Some Exceptions May Apply

By the Editors                    April 19, 2016                             Commonweal Magazine online

When the Vatican released Amoris laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, the press wanted to know one thing: Would the pope be changing the rule that officially bars remarried Catholics without an annulment from receiving Communion? The answer, which came toward the end of the 256-page document, was “No, not exactly.” But the rest of the exhortation made it clear that, for this pope, that was the wrong question.

Francis had once again broken loose from the standard categories that were supposed to govern the debate over a hot-button issue. Rather than changing a controversial doctrine or doubling down on it—as Pope Paul VI did with the church’s ban on artificial contraception—Francis recognized the importance of the church’s rules about marriage and Communion while also insisting that such rules could not be expected to cover every eventuality or to apply in the same way in every circumstance.

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