My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For those who feel this is too long to face, take heart. I didn't actually read the 264 page book formatted by the Vatican and released as a pdf. I was able to copy and paste it into my own document which came down to 50 pages. The pdf's tiny pages, large type, and big margins are what made it so long in published form.
I read it a little each day, finding it a complex, thoughtful, and rich work. It was especially interesting to consider that the Pope kept mentioning the other contributing bishops from the synods on the family. This is not just one person's vision. It is that of many of those who serve families around the world.
I especially liked, as John Allen remarked, that we are seeing some of the inner workings of pastoral care recommended in it.
For Mediterranean cultures, which still shape the thought-world of the Vatican to a significant degree, law is instead more akin to an ideal. It describes a moral aspiration, but realistically it’s understood that many people much of the time will fall short. (If you don’t believe it, come to Italy sometime and watch how the locals approach traffic laws!)Allen's whole piece is well worth reading but you get the important points.
A frustration I’ve long experienced as an American journalist covering the Vatican is that when the pope or some Vatican department issues a new law, it often comes off as terribly draconian and harsh in media coverage and public discussion. It’s difficult to explain that always encoded into the legislation is the common-sense expectation that bishops and pastors will use good judgment in applying it in ways that reflect their local circumstances.
It’s difficult, that is, primarily because the Vatican never says that second part explicitly – perhaps out of fear that it will come off as encouraging hypocrisy, rather than presuming a good-faith effort to live up to the value the law expresses.
They don’t usually say it, that is, until now.
One striking point about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ sweeping new apostolic exhortation on the family, which was released in a Vatican news conference on Friday, is that it lifts up this long-standing Catholic capacity for flexibility and nuance in pastoral practice, and sets it squarely alongside the law in full public view.
It is that, perhaps, which makes Amoris Laetitia feel so timeless and also so relevant. It weaves high spiritual points with the basics of real human families. In fact, I was surprised to see that, in preparation for discussion love in marriage, Pope Francis discusses each line of St. Paul's famous "love is patient, love is kind" passage (1 Cor 13:4-7). I was delighted with Pope Francis's thoughtful and down-to-earth reflections.
I highly recommend it. It's just terrific.