The latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia from Pope Francis is the culmination of the synods on the family held in October 2014 and 2015. Where the bishops discussed the family and marriage in depth and what consists of a family today, but we will get to that later. It consists of nine chapters with an introduction as well as a prayer for the Family at the end. I’ve gotten through Chapter Five so here are my thoughts so far.
First and foremost in the introduction we hear that there isn’t a simple fix for all the problems in around the world and that some issues are better suited for local churches to do anything so that it helps with the various cultures around the world. The other big part of the introduction is Pope Francis saying to take your time to prayerfully read through this document.
In the first chapter Pope Francis goes into a deep meditation Psalm 128:1-6, often used in Jewish and Christian weddings, and pulls from it a starting place that Family is a real thing there is no “perfect family”. Family is at the core of the Bible and can be seen though the trinity as Saint John Paul II said “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit”. The Word of God is a road map for our journey.
In chapter two the focus turns to the current situation of the family. There are many problems that families face today from all sides. Pope Francis gets together a laundry list ranging from migration to the ideological denial of differences between the sexes (“ideology of gender”); from the culture of the provisional to the anti-birth 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.
In chapter three we basically cover the Church’s position on Family and Marriage. We look to Christ as the role model for the Vocation of Family. The part does a lot of referencing to older documents like Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, and St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio. Francis call us to remember Familiaris Consortio where Pope John Paul defined family as the way of the Church. The focus then turns to marriage are reminds us that the sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment as Familiaris Consortio says it is mutual self-giving. Another big thing is the discussion that the main mission of the Church is to form consciences not be the conscience for people.
As we reach chapter four we look at love. Pope Francis once again goes into the Bible and take one of the classic wedding readings, Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians 13, and offers a deep meditation on it. This is something that will become something all couples getting married should read before they get married. It’s roughly a quarter of the document and for a good reason,
In the fifth chapter it looks at the family not just the nuclear family but the wider ranging social community that marriages exist within. Pope Francis also doesn’t only talk about traditional families but also adopted ones as well. A key aspect is in relating between the old and young as well as brothers and sister because these are building blocks for growing up and relating with others as we grow older.