This week's letter is written by Father Linus Clovis, Family Life International's Spiritual Director, and is a reflection on Pope Francis' Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Laetitia (AL) has been received with very mixed reactions ranging from positive jubilation to that of respectful reservation. It is a 60,000 word document that will require time, study and prayerful reflection in order to unravel all of its implications.
While the nuances, implications and applications of AL are being unravelled, it seems to me that we ought to remain calm and take the sagacious advice of St Paul of simply following the well established Catholic rule of holding fast to what we have received and always believed. In practical terms and, indeed, in line with Pope Benedict XVI’s hermeneutic of continuity, this means that AL must be understood and interpreted in light of previous magisterial teachings...
The principal areas where AL has provoked simultaneous reactions of jubilance and reservation are sex education (§§280-285), contraception (§222) and the admission of some civilly remarried divorced Catholics to the sacraments without a commitment to continence when separation is not possible (Chapter 8).
These are undoubtedly very difficult times in which we live. Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, however, invites to a safe harbour by reminding us that “the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defence of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3). Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.” §8 Dei Verbum also affirms that “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (the magisterium) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed. §10.
In a prayerful and charitable spirit, let us read, study, discern, interpret and apply, if and where possible the teachings of Amoris Laetitia.