Saturday, April 9, 2016

Making excuses for the Joy of Love

Pope Francis has released “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on love in the family. Hailed as “toothless” by CNN, who noted, “The well-intentioned and commendable, pragmatic advice that men should do housework seems barely to bring the Catholic Church into the 1960s.” YahooNews cited the freedom to follow our conscience and not the doctrines of the Church regarding family size. They described the document as “cleverly worded.” Indeed. 

My personal favorite: The need for sex education. Why the parents aren’t mentioned as relevant to this topic is beyond me. Even more puzzling is why we’re looking at quotes from The Art Of Loving, written in 1956, by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. Did the Vatican Library burn to the ground? 

If the exhortation were, in fact, toothless, Catholics wouldn’t be scrambling to find what is good in it and warning families to ignore elements that are clearly wrong.

The thing is, I must forgive, excuse, and give the benefit of the doubt to lots of people—from immediate to extended family, to the man who runs the stop sign just as I’m trying to cross the street with my toddler, juggling a wannabe-walking baby.

The world is not Catholic. My doctor thinks I’m crazy. The lady next door doesn’t see why the kids aren’t in daycare. A short drive and I’m at the Little Amsterdam Wellness Center. The local alternative newspaper frequently boasts a mortal sin on the front page, and there’s a noticeable cooling in a cashier’s demeanor when I buy a Catholic book.

There are ample opportunities to think, “They know not what they do,” and give someone the benefit of the doubt. After all, I was once a 20-something, pro-everything myself. God's grace landed me here, with Paschal candles ablaze on the dining room table and baptism birthdays marked on the calendar.

But is it wrong that I want to save that mercy and nonjudgment for the secular culture, the politicos, and the guy in the Jaguar? I don’t want to have to expend a whole lot of that spiritual discretion on the Pope.

He’s supposed to get it, right? Be part of the solution, a source of encouragement?

That’s what really bothers me about this exhortation. The faithful make excuses, mining 264-pages worth of verbosity for a nugget, consoling themselves with the knowledge that the Church will prevail. The world is fallen, tumultuous, and little encouragement to the faithful. But the Chair of Peter should be an exception—the exceptionif only the pope would feed his sheep.