Commentary on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)


Here are a number of articles from millennial Catholics on Pope Francis’ recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation:

Look to the Margins by Meghan Clark: “Pope Francis offers what we have come to expect from him—a thoughtful, nuanced and substantial text that defies easy interpretation. It is also a text that looks to the margins, something else that is a clear Pope Francis trademark. He is attentive to the pressures and struggles of families living in poverty, but he also highlights another group on the margins: victims of domestic violence.”

Pope Francis’ new ‘Joy of Love’ precept offers no major overhaul of church doctrine, but urges a warmer approach toward ‘irregular’ couples by Christopher White: “This street level focus is why Francis dedicates the majority of this sweeping document not just to the issue of communion but the practical and concrete realities that often serve as an impediment to family life today. Within the document, he calls for the improvement of education for children as a primary means for passing on the faith, greater access to affordable housing, noting that “families and homes go together,” a rejection of pornography and “the commercialization of the body,” and pleas for us to show greater attention toward the elderly, the disabled, and migrants, as “they serve as a test of our commitment to show mercy in welcoming others and to help the vulnerable to be fully a part of our communities.”

Throughout his papacy, mercy has been the primary theme that has motivated Francis. Mercy, as understood by Francis does not come in the form of doctrinal change, but in greater pastoral care to the needs of those seeking to live out the faith in their everyday lives. The release of Amoris Laetitia reminds us that Francis is, indeed, asking that the Church reform its attitude toward modern family life. But his reform takes us back to the roots and serves as an invitation for us to recover the true meaning of marriage and family that is in danger of being lost.” Read More


Pope Francis’ Tweetstorm on the Family

Since the release of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis has tweeted frequently on the family. Check out his tweets:


The Joy of Love

Marriage seems to be losing popularity. According to the Pew Research Center, only 51% of adults in the United States are married, versus 72% in 1960. Still, a majority of women and men do want to be married (61%). As a couple who’s been married nearly two years, and as people who love telling others how awesome marriage is, my wife and I have wondered why the many in media or comedy are so negative about marriage. Even though the divorce rate has decreased, it seems so engrained in our psyches that marriage is seen as a burden rather than a grace that is freely embraced. Images of good marriages are hard to find on TV, yet each time Sarah and I do find marriage being shown in a positive light we fall in love with the show (Madam Secretary and Parenthood are two examples).

This past week Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). Many were expecting much to be said about divorced and remarried Catholics being able to receive communion or about same-sex marriages. Yet the document focused little on those issues. While important issues, the pope chose to focus on the heartbreaking state of broken heterosexual marriages, something we don’t often address in our current marriage debates. Amoris Laetitia is a beautiful and poetic writing on the gift of love and marriage. It’s comprehensive. It addresses families and marriages at practically every stage and situation. It’s a long overdue exhortation on marriage rooted in the real situations families have to deal with and as I read through its 264 pages, I could relate it well to my own marriage. As Thomas D. Williams says in his Crux article, “I suddenly found a letter that was written to me and for me, and I cannot help but think that many others will have a similar experience.”

The Challenges of Marriage
The pope has a clear view of the reality of marriages that are superficial or based on a lack of freedom. Marriage, he says, “can come to be seen as a way station, helpful when convenient, or a setting in which rights can be asserted while relationships are left to the changing winds of personal desire and circumstances.” Yet at the same time he acknowledges the challenges of marriage, especially in their early years. Sarah and I found our first months especially challenging. The fantasy weddings from the movies and even the Church’s “almost artificial theological ideal of marriage”, Pope Francis says, can become an “excessive idealization … [that] has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.” So the pope instead founds his discussion in practical realities. He calls marriage a process and a path to personal development, together. The couple journeys with and through their imperfections. “We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.” Read More


Amoris Laetitia and Social Justice: Ten Quotes from Pope Francis’ Exhortation

Pope Francis’ much-anticipated apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, does not disappoint. It is an incredible work that is full of good advice for both families and church leaders, delivered with theological richness and pastoral sensitivity. Do read the whole thing if you can.

A lot has already been written on many of the key elements of the document, but what struck me while reading it is how clearly Pope Francis connects family concerns with social concerns. He argues that families are only able to flourish if our societies are set up to support them.

This approach called to mind a great quote by St. John Paul II, who said,  “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Part of Pope Francis’ emphasis in Amoris Laetitia could be summed up by flipping that idea around: As society goes, so goes the family. They are complementary ideas.

Here are ten quotes from the exhortation that connect particular social issues and our call to work for justice to family life:

1. Dignity of Work

Labour also makes possible the development of society and provides for the sustenance, stability and fruitfulness of one’s family: “May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children!” (Ps 128:5-6)….This having been said, we can appreciate the suffering created by unemployment and the lack of steady work, as reflected in the Book of Ruth, Jesus’ own parable of the labourers forced to stand idly in the town square (Mt 20:1-16), and his personal experience of meeting people suffering from poverty and hunger. Sadly, these realities are present in many countries today, where the lack of employment opportunities takes its toll on the serenity of family life. [24-25]

2. Care for Creation

Nor can we overlook the social degeneration brought about by sin, as, for example, when human beings tyrannize nature, selfishly and even brutally ravaging it. This leads to the desertification of the earth (cf. Gen 3:17-19) and those social and economic imbalances denounced by the prophets, beginning with Elijah (cf. 1 Kg 21) and culminating in Jesus’ own words against injustice (cf. Lk 12:13; 16:1-31). [26] Read More


Addressing the Diaper Gap: Responsible Government, not the Nanny State

There is a divide in this country between those who believe that charity and philanthropy are all that is demanded of Christians in addressing poverty and those who believe that Christians are called to support both charity and justice, demanding action from not only individual persons and civil society, but government, as well.

