Pope Francis signed “Amoris Laetitia” (AL) 19 March 2016. It was released 8 April 2016.
AL is based on two documents: the 2014 Extraordinary Meeting of the Synod of Bishops and the 2015 XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
AL is an apostolic exhortation – an exhortation from the pope, successor of the apostle Peter.
It is an exhortation on the vocation and mission of families in today’s world, with all its problems and crises.
Hence, AL urges families to be evangelized first before becoming evangelizers.
Families in their life and mission of evangelizing need to be accompanied, like shepherds tending their flock. To accompany them are the Ordained Ministers and Married Couples who have expertise in guiding and helping couples and families.
Pope Francis wisely delegates this pastoral accompaniment to local conferences of Bishops and regional ones who are familiar with local situations and cultures.
Introduction (paragraphs 1-7)
“Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisteriums.” For some questions, “each country or region…can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.”
Chapter One. “In the Light of the Word” (8-30)
“The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises” (AL 8). The Word of God “is nota series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering. For it shows them the goal of their journey…” (22)
Chapter Two. “The Experiences and Challenges of Families” (31-57)
These are “migration, ideological denial of differences between the sexes…anti-birth mentality, biotech in procreation, lack of housing and work, pornography, abuse of minors, inattention to persons with disabilities, lack of respect for the elderly, legal dismantling of the family, violence against women. The Pope insists on ‘concreteness’, not ‘arbitrary ideologies’”.
“The call and demands of the Spirit resound in the events of history and through these the Church can also be guided to a more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mystery of marriage and the family”. (31)
Marriage is a “dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment.” Hence, families must be encouraged to be open “to grace” (37). Therefore, “make room for the formation of the conscience of the faithful” (37). Show compassion to sinners: Samaritan woman, woman caught in adultery” (38).
Chapter Three. “Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family” (58-88)
This depicts “the vocation of the family according to the Gospel and as affirmed by the Church over time. Above all, it stresses the themes of indissolubility, the sacramental nature of marriage, transmission of life, education of children.” Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio are widely quoted.
It touches on “imperfect situations” as well. Need for Pastors “to exercise careful discernment of situations” (FC, 84).
Chapter Four. “Love in Marriage” (89-164)
St. Paul’s Hymn to Love, 1 Cor. 13: 4-7. Human love is expressed “in absolutely concrete terms”.
Marriage entails “a dynamic process…one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God” (122). “Conjugal love by its very nature defines the partners in a richly encompassing and lasting union.” (123)
Concludes with reflection on the “transformation of love” – initial decision to love one another “has to be frequently renewed” (163).
Chapter Five. “Love Made Fruitful” (165-198)
Deals with procreation. Welcoming new life, pregnancy, love of mother and father. Also adoption and expanded families: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, other relatives. “The spirituality of the sacrament of marriage has a deeply social character (187). Harmony within the expanded family will prepare members in “relating with others”.
Chapter Six. “Some Pastoral Perspectives” (199-258)
These perspectives are aimed at forming solid and fruitful families according to God’s plan.
Families to be evangelized to become evangelizers. “Ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families”(202).“Psycho – affective formation of seminarians needs to be improved and families need to be more involved in formation for ministry.” (203)
Preparation of the engaged for marriage, including responsible parenthood. Accompaniment of couples in the first years of married life (232). Crises, delay in maturing affectively (239). Accompanying abandoned, separated or divorced. Reforms in the procedures for declaration of nullity of marriage. Mixed religion. Disparity of Cult. Homosexuality. Discrimination, aggression. Death.
Chapter Seven. “Towards a Better Education of Children” (259-290)
Through: Ethical formation, discipline, sex education, passing on the faith, family life as an educational context (271). “Ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy” (260).
Chapter Eight. “Guiding, Discerning and Integrating Weakness” (291-312)
These three “are fundamental in addressing fragile, complex or irregular situations.” Need for gradualness in pastoral care. Importance of discernment – norms and mitigating circumstances in pastoral discernment; and “logic of pastoral mercy” for those in difficult situation for example: the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” They must not feel excommunicated but as “living members, able to live and grow in the Church” (299).
Chapter Nine. “The Spirituality of Marriage and Family” (313-325)
Spirituality means living our Christian Faith. Marital and family spirituality “is made up of thousands of small but real gestures.”
Everything, “moments of joy, relaxation, celebration and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection” (317).
Prayer, exclusive and free love, growing old together as reflection of God’s fidelity (319). Spirituality of care, consolation and incentive. “All family life is a ‘shepherding’ in mercy. “It is a profound ‘spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them” (323). Family needs to grow and mature in the ability to love” (325).
Conclusion: Prayer to the Holy Family.