International Movement We are Church:
Press Release Munich / Rome, April 8, 2016
"Responsibility now lies with the bishops, theologians and local Churches"
The International Movement We are Church sees the letter "Amoris laetitia" of Pope Francis published today as a hopeful new course for the urgent development of Catholic sexual ethics, pastoral and family theology. This letter introduces a new epoch in sexual ethics, very much in line with Vatican II. Now the local churches, including their theological sciences and all the faithful, have a duty to develop the basic ideas and initiatives and spaces set out by Francis.
The letter is in structure, style and content a pleasing departure from the previous legalistic and rigoristic thinking on Catholic sexual teaching towards a perspective of charity that can properly invoke the exemplary action of Jesus. Pope Francis consciously - which some will regret – does not yet make any changes in doctrine. But the discrepancy between the Gospel’s message of Mercy together with the pastoral approach of Pope Francis makes it ever more clear how necessary it is to make corrections and developments in doctrine and in canon law.
With the decisive statement, "that not all doctrinal, moral or pastoral discussion must be decided by a magisterial intervention" (no. 3), Pope Francis is giving back to the Church the freedom of dialogue and development of doctrine that many previous popes had circumcised excessively. The "reflection of the pastors and theologians", including the theological sciences, is explicitly and positively demanded (no. 2). This letter and the decentralization intended by Pope Francis transfer the responsibility especially to the bishops throughout the world to look for “better inculturated solutions in every country or region” (no. 3).
The bishops are now asked, for example, to develop regulations for adequate individual decisions for the access of divorced and remarried couples to the communion which do not depend on the good will of the parish priest. Now, no bishop, no priest can say anymore that Rome denies communion for the divorced and remarried (no. 243). Decisions of conscience concerning the issue of contraception (forbidden in the Encyclical "Humanae Vitae") are now clearly confirmed by "Amoris laetitia" (no. 222).
Disappointing - even in comparison to his earlier statements - is that Francis mentions homosexuals only indirectly (no. 250.) and that the Church sees no possibility for homosexual partnerships to have any analogies to marriage and family (no. 251.). But noteworthy is the statement that the church honours "constitutive elements" also in those forms of partnership which are contrary to the Christian ideal of marriage" (no. 292).
Some other notable aspects:
The Church has been called to form consciences, not to replace them. (no. 37).
The church needs to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability (no. 52).
Every form of sexual submission of women must be clearly rejected and can’t be justified by St. Paul who tells women to “be subject to your husbands” (no. 156).
There is a warning not to let celibacy become a comfortable single life that provides the freedom to be independent (no. 162).