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Renewing Marriage

Denver archbishop writes on pope’s document on love

By Catholic News Service

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver said Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on marriage and family essentially promotes the renewal of marriage.

The document, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), was released April 8 and is the conclusion of a two-year synod process that gathered hundreds of bishops together with the pope to discuss issues surrounding marriage and the family.

Archbishop Aquila responded to the exhortation with a statement when it was released but said he wanted to study it before making further comment.

In a column published May 10 on DenverCatholic.org, the website of the archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop wrote that the apostolic exhortation demonstrates an “intimate awareness of the beauty of marriage in the Scriptures, the desire people have to live out Christian marriage, the struggles of modern family life, and finally, (the pope’s) deep desire to renew marriage in the light of the Gospel.”

“Pope Francis covers a lot of ground in the 250-plus pages of Amoris Laetitia,” the archbishop continued. “He encourages people to read it carefully and patiently.”

The archbishop said the message begins with a reflection on the nature and gift of marriage found in Scripture and then moves to an analysis of the present situation of marriage looking at why many young people are turning away from marriage, why marriages are experiencing difficulty and what is happening in marital law around the world.

At the root of these changes, the apostolic exhortation points out is “an individualistic culture that promotes self-centeredness and a lack of generosity or self-sacrifice for others.”

Archbishop Aquila notes that the document’s eighth chapter “has generated the most discussion among theologians, on blogs and in the media.”

He said many people have been analyzing this chapter – focused on helping those who have experienced divorce or other tragedies in their marriages – and have come up with widely differing interpretations.

These different views, he said, reveal the chapter’s “lack of precision in its language.”

He stressed that it would be a mistake to “read this chapter as a break with the church’s teaching, equating the pope’s compassionate spirit with a license to ignore the truth.”

The way to interpret it correctly, he said, is to look at it in “continuity with previous magisterial teaching, especially Vatican II and St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio.”

In this context, he added, the chapter offers an explanation of one possible way to accompany people on their journey from the slavery (of) sin to the freedom of God’s children.

He said Pope Francis reminds bishops and priests that it is important to take a pastoral approach with families and couples, beginning with where the person is coming from and leading them to the truth in the way that Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. At the same time, he stresses that a priest or bishop can never condone sin.

“Scholars will surely debate the meaning of aspects of this exhortation, and rightly so,” wrote Archbishop Aquila, adding that as this debate occurs Catholics should take to heart the words of St. Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things are passing away: God never changes.”

Copyright ©2016 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.