08 April 2016

On Divorce, Contraception, Pope Calls For More Grace, Less Dogma & Applause, Dismay, Confusion Over Pope's Words 8APR16

Pope Francis at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. On Friday he released a post-synodal apostolic exhortation called "Amoris Laetitia," or "The Joy of Love."
THOSE with a problem with the Catholic Church and religion in general will criticize Pope Francis' pronouncement on these issues. They look for anything to justify their hatred of religion, especially Christianity in this country, how sad for them. I see this as an acknowledgement of the teachings and life examples of Jesus Christ as so eloquently expressed by Pope Francis And he notes that Jesus set forth a demanding ideal for his followers — but "never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals.".  This is not the Pope giving Christians license to ignore the doctrines of Christianity. It is the Pope's recognition that the 'thou shalls' and 'thou shall nots' are mandatory goals for all believers to strive for, and recognizing that we are all human, and if we are really trying to live the Christian life, but at times fail, the Catholic Church leadership and all Christians should try to respond as Christ would, " to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals.". The Pope is calling for more Christianity, less dogma. This from +NPR and +Sojourners .....

On Divorce, Contraception, Pope Calls For More Grace, Less Dogma

In a major document released Friday, Pope Francis addressed divisive elements of Catholic doctrine — including how to treat couples who remarry after a divorce that wasn't annulled by the church, and the church's stance on contraception.
Without issuing any new top-down doctrine, Francis said that priests should focus on providing pastoral care for Catholic couples, rather than sitting in judgment of them, and that individual conscience should be emphasized, rather than dogmatic rules.
The document — a post-synodal apostolic exhortation called "Amoris Laetitia," or "The Joy of Love" — is more than 250 pages long.
In it, the pope emphasizes that life is more complicated than religious law. In the opening pages, he invokes the values of "generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience," but also says he wishes to "encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy."
Copies of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" (The Joy of Love) are on display at a press conference at the Vatican on Friday. In it, Pope Francis writes that individual conscience should be the guiding principle for Catholics negotiating the complexities of sex, marriage and family life.i
Copies of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" (The Joy of Love) are on display at a press conference at the Vatican on Friday. In it, Pope Francis writes that individual conscience should be the guiding principle for Catholics negotiating the complexities of sex, marriage and family life.
Andrew Medichini/AP
He explains that in Amoris Laetitia, in addition to considering scripture, he will "examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality." And he notes that Jesus set forth a demanding ideal for his followers — but "never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals."
Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter told NPR's Morning Edition that the exhortation has a very different tone than previous church pronouncements on these subjects.
The focus on "conscience" as a determining factor is key, McElwee says. He explains what that means in this context:
"That's something that the church talked about 50 years ago, but the last couple of popes did not expand upon. And what Pope Francis is saying is that conscience means that people can be hearing something from God, kind of in the depths of their heart, that may even be not quite in accord with what the church teaches generally, as a general norm, but can still be true and can still be discerned to be God's will in their life. So he's allowing for a little bit of discord between individual cases and the general church teaching."
On Divorce
When it comes to divorce and remarriage, McElwee says, the pope doesn't directly change church law — which holds that couples who divorce and remarry without getting a Catholic annulment are committing adultery and cannot receive communion.
"But he kind of pivots the church stance, asking clergy to be much more pastoral and not always apply one general norm to all cases — but instead help people discern what God is doing in their lives, even if they might be living in a situation the church in past years might have called irregular," McElwee says.
No longer can the church simply say everyone in such an "irregular situation" is living in mortal sin, McElwee explains. Instead, each individual situation will need to be looked at separately.
"So, it's a very different stance, and it's allowing clergy to let people discern God's will, even in situations where that might be what, what he says, 'morally confusing,' " McElwee says.
Some in the Catholic Church wanted the pope to say it's OK for remarried people to take communion; others wanted "a very strong no," McElwee says.
"And what the pope has done really is seemed to embrace the middle path, looking for ambiguity, for individual situations."
On Contraception
Francis didn't describe any methods of contraception as "unlawful," as previous Catholic encyclicals have, The Associated Press notes.
Instead of characterizing contraception as a sin, Francis says the church must emphasize to young couples the joy of having children — while respecting the need for each couple to decide their family size on their own.
He cites the Relatio Finalis, written by bishops last year:
"In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner. ... Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience."
As well as the Second Vatican Council:
"Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. ... They should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God."
"Francis made a single reference to the church-sanctioned family planning method of abstaining from sex during a woman's fertile time," the AP writes. "He said only that such practices are to be 'promoted' — not that other methods are forbidden — and he insisted on the need for children to receive sex education, albeit without focusing on 'safe sex.' "
On Sex, Homosexuality And Gender
Francis rejected the idea that sexual desire is a thing to be "eliminated" or looked down upon.
"God himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures," he wrote.
He writes that sex and eroticism can be distorted — including when people instruct women to submit to their husbands, or sex becomes either selfish or purely self-sacrificing. But reciprocal and respectful sex, within the context of marriage, is a passion that reveals "the marvels of which the human heart is capable," Francis writes.
The pope also said that a "great variety" of family situations can offer stability, while emphasizing that same-sex marriage or unmarried committed relationships are not equal to marriage in the eyes of the Church.
The document references transgender people, saying that while there are "at times understandable aspirations" to ideologies that allow for a separation of gender and biological sex, they are attempting to "sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality."
The pope calls for women's rights to be advanced around the world and rejected the idea that feminism has hurt family structures. "The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear," he wrote.
On Marriage, The Church And The World
On marriage in general, the Pope writes that the Catholic Church needs "a healthy dose of self-criticism" for the way it has described and presented marriage to the public.
"[W]e often present marriage in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation ... At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. ...
"[W]e have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness."
The pope also addressed a wide range of challenges that affect families, including poverty; migration; children with special needs; elderly relatives who need care; drug use and alcoholism; domestic violence; and a lack of affordable housing, as well as social pressures and the difficulty of addressing marital problems.
"The Synod's reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family," he writes, "but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems. "