The fact-less, ideologically-driven opposition of some who profess to be pro-life to President Obama’s recently announced effort to ensure that more families have access to an adequate number of diapers for their children highlights this divide. For those of an economically libertarian bent, this is the perfect symbol of the overreaching nanny state. For those who believe government plays a critical role in promoting the common good (proponents of Catholic teaching, among others), this program is a good step toward addressing a real problem that demands action.

The reality is that nearly 1 in 3 families struggle to afford the diapers their babies need. And diapers are not a luxury; they are a necessity. When families cannot keep their children in clean diapers, health problems can emerge:

Families who can’t afford enough diapers risk diaper rash and urinary tract infections that can lead to hospital visits, says Megan Smith, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine….

Hard-pressed families she has worked with have tried all kinds of work-arounds: diapering babies in T-shirts, bleaching used diapers to sterilize them, leaving children in dirty diapers just a little longer to stretch a pack. Each of these tactics — as Mora worries when she considers buying the wrong size for her child — comes at a cost to the babies.

“Having to hang a diaper to dry and put it back on your baby is really unimaginable for a mother to think about,” says Kelly Sawyer Patricof, the co-president of Baby2Baby, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group that provides diapers and other necessities to families like Mora’s. “But that’s the reality of what’s happening.”

While government assistance to these families helps with many basic needs, diapers are excluded (the “diaper loophole”).To make matters worse, lower income families often pay more for diapers than others, as well:

These choices become even more pressing because the lowest-income quintile of families with infants pay 14 percent of their income for diapers alone – an average of $936 for diapers per child each year, while many higher income families pay less than half that amount. These struggling families may not have access to transportation to the big box store, the credit or capital to buy in bulk at cheaper prices, or the access to internet or ability to receive packages required for online subscription services. The technology that makes life easier for so many of us just doesn’t provide the necessary supports for these families.

The Obama administration has outlined a public-private partnership to address this problem:

A new program will allow families to purchase diapers at up to a 25 percent discount. The program is a collaboration of Jet.com, the makers of Cuties diapers, and a group of non-profit organizations.

The initiative has two main parts. The first allows anyone to purchase discounted diapers through Jet.com. The diapers will come in a package without any advertising or marketing and will include more items per package. The second part gives non-profit groups that help needy families the ability to buy diapers at an even larger discount, as well as free shipping. The organizations that purchase the diapers must have a plan in place to distribute the diapers to low-income, at-need families, either through resell or donations. If they opt to sell the diapers, they must do so at either the same cost or less than what they paid.

This partnership has the potential to do a lot of good, but further action may also be required. Last year, Keith Ellison and Rosa DeLauro of the US House of Representatives introduced the Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act of 2015 (H.R. 4055) to create a demonstration project to allow states to provide diapers or a diaper subsidy for low-income and working families. Hopefully the laboratories of our democracy will seek new, creative ways to ensure every child has the diapers they need. States can also make the decision to stop taxing diapers.

Ultimately everyone should recognize that diapers are a necessity, not a luxury, and that government—whether indirectly or directly—has a responsibility to ensure that every American has access to their most basic needs.


Pope Francis: Right to Work and Motherhood Must Both Be Protected

via CNS:

Businesses are called to promote harmony between work and family for their employees, especially for women with children or who are starting families, Pope Francis said.

The pope said that many times, women who announce their pregnancy are fired from their positions, when instead they “must be protected and helped in this dual task: the right to work and the right to motherhood.”

“The challenge is to protect their right to a job that is given full recognition while at the same time safeguarding their vocation to motherhood and their presence in the family,” the pope said Oct. 31 in an audience with the Christian Union of Italian Business Executives.

Catholic men and women in the world of business are called to live faithfully “the demands of the Gospel and the social doctrine of the church,” he said, and become “architects of development for the common good.”


Paid Leave Is Going to Matter in 2016

Millennial writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has a new article at TNR. She writes:

Oliver pointed out that the United States is singular among developed nations in its complete failure to provide any paid leave to mothers whatsoever. Globally, we are joined only by Papua New Guinea in our lack of paid maternity leave policy, according to data collected by the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency….

When women are well supported in terms of paid leave, families have a better shot at staying above the poverty line, which is good news for parents and babies. The Right may have a traditional claim to the politics of strong families, but unless they can stake out a position that will offer the kind of protections to mothers that Clinton has in mind, the pro-family rhetoric of the Right will remain nothing but talk.

The full article can be read here.