Implementing ‘Amoris Laetitia’

This is the sixth and last in a series by Archbishop Cordileone on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” (the Joy of Love).

The apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” is the longest document of its kind; Pope Francis says that he “does not recommend a rushed reading,” and that “the greatest benefit … will come if each part is read patiently and carefully.” In my series of reflections, I have tried to highlight some of the document’s most significant themes and now, in this final piece, I wish to specifically address several of the Holy Father’s recommendations, and the response the archdiocese is making, or has made, to each.

The lack of dignified or affordable housing (“Amoris Laetitia,” 44); “Migration [and its] its negative effects on family life” (AL, 46). The Public Policy office of the archdiocese advocates for adequate housing, education, and rights of immigrant families in our community.

Pastoral care for the faithful who are living together, or are only married civilly (AL 78). The archdiocese supports programs such as “I do, I do” which prepare couples for convalidation and sacramental marriage.

Seminarians should receive a more extensive … formation in the areas of engagement and marriage (AL, 203). The programs for both seminarians and deacons have been revised to include a greatly-expanded education and formation in these areas. Deacons are expected to play an increasingly important role to support marriages in parish life.

Marriage preparation should be a kind of “initiation” to the sacrament of matrimony (AL 207). Marriage preparation should ensure that the couple … embark upon marriage as a lifelong calling (AL 211). The archdiocese has begun a new program, “Witness to Love,” which will provide experienced mentors to engaged and newly-married couples, to “walk with” them in the early stages of marriage.

Preparation of engaged couples by the parish community … they should be strongly encouraged to discuss what each expects from marriage (AL, 209). The FOCCUS pre-marriage inventory is required for all engaged couples to facilitate dialogue in a wide variety of topics

With respect to family planning, “the use of methods based on the ‘laws of nature and the incidence of fertility’ (Humanae Vitae, 11) are to be promoted, since ‘these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favor the education of an authentic freedom’ (AL, 222). We have more than doubled the number of teachers of Natural Family Planning in the past year, to help couples learn about this invaluable resource for planning families and strengthening marriages.

The parish is a place where experienced couples can help younger couples (AL, 223). Apostolic movements such as the Worldwide Marriage Encounter, Couples for Christ and the Catholic Christian Family Movement all support marriages and families throughout the archdiocese. Many parishes also offer programs for couples, such as “date nights.”

Liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, especially on the wedding anniversary” (AL, 223). The archdiocese offers an annual Wedding Anniversary Mass. Many parishes also recognize wedding anniversaries.

The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises … Couples should be helped to realize that surmounting a crisis … can improve and mature the wine of their union …. Experienced and trained couples should … [offer] guidance (AL, 232). The archdiocese supports an active Retrouvaille program, which helps married couples work through crises and renew their love for each other.

The divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. “They are not excommunicated”… they remain part of the ecclesial community (AL, 243). We are planning our first-ever archdiocesan retreat for divorced Catholics in this Year of Mercy, Nov. 12.

The need to make the procedure in cases of nullity more accessible and less time-consuming (AL, 244). Our highly trained tribunal staff works tirelessly to expedite all requests we receive for a decree of nullity, as well as other legal matters.

The Lord Jesus … offers his boundless love to each person without exception … families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives (AL, 250). The archdiocese supports both the Courage and EnCourage apostolates, which are support groups for individuals and families who seek such support in dealing with same-sex attraction.

Catholic schools “play a vital role … [they] should be encouraged in their mission to help pupils… view the world with the love of Jesus and… understand life as a call to serve God” (AL, 279). We are proud of our Catholic schools, which strive to educate and form healthy, happy and holy young men and women.

Young people … should be helped to perceive the attraction of a complete union that … gives sexuality its deepest meaning (AL, 205). Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies (AL, 285). Our religious education programs include Church teaching on sexuality, in particular utilizing the Theology of the Body.

The archdiocese is committed to our marriages and families. We created a new office to support them only three years ago, and offered our first-ever Family Life Conference on Sept. 24. If you would like to learn more about it, or about any programs referenced in this article, please contact our Marriage and Family Life office.

The Church has great concern for marriage and family. Both are intended to be icons of the Holy Trinity, as I noted earlier, to reflect God’s never failing love for each of us and to be a foretaste of what our life will be like in heaven. They are also the foundations of ever holy parish and healthy society; Pope St. John Paul II has said that “The future of the world and of the Church, passes through the family.” May our gracious Lord richly bless you and your family, particularly in this Year of Mercy.

This column was published on November 3, 2016 in Catholic San Francisco.