Applause, Dismay, Confusion Over Pope's Words

Image via REUTERS/Tony Gentile/RNS
Pope Francis’ “Joy of Love,” a massive document released April 8 that wraps unchanged doctrine on marriage, divorce, and LGBT life in gentle terms, is getting a mixed reaction from U.S. Catholics.
It brought joy to conservative Christians who feared Francis would tamper with dogma, but less love from liberals who had hoped for a change in practices, not simply in tone. Statements flooded out from both directions. A sampling:
  • Archbishop of Kentucky Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extolled it as “love letter to married couples and families” to realize more and more her mission to live and love as a family. “The pope traces through the Bible all the beauty of marriage and that “no obstacle is to big for Christ to overcome.”
  • The Human Rights Campaign was “disappointed” that the document, issued in the pope’s Year of Mercy, did not translate into fuller inclusion for LGBT Catholics, said Mary Beth Maxwell, an HRC senior vice president. She found consolation in knowing that “in a growing number of Catholic families and parishes all across this country we are welcomed for who we are, not judged or excluded because of doctrine.”
  • Conservative Catholic writer George Weigel, in the National Review, saw a thread throughout that church teachings can offer a structure for both holiness and happiness. He wrote that it says “many important things about love, marriage, the family, and the current cultural crisis of a world in which the imperial autonomous Self is running roughshod over just about everything, leaving a lot of human unhappiness in its wake.”
  • Catholics for Choice, a pro-contraception and abortion-rights group, pointed out that most U.S. Catholics were not waiting for approval from their church. President Jon O’Brien called Francis’ pastoral approach “a breath of fresh air… But talking about the law in a pastoral manner does not change doctrine, and it will not change the real practice of Catholics.”
Analysis by Catholic publications also divided on which themes to highlight.
National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters pulled a more optimistic message from the document. He says it “challenges the Church to do more than simply repeat the Catechism and harangue the fallen… The Holy Father does not believe the pastor, still less the magisterium, should tell people what to do, but that a pastor should accompany people so that they can discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives.”
The National Catholic Register highlighted a different thread through the document, one that might disturb conservatives by muddying up traditionalist ideas of clear rules with unspecified pastoral discretion: “Francis speaks in the chapter of a ‘need to avoid judgments’ that don’t take account of the ‘complexity of various situations’ and stresses the need of ‘reaching out to everyone.’ The divorced, he writes, should not be pigeonholed in ‘overly rigid classifications,’ leaving no room for personal and pastoral discernment.”
Reaction did not only come from Catholics struggling with the complex material and conflicting ways to read it. The Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted:
Man. is a mess.
Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality, and ethics.