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



Will There Be Civil War in the Church?

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Is civil war coming to the Catholic Church over the possible creation of a penitential path back to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics? On its face, this claim seems preposterous, a half-baked fantasy cooked up by a small group of Catholic traditionalists and reactionaries whose enmity toward Pope Francis has reached new heights. I asked Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, perhaps the most influential cardinal in Francis’ papacy, if he thought this was a realistic possibility. He responded, “This is a lack of faith.”

This may seem harsh. But it is important to remember that faith is about trust, not just belief. Those raising the specter of civil war quite clearly do not trust the Holy Father and the Church (and implicitly the Holy Spirit, as well). They have more faith in their own judgement.

At the same time, let’s not forget that Francis has called for a revolution. Ideally that would only lead to conflict between Christian principles and the false idols of the world that tear down human dignity and obstruct the flourishing of persons. But realistically, it was always bound to incite intra-Church conflict. Legalism was present in Jesus’ time, and it remains so today. This mentality will always conflict with the radicalism of Christ’s teaching, even for those aiming to uphold Christ’s teachings. And given the depth and richness of Church teaching, along with our imperfect human nature, virtually all Catholics are capable of slipping into a legalistic mindset. So legalistic opposition to Francis’ revolution of mercy was always likely. And given the importance of tradition for the Church, many were likely to favor the status quo rather than wanting the Church to become a field hospital of people who go forth to the peripheries.

But Cardinal Rodriguez also talked about seeing the visible presence of the Holy Spirit at the Synod. There was disagreement, but it most often led to dialogue, not threats of war or schism. Even those Church leaders who believe that altering the Church’s approach to those who are divorced and remarried would do more harm than good by undermining the clarity of Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage certainly understand why this is up for discussion. They understand what the Church is asking if it requires an abandoned spouse to be celibate for 60 years while raising kids on her own in order to receive communion and how difficult that road is. Since they are orthodox Catholics, they understand the need to comprehend the context of Christ’s words (both as a response to a question about divorce for any reason and within the larger context of the Gospel), rather than endorsing a narrow, literalist reading of just one or two passages. These Church leaders know that our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters are not just a bunch of liberal heretics with no regard for the words of Christ and no commitment to one flesh marriage. Cardinal Rodriguez may be right: the biggest difference may be that these leaders have faith that the Spirit will guide the Church to the right response on this difficult matter.

Pope Francis is bringing a revolution. We need one. We are too distant from the radical commitment to love demanded by Christ. And there will be opposition, even threats of civil war. But it seems most likely that it will be limited to a small group of Americans who are caught up in their own social media world of like-minded hysteria than among the broader Church and its hierarchy. Hopefully some of these will break away from their bubble, clear their minds from the cacophony of bitterness and hyperbole, and choose to trust the Church rather than plot a civil war that seems unlikely to ever materialize.


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.”


Key Quotes from Pope Francis’ First Speech in the Philippines

Check out these highlights from Pope Francis’ speech:
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  1. “This visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.  Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others.”
  2. “It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. Thus will they be able to marshal the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.”
  3. “Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity.”
  4. “The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor.  It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.”
  5. “Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.”
  6. “I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community. “
  7. “A fundamental role in the renewal of society is played, of course, by the family and especially by young people.”
  8. “Families have an indispensable mission in society.  It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others.  But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed.  It needs our support.”
  9. “We know how difficult it is for our democracies today to preserve and defend such basic human values as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm.”
  10. “I would also mention the oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live.”
  11. “May the deepest spiritual values of the Filipino people continue to find expression in your efforts to provide your fellow citizens with an integral human development.  In this way, each person will be able to fulfill his or her potential, and thus contribute wisely and well to the future of this country.”

Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “The family teaches about not falling into an individualism that weighs oneself against the others. And it is here, in the family, that ‘taking care of you’ constitutes one of the fundamentals of human existence and a moral attitude that must be promoted.”