Pope Francis has issued hotly-anticipated new guidelines on the Church’s approach to family life after two years of consultations with the world’s bishops. Here are some of the main points:
– Homosexuality –
Francis slaps down proposals to place gay unions on the same level as marriage, saying bishops found “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”.
He also slams external pressure on churches to change their position and says it is “unacceptable” that “international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”.
The pope offered sympathy to those families with gay relatives, “a situation not easy for parents or for children”, and said the Church must avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” towards homosexuals.
– Cohabitation –
Francis says couples who live together outside of marriage “need to be welcomed and guided, patiently and discreetly”, and the choice to cohabit may be based on external factors such as financial difficulties or cultural situations.
– Remarried divorced people –
“They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such”, and should be made to feel part of the Church “while avoiding any occasion of scandal”. The pope says the Christian community caring for such people “is not to be considered a weakening of its faith” but a sign of “its charity”.
– Broken marriages –
Pastors should judge situations on a case-by-case basis: “we know that no ‘easy recipes’ exist”.
– Children –
Offspring should be taught to say “Please”, “Thank you” and “Sorry”, they should be punished for misbehaviour, cured of the vice of “wanting it all now” and prevented from watching television programmes which undercut family values.
– Church self-criticism –
“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism”, says the pope, admitting that until now the Church has “proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage” and struggles to present marriage as more than “a lifelong burden”.