A giant treatise by Pope Francis frustrated conservative and liberal Catholics who tried to place him in an ideological box on Friday. The 260-page document called for a new approach for handling “imperfect” Catholics, but also offered a staunch defense of the Church’s official doctrine.
The pope’s “Amoris Laetitia,” translated “The Joy of Love,” appeared to set the stage for the Catholic Church to ease its stance on denying Communion to divorced couples unless their marriage is annulled. On various issues such as sex and family life, Francis seemed to favor a decentralized approach that would empower bishops. He made it clear to same-sex couples, however, that there were “absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar … to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
“No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries,” the pope wrote, National Review reported. “There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage.”
Francis also lamented the emasculation of the Western male and the rise of fatherless homes.
“In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished. Manhood itself seems to be called into question. The result has been an understandable confusion,” Francis wrote. “At first, this was perceived as a liberation: liberation from the father as master, from the father as the representative of a law imposed from without, from the father as the arbiter of his children’s happiness and an obstacle to the emancipation and autonomy of young people. In some homes authoritarianism once reigned and, at times, even oppression. Yet, as often happens, one goes from one extreme to the other. In our day, the problem no longer seems to be the overbearing presence of the father so much as his absence, his not being there.”
In short, liberal Catholics were upset with the pope over his stance on same-sex unions, abortion and other social issues while conservatives bristled at his advice not to see everything in “black and white.”
“Is the pope changing the rules? No,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported. “But does he leave daylight? Yes. There is an attitude of welcome.”