The Joy of Love: Apostolic Letter Amoris Laetitia of Pope Francis
When the Apostolic Letter Amoris Laetitia was published in 2016 it received incredible media coverage both within the Catholic Church and in secular society. Unfortunately, the discussion about Amoris Laetitia has focused on chapter eight. This created a huge controversy around the issue of the Eucharist and whether or not it should be received by remarried divorcees. The most progressive groups in the Church concluded that the Pope had made a significant change in moral theology while more conservative groups considered the Pope was being unfaithful to the Tradition and to the indissolubility of marriage. I believe those two visions are simplistic and not quite loyal to Francis’ thought and it is slightly dangerous to only base our opinion of the letter on chapter eight.
I consider it is necessary to have a wider vision concerning Amoris Laetitia and to understand all its content. I don’t think the Pope has changed the essence of our doctrine, but he has suggested a different approach to the pastoral mission guided more by mercy than by rigid rules.
First, it is important to understand that Amoris Laetitia’s is the fruit of two Synods (2014 and 2015). The Pope didn’t want to present a new dogma or give solutions to all the problems. He wanted to initiate a reflection on different issues regarding family enacting the principle of synodality. He invites the people of God to walk together in this reflection: pastors, lay and the bishop of Rome.
Secondly, we are discussing here a pastoral document. It is not a philosophical document neither is it a dogmatic theological text. It is a reflection on pastoral theology, which has its source in the people’s experience of faith.
Pope Francis uses the Latin American theology in his pastoral method. The starting point for Latin American theology is experience. The Pope tries to understand the experience of the people of God to better understand the truths of the faith and moral life. In communion with the people of God, Pope Francis reflects on the problem in a theoretical way and then goes back to the pastoral praxis with new vision.