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The Amoris Laetitia

posted Apr 12, 2016, 10:05 AM by First Baptist


It’s important for us to be informed as to what is going on within Christiandom – the worldwide Church.

 

Last Friday, Pope Francis, head of the 1.1- billion-member Roman Catholic church, released his long-anticipated statement on the family called Amoris Laetitia, the “Joy of Love.”

 

The main question was whether the pope would change traditional Catholic teaching with regard to divorce & remarriage.

 

Historically, the Catholic church has held that divorced & remarried Catholics are barred from receiving Communion unless they obtain an annulment of their first marriage. In the absence of an annulment, the thinking is that the remarried person is living in a state of perpetual adultery.

 

While I haven’t read the entire 250-page document, I’ve read several summaries (both pro & con). My understanding is that the Pope left the Church’s teaching intact, but as a matter of practice, it’s now up to the parish priest to decide on a case-by-case basis the matter of Communion.

 

This raises a number of issues for thinking Christians – both Catholic & Protestant:

 

1.      Who or what is the source of authority for faith & practice? For Catholics, it is the Vatican; for Protestants, it is the Bible.

2.     How should what we believe (or say we believe) relate to what we do? In this case, Pope Francis is saying “this is what we believe,” but what the Church practices from this point forward will likely be something quite different. Is that legitimate?

3.   To what extent should Christianity be willing to accommodate itself to the culture? The incidence of divorce & remarriage has skyrocketed in Western culture in the last 50 years. Given this, the pressure to “go with the flow” is enormous. Is this what the Pope is doing? What about us as Protestants – have we accommodated as well?

4.    What is the proper approach with respect to divorce & remarriage? Even within Harlan, there are churches that won’t sanction remarriage after divorce under any circumstance, while other churches will sanction virtually any marriage, so long as it’s legal. How should a local church handle this?

5.    What is the appropriate place of Communion in a Christian’s life? Being denied Communion is a big deal for a Catholic because Communion is understood (by Catholics) as a means of grace. Thus, the person who’s barred from Communion is cut off from God’s grace. At the other extreme are a lot of Protestants who routinely skip Communion and assume no consequences.

6.     How should we think about God’s commands? Two commentators I read on the Pope’s statement detect a new understanding of God’s commands, namely, that they’re not really commands, but rather ideals to aspire to. This may have the most far-reaching effect of all!

 

Some questions to ponder.

 

 

Pastor Dan

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