Saturday, August 5, 2023

Is Pope Francis a Wimp? Amoris Laetitia

Published originally in 2016

The Pope just sent us all a massive letter with hundreds of footnotes. So far he is pissing everybody off. Rightwingers lament the watering down of moral teaching. They rail against Francis' failure to marginalize and condemn anyone who deviates from their favorite rules. Leftwingers are outraged that the Pope just re-iterated old teachings, only in a kinder, gentler way. 

My take is that this Pope's no wimp.  He also no Trump or Sanders, yelling platitudes and peddling impossible promises.  With 2000 years of history, some so ugly and some sublime, this Pope is nudging the Church toward actually adopting Christian values, without alienating over half the world's bishops and the entire African continent.  Tough task.

You can read the 259 page document yourself. Apostolic Exhortation: Amoris Laetitia.  Most say it's a snoozer in spots, and occasionally beautiful.

It's billed as promoting "Family Love."  It's about self-sacrifice, compassion, and all the rest. It sidesteps contraception and promotes responsibility, a relatively recent trend. A couple of takeaways for me:

 1. If re-married Catholics go through some process of discernment, preferably with the guidance of the clergy, they can start going to Communion again.  No renouncing their current marriages or being branded as "living in adultery."  Since he's writing for the whole planet, Francis can't get too specific about how a local process would work, but it's clear he wants Catholics in "irregular marriages" back on board as full members.  Yes, he's careful to avoid changing any basic doctrines, but he's still angering hateful reactionaries who prefer "us against them" Catholocism.  They know what this shift  will mean.  Liberals, disappointed, note that the change is buried in footnotes. Here's a juicy example of the kind of hatred and rage Francis is attracting -- click for right wing rant.

2. If you're gay, you can stay.  And you have a fundamental right to be free from oppression, discrimination, or marginalization, even if the Church won't bless your marriage any time soon. 

 According to Francis every gay person, and presumably every LGBTQ person, must 

be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, and ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression or violence.

There's a lot more, and this statement isn't new, but here Francis isn't preaching to the liberal choir in the West.  He's talking to Africa too, and the Middle East, where just being gay can earn you imprisonment or the death penalty. 

Nobody is thrilled with this document, except boring incrementalists.  The right wing fringe deplores its failure to condemn anybody (except those who discriminate and sow discord).  The left wing fringe mostly doesn't care about any papal document, but the few who do claim it's cowardly and doesn't go nearly far enough.

Read it for yourself, or at least a summary from fairly conservative Catholic magazine.  
Ten Takeaways from the Pope's New Message