Pope's family guidelines call for mercy

9:21 am on 9 April 2016

Pope Francis has published new guidelines on family life that argue the Church should show more understanding of modern realities.

The document, based on two Synods on the issue, was eagerly awaited by the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.

EntitledThe Joy of Love, it does not change Catholic doctrine.

But it opens the way for bishops in each country to interpret doctrine to suit their own culture.

Pope Francis speaks during the Easter Vigil at the St Peter's basilica.

Pope Francis Photo: AFP

Pope Francis urged priests to exercise careful discernment over "wounded families" and be merciful, rather than judgemental.

He criticised the individualism that has led many in the West to value their own personal satisfaction over the needs of their spouse.

While saying yes to sex education, he argues it must be within a framework of education about love.

The emphasis throughout is on better pastoral care: better preparation for couples on what marriage involves, and more understanding from parish priests and others for human frailty.

The document is the culmination of three years' work by the Pope, who sent a questionnaire to families across the world asking them about their hopes and their fears.

He then brought bishops and cardinals together for two Synods in Rome, at which he encouraged them to debate and even to disagree over issues that divide the Church in many countries.

Among the most divisive issues were offering communion to the divorced and remarried, contraception and the treatment of gay Catholics.

What the document says about...

  • Divorcees remarrying: "Language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided, and they should be encouraged to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community's care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage..."
  • Contraception: "The use of methods based on the 'laws of nature and the incidence of fertility' are to be promoted, since 'these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favour the education of an authentic freedom'.
  • Women: "The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union. I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practised in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making."
  • Sex education: "Frequently, sex education deals primarily with 'protection' through the practice of 'safe sex'. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against.... It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage. They end up being blithely encouraged to use other persons as a means of fulfilling their needs or limitations."
  • Gay people: "Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration... As for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family."


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