Every time Pope Francis sneezes, we have to endure the constant lamestream media’s commentary on how that sneeze means that he’s going to change Church Teaching on marriage, the family, homosexuality, abortion, or whatever the hell else they’re lobbying for that day.
So, of course, when he wrote his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, the media frenzy began again.
We should not listen to a word they say. I’ve already talked about how the media completely misrepresented his statement on guns, for example. So why do people keep tuning in, and forming their opinions on what a few obviously biased and agenda-driven media whores say the pope said?
Because it’s easy.
It’s so much easier to click on the Yahoo news link and read the biased summary, than it is to go to the Vatican website and spend your day actually reading the document.
In the words of the late, great, and wonderful Mother Angelica:
Substitute “lazy” for “liberal,” and it works just as well.
So I spent my time actually reading Amoris Laetitia, mostly because I needed to know what Pope Francis actually said. I want to know what Pope Francis actually said. I wanted to make sure that, at least in this little corner of the internet, the lies, distortions, blasphemies, nonsense, and manipulations of the left-controlled lamestream media and those who loathe and despise us would NOT affect the opinions and formation of anyone who reads this blog.
Of course, I’m a bit cranky at the moment, so you will excuse my bluntness. Take my advice: go get up off your rear end and read the document yourself. Read everything he said, and then judge what he said. Don’t believe what the media tells you, and don’t believe the angry pseudo-Catholics who read what the media says and then claim that the end times are coming, or that Pope Francis is the antichrist. Don’t even believe everything that I say about it. I have my own set of rose-colored lenses, just like everyone else. I plan on quoting the document directly, which is something the lamestream media whores won’t do, but maybe my conclusions are different from the Pope’s, and maybe different from yours. Maybe I got it wrong; I’m not infallible, and I’m definitely not all-knowing. Go read.
It’s not that hard.
I’ll go through each section individually, sort of like a fisk, but without the usual snark and ripping apart of everything in the original document. I will quote extensively, and the full and complete original document is available at the link above.
The intro is pretty straightforward; Francis basically outlines exactly what the point is. He’s going to illustrate why this is so important, and what he’s going to say in response to the issues, based on what the Synod concluded, as well as his own take on it.
The Synod process allowed for an examination of the situation of families in today’s world, and thus for a broader vision and a renewed awareness of the importance of marriage and the family. The complexity of the issues that arose revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions. The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity. The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.
So yeah, you lamestream media morons. He’s not just going to up and change everything. Shut up. That is a pretty damn big IF up there. And he addresses what the media is doing to the issue: they’re either advocating total change, which is impossible, or trying to fall back on blind obedience, depending on which side of the aisle you’re standing on.
I’m all in favor of following the rules simply because they’re the rules (like my post on liturgical music, for example), but that is not the best way to go about saving your soul. We start with a desire to do the right thing because doing the wrong thing will mean our punishment. It’s only later than we grow into the idea of doing the right thing because it is the right thing, and even later when we do the right thing just because God asked us to. Not everyone is in the same place in their spiritual lives, and that must be taken into account. It’s an unfortunate part of life (especially in America; thank you, 1960s) that people have a tendency to disobey a mandate simply because someone mandated it. There’s no faster way to get Americans to do something than to tell them not to do it. So, in such a case, simply reiterating rules will convert no one; that’s what Francis is trying to address. Rules work for some people; the rest need a good reason to follow them.
The biggest vague bit is what he says in paragraph three:
Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For “cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle . . . needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied”.
People are probably going to jump on this, concluding that Francis is telling us that Church Teaching changes based on where you’re standing when you hear it. Definitely not what he said. He’s trying to make the point that not all practices will work in all places. He didn’t say that Church Teachings change based on culture, but that the means of implementing it will change based on culture, and more importantly, the specific needs of the people in question. Was he clear? Nope. Has be crossed the line into heresy? No.
Apparently not; if they could, we wouldn’t have so many articles about you on Yahoo and Vox.
He goes on in the introduction and talks a little about the Synod, how he’s going to address the various topics, that he will include some of his own experiences and lessons, and advises the readers to not rush through it, and focus on the chapter most applicable to you:
The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if attention is paid to the parts dealing with their specific needs. It is likely, for example, that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chapter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity”.
Chapter One: In the Light of the Word
This chapter is probably the best thing Francis has written to date. It’s essentially a summary of what Scripture says about marriage and the family. He did a wonderful job here; parts of it are truly beautiful. All right, so he hasn’t achieved the poetry-like, intellectual, read-two-sentences-and-rest-your-brain style of John Paul II, or the very German, organized, point-a-point-b-point-c style of Benedict XVI, but he’s getting there.
Scripture is always a good place to start as a basis for any sort of Church Teaching. We’re not sola scriptura Protestants, of course, but finding beginnings and foundations in Scripture is a great way to start, and to address people who might not know about the writings of various Church Doctors or philosophers, and so on.
The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength (cf. Gen 4) to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb (Rev 21:2, 9).
