "pastoral solution" by himself and other priests in the 60s to help Catholics use their consciences to work around church teachings, and the best he can say of the Pope's exhortation is that it publicly mentions the already extant pastoral solution.

While there are some nice bits in the exhortation, there are also some unwelcome things, the most obvious being the utter rejection of marriage equality for LGBT people. Lest you think that's to be expected from a Christian church, remember that many Christian churches have accepted marriage equality and that a majority of Catholics are in favor of it. Here's an article on this aspect of the exhortation ... If the pope loves gay people, he has a strange way of showing it ...

[The exhortation] contains some good news for divorced and remarried Catholics, who Francis hinted should be allowed to take communion again. But on the fraught issue of the LGBT community, he remains disappointingly rigid: “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” ....

On the surface, preaching compassion for all—including those attracted to members of the same sex—might seem like a step in the right direction for an institution that has a long history of anti-gay rhetoric. But there’s something a little unsettling, condescending even, about what he’s suggesting now: that you can respect the dignity of an individual while also denying that person his or her fundamental rights ...

Another part of the Pope's exhortation that bothered me was what he said about women ... he criticizes gender theory and supports JPII's ideas of complementarianism and feminine genius, and though its subtle, we're left with the idea that women exist for one purpose: making babies. Near the beginning of the exhortation, the Pope criticizes the secular world for discrimination against women in a statement that could win an irony award ... I would like to stress the fact that, even though significant advances have been made in the recognition of women’s rights and their participation in public life in some countries much remains to be done to promote these rights. ... I think of ... their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making.

Here's a bit from an article that touches on the way women and their reproductive rights are spoken of in the exhortation ....

[...] In line with previous comments, Francis appears to maintain his annoying blind spot when it comes to women. Denial of differences between the sexes is described as “ideological.” But who claims that there are no differences? Rather, women are struggling to do away with unequal opportunities that exploit difference as an excuse to, for instance, pay women less than men, or for that matter, to exclude them from the priesthood.

Starting with a section called “You and Your Wife,” which is not followed by one called “You and Your Husband,” Francis struggles with the complicated role of women in the modern family, and in fact his document leaves no room for what most of us understand by equality of the sexes. Nor does it quote any women on the matter.

“With great affection I urge all future moth­ers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood,” he writes. “Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world. Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing,” he writes.

“The weak­ening of this maternal presence with its femi­nine qualities poses a grave risk to our world,” writes Francis. “I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood.”

Along the same lines, and what will surely come as a relief for American Catholic bishops who strongly oppose Obamacare’s contraception mandate, Francis reiterates that birth control is still a no-go zone.

In one rather bizarre passage, he writes that “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.” What about “safe sex” to prevent STDs? Indeed, what about AIDS? That meaning seems to have eluded him.

“The upright consciences of spouses who have been generous in transmitting life may lead them, for sufficiently serious reasons, to limit the number of their children, yet precisely for the sake of this dignity of conscience, the church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization and even abortion,” he writes, in language that would appear to lump the pill together with China’s one-child policy and its abuses. “Such measures are unacceptable even in places with high birth rates, yet also in countries with disturbingly low birth rates we see politicians en­couraging them.”

So, after a couple of years of hoping, from pre-synod surveys to the synod, to this exhortation, we are left with the end result that maybe, in some circumstances, some divorced/remarried people might be able to garner some mercy from the church for their failure and go to communion .... something which has already been the case in many parishes for years. I'm kind of underwhelmed.


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