Pope Francis’ New Encyclical Welcomes Gay And Divorced Catholics Back Into Church Life

Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on love and marriage, Amoris Laetitia, was published today. In it, Francis doesn’t create any new rules for marriage, but he does elaborate on how priests should treat parishioners who are in “irregular” marriages, such as those who have been divorced and remarried outside of the church, and those who are in gay marriages.

Some Catholics had been hoping for definite new rules either explicitly allowing or forbidding gay marriage. Instead, he says that gay parishioners shouldn’t be subjected to “unjust discrimination,” and adds that gay relationships, too, can have “constructive elements,” even if they are outside of the Church’s teachings on marriage.

As for divorced parishioners, Francis says that they should be able to receive communion, suggesting that priests help those parishioners to search their own consciences rather than casting judgment. Communion is, he says, “not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

He also cautions priests that using “moral laws” to punish parishioners living outside of the Church’s teachings “would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”

And although it’s not the clear, concrete progress some people want to see in the Catholic Church, consider the fact that Pope Francis is essentially telling the clergy that human life is too complicated to apply black-and-white rules to it. He’s prioritizing the spiritual needs of parishioners over the moral authority of priests. It’s a huge step forward for gay and divorced Catholics who want to practice their faith but who have, until now, felt excluded from doing so.

[Washington Post]

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