Francis goes all the way back to the book of Genesis, and draws attention to the earliest foundation of the family, including very basic Theology 101:
The majestic early chapters of Genesis present the human couple in its deepest reality. Those first pages of the Bible make a number of very clear statements. The first, which Jesus paraphrases, says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). It is striking that the “image of God” here refers to the couple, “male and female”. Does this mean that sex is a property of God himself, or that God has a divine female companion, as some ancient religions held? Naturally, the answer is no. We know how clearly the Bible rejects as idolatrous such beliefs, found among the Canaanites of the Holy Land. God’s transcendence is preserved, yet inasmuch as he is also the Creator, the fruitfulness of the human couple is a living and effective “image”, a visible sign of his creative act.
I’d quote more, but then I’d be copying and pasting the whole chapter, so what would be the point? Again, go read it.
Okay, fine, one more good one:
Significantly, Adam, who is also the man of every time and place, together with his wife, starts a new family. Jesus speaks of this by quoting the passage from Genesis: “The man shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24). The very word “to be joined” or “to cleave”, in the original Hebrew, bespeaks a profound harmony, a closeness both physical and interior, to such an extent that the word is used to describe our union with God: “My soul clings to you” (Ps 63:8). The marital union is thus evoked not only in its sexual and corporal dimension, but also in its voluntary self-giving in love. The result of this union is that the two “become one flesh”, both physically and in the union of their hearts and lives, and, eventually, in a child, who will share not only genetically but also spiritually in the “flesh” of both parents.
You know what, I don’t think he’s changed any Church Teaching so far.
Francis also mentions a few thing that Scripture teaches us about children being instructed by their parents; obedience to parents vs. individuality and a desire for one’s own life; pain and suffering in family life; work being essential to human dignity; the greatest act of love, to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends;” mercy, forgiveness, and tenderness; and the human family imitating the Holy Family.
Yep, keep going. No heresy or changes in teachings here.
Chapter Two: The Experiences and Challenges of Families
Judging from the title, it might get a little interesting here. Francis starts out with “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.” True. He goes on to say: “Faithful to Christ’s teaching we look to the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with both its lights and shadows . . . Anthropological and cultural changes in our times influence all aspects of life and call for an analytic and diversified approach.”
I would argue that the family really hasn’t changed all that much between the dawn of time and now; just the problems that the family faces are seen through a different lens (Adam and Eve didn’t have to keep their smartphones away from Cain and Abel, after all). Francis might be focusing a little too hard on what “society” has done to change the issue, but then again, maybe not.
Oh, wait. He makes that point himself. We don’t need to be so modern that we throw out all traditional models; we need to use the traditional model in modern times:
while “neither today’s society nor that to which we are progressing allow an uncritical survival of older forms and models” . . . On the other hand, “equal consideration needs to be given to the growing danger represented by an extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the idea that one’s personality is shaped by his or her desires, which are considered absolute”.
Sounds like he hit the individualist problem right on the head.
For example, we rightly value a personalism that opts for authenticity as opposed to mere conformity. While this can favour spontaneity and a better use of people’s talents, if misdirected it can foster attitudes of constant suspicion, fear of commitment, self-centredness and arrogance. Freedom of choice makes it possible to plan our lives and to make the most of ourselves. Yet if this freedom lacks noble goals or personal discipline, it degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others.
Hey, look at that. He’s addressing the problem of license replacing freedom. Amazing. “The ideal of marriage, marked by a commitment to exclusivity and stability, is swept aside whenever it proves inconvenient or tiresome.” I think we all can see that to be the unvarnished truth.
And then we get to the good bit:
As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.
Then he gets a little off-track. When talking about how to make marriage seem more like a beautiful calling than a lifelong burden (and telling us that we need a healthy dose of self-criticism), he says:
We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.
This is one of the lines that the lamestream media whores latch onto. He insists that people can discern properly on their own, and therefore we need less emphasis on the rules and more on forming up those consciences.
That only works if the consciences in question have been formed up properly, and given the number of pseudo-Catholics who say that they support abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and contraception, for example, and then only attend Mass on Easter and Christmas, I think we have a serious problem with those consciences.
The only way to form a conscience is to have clearly defined rules. Then, when someone encounters a scenario in life that isn’t specifically spelled out in those rules, they can apply the rules themselves. That’s what being an adult and making good, moral, informed choices means. But making a blanket statement that essentially says (unless later clarified) that you can “trust your conscience” when so many of the people doing that are led straight into mortal sin isn’t just reckless; it’s downright dangerous.
Now, Francis didn’t quite step off the edge and into that crazy black hole; he DID say that it’s important to FORM a conscience. But again, he’s not being clear, and allowing his words to be twisted.
Nowadays we are grateful too for the witness of marriages that have not only proved lasting, but also fruitful and loving. All these factors can inspire a positive and welcoming pastoral approach capable of helping couples to grow in appreciation of the demands of the Gospel. Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness. Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery.
