For the Love of Families


Sometimes, what people need most is understanding. They haven’t always gotten it from the Church.

With "Amoris Laetitia", his exhortation on the family, Pope Francis did not set out to change Church teachings. But he is changing perceptions.

In it he says, "Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery." (p. 28)

As Rev. Robert Sirico writes in the Detroit News, "The document is drenched in mercy, and urges pastors to lead their flock by maintaining a sense of welcome to those undergoing the sometimes arduous process of discerning and doing God’s will. It urges us to encourage — and include in parish life — those working toward living in accord with the Church’s teaching" (

While "Amoris Laetitia" doesn’t redefine "family", it does seem to recognize that in today’s world, people with good intentions are doing the best they can.

"No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love," the Pope concludes. "All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together."

Here’s what friars had to say when we asked for first impressions.

Fr. Don Miller, OFM

I am excited about the possibilities which the Holy Father has made available in both the way the apostolic exhortation was developed and in its content. I find in it a proof that Pope Francis is open to and understands what the human condition is all about. Theory and norms have their place, but so does pastoral care and concern and a very clear appreciation of living with the reality of everyday issues. I also appreciate his very clear appreciation of Catholic Moral Theology, especially the distinction between objective and subjective culpability. It has everything to say about our status as saintly sinners or sinner-saints.

Br. Colin King, OFM

As I have read "Amoris Laetitia", I have been struck by the wide scope of love the apostolic exhortation speaks about. However, it seems many folks have been waiting for this document simply to read what it says about same sex relationships and divorced/remarried couples. Although these are certainly two critical areas in our pastoral outreach, I was reminded that love covers many aspects in our life and relationships. I hope this exhortation can help us to allow the fullness of love to be in our lives and in our families and even among us friars!

Considering the makeup of "families" in our modern culture, I found Pope Francis’ letter compassionate and understanding. I think the Pope has a loving concern for people’s "situation in life".

Fr. Henry Beck, OFM

I believe Pope Francis is encouraging us to move from a stance of righteousness that judges and possibly condemns to a merciful solidarity with others that engages and seeks to understand and search for truth together. I see at work in Pope Francis a desire to place pastoral theology, as John O’Malley and other Church historians have noted about Vatican II, as "an essential prism for all theology;" that is, that speculation, systematics, and all research about God must, in the beginning and in the final analysis, be grounded in human events and human experience. I find this encouraging because the heart of my ministry has been with concrete persons in the Church with whom I have learned so much about God’s presence with us.

Fr. Mike Lenz, OFM

I think our Holy Father’s exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" is a great blessing for the Church of today. Although it is long, 325 paragraphs forming nine chapters, it is easy to read. I like the Holy Father’s emphasis on mercy and compassion on the issues that face family life in today’s world, in many cultures and many problems. The Pope has not deterred from the magisterium of the Church building on the work of his predecessors, yet he approaches the issues, which are complex, with the love of Christ and an understanding heart. I think our professor of moral theology, Fr. Nick Lohkamp of blessed memory, would be very happy with the outcome of the two Synods and this apostolic exhortation of our Holy Father.

Br. Al Mascia, OFM

By the time any of this makes it into News Notes Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia", will have been publicly available to the media for just about one week. While many have already read the entire document, I’m taking the Holy Father’s advice not to engage in a "rushed reading" of it. After just beginning to digest it, however, I can already understand why some reports have described "Amoris Laetitia" as "accessible", "encouraging" and "pastoral." What I personally like most about it so far is that it stands a good chance of being yet another helpful resource for me to draw upon as I continue leading retreats on Pope Francis! If the invitation the Holy Father extends to all of us to take the time to prayerfully consider what he has written is taken seriously, then I look forward to such topics as the domestic Church, the vocation of the laity, the matter of conscience and even the sometimes problematic question of the internal forum to possibly come up as important "talking points" while I continue my retreat work. My favorite soundbite so far: "Time is greater than space!"

Fr. Tom Richstatter, OFM

I felt a deep sympathy with the tone of this document; many articles touched me personally. Paragraph 298 describes my sister’s marriage: "...unjustly abandoned...entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing." If this document appeared 50 years ago her children (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) would have been raised Catholic. But my sister had been told that she was "living in sin" and that nothing could be done for her. I remember her first words to me after the funeral of her "second" husband: "Tom, now can I go to Communion again?"

Some years ago I was forced to remove the explanation of the "internal forum solution" from my website; perhaps I might be allowed to post it once again. (It was one of the most frequently visited pages.)

My doctoral thesis, "Obedience to Liturgical Law," was basically a historical and canonical examination of paragraph 11 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: "Pastors of souls must realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration..." Pope Francis makes a very similar statement with regard to marriage: "A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations." (305) In my 50 years of pastoral practice I have found that when we enter into the reality of other people’s lives, "our lives" as Pope Francis says, "become wonderfully complicated." (308)

(Read "Amoris Laetitia" at:
James Martin, SJ, writes about The Top Ten Takeaways from "Amoris Laetitia" at: