Two years in the making, Pope Francis released his “The Joy of Love,” a 256-page guide on love, sex and the family and the Catholic church’s role in the lives of its members, was released by the Vatican on Friday, April 8, 2016.
Rather than introduce new doctrine to the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, through the words of his predecessors and his own insights, drew up a guide that is more guidelines than rules on many issues. One issue in which Pope Francis remained in step with long-held church doctrine was his stance that marriage is intended to be a lifelong bond between a man and a woman. Gay marriage remains outside even Pope Francis’s benevolent outlook.
Some of the new concepts proposed by “The Joy of Love:”
Contraception, something once strictly forbidden by church doctrine, is something that a couple’s individual consciences, educated in the churches teaching, must guide the decision to use or not to use contraceptives.
Sex in marriage is a “gift from God” rather than a permissible evil.
Although sex education is not explicitly sanctioned in the guide, Pope Francis said it must be taught within the framework of love.
Gay marriage is still not acceptable, but gay individuals should be respected and treated with consideration.
Remarried persons should not be made to feel discriminated against, but should be made to feel comfortable within the community of the church.
The head of the Catholic church demonstrated his understanding, too, of those within the church who find a more open-minded approach outside their comfort levels, writing, “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.”
From a non-secular point of view, Pope Francis’s thoughts and insights expressed in the newest guidance to both the more than one billion members of the Catholic Church worldwide and the priests, bishops and other church hierarchy, are a breath of fresh air from a religious leader. His call for compassion, understanding and the need for recognition of the individual’s conscience is a continued divergence from the centuries of rule-driven doctrine that is the central identifying ideology of Pope Francis’s leadership to date.
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