Wife. Husband. Children. Are these what truly make a family?
Pope Francis released his apostolic distortion April 8. Amoris Laetitia, translated “Joy of Love,” is a hefty 256-page document detailing the church’s take on family life.
One big issue Francis tackled in his paper is divorce.
He worries about the large number of divorces, but just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you can’t participate within the church, Francis writes.
“Divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life,” says Francis.
That’s a pretty big deal, considering past Catholic views on divorce:It’s a terrible sin and you should feel ashamed. Anyone with a Catholic background knows if you commit a a mortal sin, you should not receive the Eucharist until you have confessed that sin.
Receiving the Eucharist is the central act for any practicing Catholic. Catholics believe it cleanses menial sins, graces you with spiritual nourishment and brings you closer to God.
However, with so many families with divorced parents, it becomes essential for the church to address the issue in some way without shunning these parents.
Even if you have remarried, the pope asserts you should still “be made to feel part of the Church.”
Reducing the stigma around divorced couples is not the church saying divorce is okay. It’s the church’s way of adapting to the changing family values and definitions of what it means to be a family.
Francis also recognized that life isn’t always perfect. Sometimes marriages just don’t work out, but these couples are now encouraged to continue to be an active member of the church and to receive the nourishment from the Eucharist.
So that’s a leap forward in one aspect of family life. What about members of the LGBTQA+, though?
In the entire document, the issue of gay marriage only popped up once.
It reads: “In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, ‘as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, 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.”
And just like that, gay marriage gets dismissed.
Now, I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic schools from preschool through high school, so I understand this from the perspective of Catholic teaching.
Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. And it is defined, by the Bible and by the church, as a sacred union between man, woman and God.
I don’t agree with it, but I know where the belief comes from.
Even though this seems like bad news for gays, it actually offers a slightly better take on the issue than previous popes. In a 2005 paper, Pope Benedict XVI referred to homosexuality as an “intrinsic moral evil.”
In Francis’s brief passage on gays, there is no mention of the word “sin,” or “evil,” or the sinfulness of “homosexual unions” —a sharp contrast to Benedict XVI’s statement.
However, there is still a discrepancy between Francis’ writings on divorce and gay marriage. Both pertain to the sacrament of marriage, but people who get divorced are encouraged to be part of the church still, and maybe even remarry. While Francis doesn’t explicitly discriminate against gay Catholics, he makes no effort to encourage them like he did divorced people.
This isn’t shocking, of course, but it would be nice to see more progressive steps to including members of the LGBTQA+ in Catholic life, even if gay marriage will not be recognized by the church.
That being said, the church has evolved over time.
For example, before the Second Vatican Council in 1965, Mass could only be said in Latin, with the priest’s back turned to the people the whole time. Now the Mass could be said in any language and the altars were turned around. As a result, people felt more involved. This council implemented several other changes as well to adapt to modern society.
That may not seem like as hard-hitting an issue as gay marriage, but trust me, I’ve taken enough theology classes in high school to know this was a huge deal at the time, and there was a lot of backlash when it happened.
It completely revolutionized a huge aspect of Catholicism.
But is it likely that we will ever see the church outright accept gay marriage?
No, but it’s not completely out of the question either.
It’s important to keep in mind that changes in the church come very, very slowly, if they come at all. But Pope Francis just made a few baby steps in the right direction.
The church needs to recognize that society’s definition of family is changing, regardless of whether they believe it’s in “God’s plan for family or marriage.”
Husband, Wife, Child.
Wife, Wife, Child.
Husband, Husband, Child.
There’s no longer one equation for family. It’s about time the church sees that.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of fbilhalva’s Pixabay account.
Rosie Kean is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.