Some initial comments on Amoris Laetitia Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Apr. 14, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

There is a great deal to consider and to speak of this week. However, I want first to comment on the readings of this past weekend and specifically upon the Second Reading (Rev 5:11-14), which provide us with a beautiful image of heaven.

Eternal realities

In that reading we hear of the vision that St. John had of all creation singing eternally: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!” A beautiful, glorious hymn of praise for all eternity is one very reliable picture of what heaven is like.

And it’s worth taking a moment to remember that you and I are called to realize that picture as best as we can in this world. We’ve spoken often of reflecting this image by the attention and reverence we give to our liturgy, but this beauty can also be reflected in the way we live and speak of the Truths of our faith.

In a particular way, we can live out the beauty of our heavenly destination by the way we live and speak about marriage -- which is recounted ever so beautifully in the latest apostolic exhortation of our Holy Father, Amoris Laetitia.

I certainly wish to touch upon my initial impressions of Amoris Laetitia, which is Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. However I wanted first to bring it into the context of our own liturgical life by reminding us that as we consider the Pope’s Exhortation in light of our own times and our own needs, let’s recall the ultimate realities at hand -- realities far greater than the concerns of this world, eternal realities.

Read the whole document

Now, this Apostolic Exhortation is about 260 pages, which is long for a papal document, but it is not unapproachable -- quite the contrary -- and I’d encourage you to consider reading through the whole thing yourselves.

That being said, I’ve only had the document for about as long as it’s been out for the whole world, and these have been a busy couple of days. But Pope Francis himself has said that this should not be read in a rushed and hurried way. That’s why I have not commented on it in writing as of yet, and that’s why I’d like only to give a few words here.

The beauty of married life

And my first word is just what I’ve said, marriage and married life is treated in such a tremendously beautiful way. The first seven chapters really lay out all of the goods of marriage and Chapter 4 especially is a beautiful hymn to the glory of the Father, and to the Lamb praising the beauty of married love. In reading it, I’d invite you to consider it as an offering of a beautiful hymn to the Father -- a hymn that anticipates that glorious hymn of all creation in heaven.

Chapter 4 is based on the beautiful hymn to love of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind . . . ” I’d invite you to take Chapter 4, to meditate on it, and to feel yourself joined to the angels and saints in heaven, singing that beautiful hymn of praise, on earth, to married love. And recall that -- as we have talked about at great length in efforts for the New Evangelization -- more than anything else, we rely on beauty to draw people toward the risen Christ.

The lived-out experience of a faithful, indissoluble, open-to-life marriage is indeed beautiful and does give glory to God the Father and to the Lamb. So meditate on Chapter 4, pray about it, and give praise united with the whole of creation by what you say and do with regard to marriage.

‘Irregular situations’

Now, after considering all of the goods of marriage, the document turns (in Chapter 8) toward speaking of couples who find themselves in what are called “irregular situations.” In such situations (like the civilly divorced and remarried person who has not had their previous marriage declared null), Pope Francis adjures us in the Church to walk with such people. He adjures us not to cast them out. And I hope we never have really cast them out.

It’s so easy for people in irregular situations to feel cast out, whether they have been cast out or not, and that is truly a problem that we have to face.

There are a number of people who feel (and who may have even been told by people in the Church) that once they are entrenched in an “irregular situation,” there is no way forward and we must certainly make clear that that is never the case. The mercy of Jesus and His desire for people to find a home once again in His Church must be proclaimed.

Now, since I haven’t had as much time with this document as I would like, and when it comes to Chapter 8, I haven’t sat with it and given it a great deal of time and prayerful study, I will defer written comment on Chapter 8 to a later date.

But, if people are only reading media reports on the Exhortation (and the media is only really reporting on Chapter 8), there’s no hope of really coming to understand the whole picture of the Church’s teaching.

Media’s take on conscience

The key word in the media’s take on the document is “conscience.” How many times have I talked about the problems in the Church after Vatican II as related to the misunderstanding of conscience? I’ve certainly used up a good deal of ink in this space on the topic.

And now, the media is interpreting Chapter 8 as going right back to that misinterpretation! They tried for 50 years to get it across and, in the case of a lot of Catholics, they succeeded, but not completely. So here we go again, the very issue that caused the misleading of the Church after Vatican II is now raised up again by the mass media as the great advance forward that Pope Francis has made in this document.

Don’t believe it. The Second Vatican Council really did teach us about conscience rightly understood. St. John Paul the Great’s Encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, reiterated the truth about conscience and fleshed it out even more. Pope Francis is not teaching any different truth. That which is taught consistently, persistently, and clearly by the Church cannot change.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! Praised be Jesus Christ!