Dear Editor: Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” or “The Joy of Love” has stirred much discussion. In this exhortation, Pope Francis has challenged the Church to work on the needs of the family. It is a to-do list of actions for the Church for the needs of the 21st-century family.
Chapter Eight has created a stir about who can receive Communion. The news media and those who wish to divide the Church have picked up this topic and there is much discussion on whether we are experiencing a doctrine change or change in Scripture interpretation. Bishops have disagreed and have challenged the pope for further explanations and how this is to be applied.
Church critics are salivating on this controversy or should I say discussion. From the beginning of the early Church, there is a long history of controversies that have resulted in clarifications and growth in doctrine. Today is no different from Nicea in 325. History has shown that issues like this have led to a deeper and clearer understanding of the doctrine.
The two most important things that we need to keep in mind are that the Holy Spirit is steering the ship and the Blessed Mother is keeping a serious eye on the Church.
For 2,000 years, the Holy Spirit has guided and protected the Church. In the end, she always emerges stronger from the battles. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted us to the care of His mother. A mother will protect her children at all costs. If we truly believe in Mary, and pray to her, she will keep her cloak of protection over the Church and will not let Satan or man destroy it. Our prayers will show the Blessed Mother that we need her to protect us. As pointed out in Genesis, she has the power to crush the head of Satan.
DEACON RICHARD HUTTER
Dear Editor: Kathleen O’Connell made an excellent point in her letter (March 22) regarding Pope Francis’ Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” when she concluded with the observation that such an important change in established Church teaching regarding reception of the sacraments by “those living in adultery” should be made carefully and with “the utmost clarity.”
As an attorney, she understandably should appreciate that need for explicitness, especially when any pope uses what she refers to as the “Petrine privilege”: “What you bind…what you loose, etc.”
I understand her concluding concern that unresolved “differing interpretations… can only result in a weakening of faith among Catholics everywhere.” I wonder whether she is aware of the fact that this concern for “those living in adultery” is not unique to our present pope, and that it is something which has been quietly “simmering on a back burner” in the Church for some time.
In my research on another subject, I came upon a brief report which appeared on Page 11 of the Dec. 6, 1997 Tablet, in its “News Briefs” feature. There, under the headline, “Bishop: Those in Irregular Marriages Need Sacraments” was a report from Vatican City which said that, at a meeting of the Synod of Bishops for America, Ecuadorean Bishop Nestor Herrera Heredia of Machala told those present that the Church must offer some concrete sign of “fraternal and merciful acceptance” to what the report termed the growing number (even 20 years ago) of Catholic couples whose unions are not recognized by the Church.
Bishop Heredia, according to that report, said that many such “irregular” couples still did attend Mass and they were passing on the faith to their children, even while they cannot approach the altar because the Church forbids it.
If what the bishop said is true then, such unrequited faith on the part of those couples must continue today, and the now-famous Chapter Eight of “Amoris” indicates that Pope Francis seems to share his fellow South American bishop’s concern for them.
So, I agree with attorney O’Connell’s concern for an unambiguous end to present misunderstandings about a proper pastoral response to those couples’ needs. Some Catholics today, like the Pharisees of Christ’s time, may take offense at any sign of Church leniency toward “those living in adultery,” but Christ himself saved a woman “taken in adultery” from a liturgically mandated death sentence, and I know that some will be quick to add, “But he told her to ‘sin no more.’“
Now, that’s the tough part: would reception of the sacraments mean that such couples must not live as a married couple? And what about the children of such “irregular unions”? Who gets them?
Maybe that’s why this question has remained unresolved for all these years. In the end, I think that it may come down to a matter of conscience for each couple and their confessors, much as Pope Francis is suggesting.