NICOLE WINFIELD and RACHEL ZOLL, Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis insisted that individual conscience be the guiding principle for Catholics negotiating the complexities of sex, marriage and family life in a major document released Friday [April 8, 2016] that rejects the emphasis on black and white rules for the faithful.
In the 256-page document “The Joy of Love,” Francis makes no change in church doctrine and strongly upholds that marriage is a lifelong commitment.
But in selectively citing his predecessors and emphasizing his own teachings, Francis makes clear that he wants nothing short of a revolution in the way priests accompany Catholics, saying the church must no longer sit in judgment and “throw stones” against those who fail to live up to the Gospel’s ideals of marriage and family life.
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion,” he wrote. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.” …
He insisted the church’s aim is to reintegrate and welcome all its members. …
“It can no longer simply be said that all those in any irregular situations are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” he wrote. Even those in an “objective situation of sin” can be in a state of grace, and can even be more pleasing to God by trying to improve, he said.
The document’s release marks the culmination of a divisive two-year consultation of ordinary Catholics and the church hierarchy that Francis initiated in hopes of understanding the problems facing Catholic families today and providing them with better pastoral care.
The most divisive issue that arose during two meetings of bishops, or synods, was whether Francis would loosen the Vatican’s strict position on whether Catholics who divorce and remarry can receive Communion. Church teaching holds that unless these Catholics receive an annulment, or a church decree that their first marriage was invalid, they are committing adultery and cannot receive Communion.
Conservatives had insisted that the rules were fixed and that there was no way around Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Progressives had sought wiggle room to balance doctrine with mercy and look at each couple on a case-by-case basis, accompanying them on a path of reconciliation that could lead to them eventually receiving the sacraments.
Francis took a unilateral step last year in changing church law to make it easier to get an annulment. On Friday, he said the rigorous response proposed by the conservatives was inconsistent with Jesus’ message of mercy.
“By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God,” he said. “Let us remember that a small step in the midst of great human limitations can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.” www.yahoo.com/news/pope-insists-conscience-not-rules-must-guide-faithful-100149710.html
“No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves,” the pope said. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-marriage-idUSKCN0X42TB
“ ‘Christ … has purchased for us a never-ending redemption. … His passion is … an eternal sacrifice, and everlastingly effectual to heal; it satisfies the divine justice forever in behalf of all those who rely upon it with firm and unshaken faith.’ Yet He clearly taught that men are not, because of the grace of Christ, free to continue in sin. ‘Wherever there is faith in God, there God is; and wherever God abideth, there a zeal exists urging and impelling men to good works.’ ”—D’Aubigne, b. 8, ch. 9. The Great Controversy, 180.