In what could be an important moment for his leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is scheduled to issue a major document on Friday (Apr. 8) regarding family issues. It is titled ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ Latin for ‘The Joy of Love.’
“In the document, known as an apostolic exhortation, the pope could change church practice on thorny subjects like whether divorced Catholics who remarry without having obtained annulments can receive holy communion. He might address debates over same-sex relationships, cohabitation and polygamy, an issue in Africa. Or, he could sidestep such divisive topics and stick to broader philosophical statements.
“For the past two years, Francis has guided the church through a sweeping exercise of self-examination that some scholars have compared to the Second Vatican Council. Catholics around the world filled out detailed questionnaires about whether the church meets their families’ needs. Bishops and other church officials spent two tumultuous meetings at the Vatican, known as synods, debating and arguing.
“The broad topic was whether the Catholic Church should reposition itself, and how. Francis listened, prodded and sometimes steered the process, but he mostly kept his own counsel. Until now.
“Having led Catholics into such delicate terrain, Francis has stirred hope and fear. Some religious conservatives warn he could destabilize the church and undermine Catholic doctrine. Some liberals, though, are hoping Francis will directly address same-sex marriage and contraception in a way that would make the church more responsive to today’s realities.
“‘I’m sure he knew he would touch some nerves,’ said John Thavis, a longtime Vatican analyst and the author of ‘The Vatican Diaries.’ ‘He may not have appreciated how much opposition there could be.’
“But both sides might be disappointed.”
By Laurie Goodstein and Jim Yardley — Click here to read the rest of this story.