Pope's exhortation on family prompts mixed responses

Huge impact

The Joy of Love has generated a mixed reaction, bringing endorsement from conservative Christians and publications but less love from liberals who had hoped for a change in practices.

The Australian reported: "The Pope has emphatically rejected the idea of same-sex marriage and explicitly endorsed the Australian Bishops' defence of traditional marriage in is fundamental statement on family.

"While condemning dis­respect, unjust discrimination and violence against homo­sexuals, and calling for their ­inclusion in families and the Church, Pope Francis said: 'Marriage is ­between a man and a woman, and homosexual unions cannot be placed on the same level as Christian marriage',” reported the paper's political editor, Denis Shanahan.

In the US, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop of Louisville Joseph Kurtz, extolled the exhortation as “a love letter to married couples and families” and to the Church “to realise more and more her mission to live and love as a family.“ The Pope traces through the Bible all the beauty of marriage and that “no obstacle is too big for Christ to overcome.”

The Human Rights Campaign was “disappointed” that the document, issued in the Pope’s Year of Mercy, did not translate into fuller inclusion for LGBT Catholics, said Mary Beth Maxwell, an HRC senior vice president. She found consolation in knowing that “in a growing number of Catholic families and parishes all across this country we are welcomed for who we are, not judged or excluded because of doctrine.”

Conservative commentator George Weigel, in the National Review, saw a thread throughout that Church teachings can offer a structure for both holiness and happiness. He wrote that it says “many important things about love, marriage, the family, and the current cultural crisis of a world in which the imperial autonomous Self is running roughshod over just about everything, leaving a lot of human unhappiness in its wake.”

Catholics for Choice, a pro-contraception and abortion-rights group, pointed out that most US Catholics were not waiting for approval from their Church. President Jon O’Brien called Francis’ pastoral approach “a breath of fresh air … But talking about the law in a pastoral manner does not change doctrine, and it will not change the real practice of Catholics.”

Analysis by Catholic publications was also divided on which themes to highlight.

National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters pulled a more optimistic message from the document. He said Francis “challenges the Church to do more than simply repeat the Catechism and harangue the fallen … (T)he Holy Father does not believe the pastor, still less the magisterium, should tell people what to do, but that a pastor should accompany people so that they can discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives.”

FULL COVERAGE

Pope Francis backs local bishops' stand on gay unions (TheAustralian)

Applause, dismay, confusion over Pope’s words (RNS)

Pope Francis talks about love — and sex (TheWashington Post)

Pope urges Catholic Church to welcome divorced and remarried members (Women's Weekly)

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