CARDINAL CHRISTOPH SCHÖNBORN on AMORIS LAETITIA

“Coming myself from a broken family, I read the exhortation with gratitude”

 

‘I would like to explain why, in a very personal way, I read the exhortation with joy, gratitude and also with deep emotion.

When the Church speaks about marriage and the family, there is often the tendency, perhaps unconsciously, to keep referring to two possible paths. On the one hands there are marriages and families which are “regular”, where everything is “going well”, and on the other hand there are “irregular situations” which pose a problem. Those who find themselves in the “irregular” camp have to live with the fact that, in the other camp, there are people who are “regular”.

I know from personal experience, because of the situation in my own family, how difficult it is for those who come from a broken family. The way the Church speaks can hurt, it may give people the impression that they are excluded.

Pope Francis gives the dominant theme of his exhortation in a key sentence: “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone” (AL §297), because the fundamental compassion of the Gospel message is that we are all in need of mercy! “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). All of us, irrespective of the marital or family situation in which we find ourselves, are on a journey. Even those in a marriage where “all is well” are on a journey. They have to grow, to learn and to face new stages in life. They experience sin and failure and have need of reconciliation and a fresh start, even until they reach old age.’ (cf. AL §297)

Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without labelling or categorising people, seeing them in a way that is fundamentally benevolent, that resembles the heart of God and the eyes of Jesus which exclude no one (cf. AL § 297), which welcome everyone and grant to all the joy of the Gospel. In this welcoming atmosphere, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement to the joy of love, a love in which we are able to believe and which excludes no one, really and truly nobody at all.

The great achievement of Amoris Laetitia, therefore, is that it goes beyond categories of regular and irregular.

There are not, in a simplistic way, on the one hand marriages and families that work, which are going well, and others which are not. The document talks about the situation that concerns everyone: we are all on a journey. We are all subject to sin, and we are in need of mercy. In the most correct of situations the call to conversion is just as real as in an irregular situation.

It is only in the second place that we must speak of sin, of failure, of wounds, which affect the situation of the family. The exhortation very often says: “so-called irregular” situations. This is not at all relativism; on the contrary, the Pope is very clear on the reality of sin. He does not deny that there are situations that are regular or irregular, but he goes beyond this perspective and simply puts the Gospel into practice.’

 

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Excerpts from the press conference at which the Apostolic Exhortation was presented, and from an interview with journalist Antonio Spadaro S.J.