Pope Francis’ Tweetstorm on the Family

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


Pope Francis is Returning to Rome with 3 Refugee Families

via the Washington Post:

Pope Francis on Saturday took three refugee families back with him on his plane to Rome following an emotional and provocative visit to the Greek island of Lesbos that seemed designed to prick Europe’s conscience over its treatment of refugees.

The pope boarded his Alitalia jet along with 12 Syrians from three families, all of whom had had their houses bombed and are seeking refuge in Europe, according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica. There were six children among them. Rosica said the families, all of whom are Muslim, would be cared for at the Vatican.


Pope Francis Will Travel to Lesbos, Express Solidarity with Refugees

via Vatican Insider:

“On Saturday I am going to Lesbos, where numerous refugees have passed through over the months. I am going along with my brothers the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos”, “to express sympathy and solidarity with refugees and the citizens of Lesbos and all the Greek people who are so generous in their welcome. Accompany me with your prayer please, invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit and the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.”



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


Pope Francis the Feminist?

For a candidate who is often criticized for dodging controversial topics, Hillary Clinton gave a clear verdict on a thorny topic this week: “of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life,” she said on ABC’s The View on Monday.

The statement might have sent chills up the back of Hillary’s supporters at Emily’s List and NARAL, but such a full-throated defense of the pro-life feminist tradition was welcomed by many.

If Hillary Clinton thinks pro-lifers can be feminists, one has to wonder if the Democratic frontrunner would be willing to say the same about the Pope Francis, the dynamic Argentinian leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

It’s hard to argue otherwise after Pope Francis’ latest groundbreaking document, Amoris Laetitia (Latin for Joy of Love) was released yesterday. In the roughly 260-page exhortation, Francis called on the Church take up a new way of relating to modern men and women, particularly in regards to family life, love, and human sexuality.

The headlines zeroed in on the pope’s statements regarding divorced and remarried couples and his latest commentary regarding the LGBT community. Below the radar, however, were Francis’ words on the progress of women’s rights:

Even though significant advances have been made in the recognition of women’s rights and their participation in public life, in some countries much remains to be done to promote these rights. Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated.

However, even bolder were Francis’ strong condemnations of those who blame today’s societal woes on the women’s liberation movement:

There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid, “it is false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism.” The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity. If certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.

Ironically, some of the strongest criticisms of the feminist movement have come from Catholic leaders. As theologian Megan McCabe notes:

Catholic teaching on gender upholds gender complementarity, which maintains that men and women have distinct roles, even characteristics, grounded in their biological sex. For example, St. John Paul II’s “Mulieris Dignitatem” framed femininity as linked to motherhood, which is necessarily compassionate and nurturing, regardless of whether or not an individual woman is actually a mother. One consequence has been that mainstream feminism has often been viewed as suspect in Catholic circles because it seeks to modify gendered roles in families and is seen at the popular level to be synonymous with sexual liberation. While Pope Francis does not reject complementarity, he begins to move this conversation in a new direction.

While Francis rejects that idea that gender is the result of social construction alone, he doesn’t mince his words against gender stereotypes and their limiting nature, writing, “masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories.”

He continues:

It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy “exchanges” which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an overaccentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development.

It’s hard to overstate what a monumental shift this is for the Catholic Church on issues on sex and gender identity. This is altogether different in kind from what Church leaders were teaching just a few years ago.

But this too is a remarkable shift for Pope Francis. Though he’s considered a pioneer on many issues regarding faith and morality, Francis has faced harsh criticism for some of his clumsy statements on women.

As journalist David Gibson noted in December 2014, “When he speaks about women, Francis can sound a lot like the (almost) 78-year-old Argentine churchman that he is, using analogies that sound alternately condescending and impolitic, even if well-intentioned.” One of his worst moments was earlier that month, when he tried to compliment leading female theologians by calling them “strawberries on the cake.”

Francis has said the Church must enter a period of discernment regarding how it relates to issues of family life, love, and sex. Clearly Francis has learned a lot in his discernment.

Thank God for that.