Yes, sometimes the constant YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG attitude can drive people away from the Church. Does that mean we change the definition of “wrong” to suit them? Nope, and nor does Francis suggest such a thing: “This is hardly to suggest that we cease warning against a cultural decline that fails to promote love or self-giving.” He also addressed the problem of society encouraging people to treat others as “disposable,” or that relationships can be taken up for some reason of convenience and then discarded. Francis reiterates most of the problems of the so-called modern family, and concludes:
We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage.
Francis goes on to address a few more problems facing the family today: pornography; immaturity thanks to a habit of narcissism; commercialization of the body; misuse of the internet; divorce and all the problems that divorce causes, including a destabilization of society in general; the decline in population thanks to a “mentality against having children” and its consequences. He also mentions the weakening of faith and religious practices, and how it leads to “loneliness, arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships.” He goes off the beaten track and into how families need affordable and dignified housing . . . but, living in Argentina most of his life, that probably seems like a problem worth addressing. I’ll give that one a raised eyebrow and move on.
My eyebrow is raised higher when he talks about the right to employment, healthcare, and education.
Yes, people have a basic right to those things; however, the implication behind his words could be that the STATE needs to handle that. He was probably just unclear again, because the Church is the best source of all those things: education, healthcare, and housing. The minute the state gets involved in charity we get . . . oh, yeah, we get the United States and the mile-deep hole we’re currently in.
He gets back on track, though, addressing children born out of wedlock, as well as the exploitation of children. Eyebrow goes back down now. And goes back up when we get to the “migration” problem, which “destabilizes families.”
I live in Texas; I have a front row seat to the consequences of “migration,” and those who migrate are far from the only ones who suffer by it.
In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral programme addressed not only to families that migrate but also to those family members who remain behind. This pastoral activity must be implemented with due respect for their cultures, for the human and religious formation from which they come and for the spiritual richness of their rites and traditions, even by means of a specific pastoral care.
So pardon me for not feeling quite so sorry for those migrants. I don’t think the “pastoral care” needs to cater to their “culture,” and I don’t think that my regular American culture should take a backseat as a result; and I sure as hell don’t think that practicing Catholicism in my local parish should take a backseat to a foreign culture and their wacky version of Catholicism being rammed down my throat. So yes, I disagree there. Still, the rose colored lenses are in play here, and I don’t think he meant any serious political message by it. His actual directions are harmless enough, but can be used by pastors who seem to think that they should bend over backwards to cater to the migrant Mexicans, and thereby neglect the needs of the rest of their parish community. In this case, I think Francis is less the one with the problem; it’s how people may choose to implement what he said that is the problem.
He is right when he says that human trafficking is bad for the family, as well as the extreme poverty associated with migration (refugee camps, forced labor, etc.). AHA! Finally! Francis actually said: “Every effort should be encouraged, even in a practical way, to assist families and Christian communities to remain in their native lands.” Sigh. I feel better now.
Francis also addresses those children and family members with “special needs,” and says that:
Families who lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are greatly to be admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of faithfulness to the gift of life. In these situations, the family can discover, together with the Christian community, new approaches, new ways of acting, a different way of understanding and identifying with others, by welcoming and caring for the mystery of the frailty of human life. People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.
The eyebrow is down; the smile is up.
He also talks about a proper respect for the elderly, including care for them at the end of their lives. “Care and concern for the final stages of life is all the more necessary today, when contemporary society attempts to remove every trace of death and dying.” He mentions the evil of euthanasia specifically, which is good news. He also addresses families living in poverty, especially single mothers who must work to support their children.
The last section in this chapter is on “some concerns.” He mentions a lot of problems in our modern society: everything from “an addiction to television” and families no longer even sharing meals, to drug use and alcoholism, and the threats they pose to the family.
No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life.
Hooray! Words on the importance of marriage! We need more of those!
He even says something that the media will never quote!
We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.
This is my happy dance.
Take that, mainstream media.
Francis’ next topic is to address “women’s rights.” Usually, that would make the eyebrow go completely crazy, but he says that while some advancements have been made, in other places more needs to be done, and I can’t disagree with that. The second the Muslims can no longer marry ten-year-olds and mutilate little girls, and torture and kill them because they wanted to learn to read, I’ll call that a victory for women’s rights.
Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated. I think particularly of the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected, domestic violence and various forms of enslavement which, rather than a show of masculine power, are craven acts of cowardice. The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union. I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practiced in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making. History is burdened by the excesses of patriarchal cultures that considered women inferior, yet in our own day, we cannot overlook the use of surrogate mothers and “the exploitation and commercialization of the female body in the current media culture”.
He doesn’t just laud women, either, fortunately. He addresses the importance of men in the family, and also goes on to address the “ideology of gender” problem. “It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.”
Bet you won’t hear that bit quoted by the lamestream media whores.
That takes us to the end of Chapter Two. Tomorrow, I’ll give you some more. I wanted to do this all in one post, but that would be way too long (the original document is 264 pages, after all).
Follow the squirrel minion to get to Lori’s website, Little Squirrel Books.