A Summary of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)
I don’t believe it’s an overstatement to say that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) is one of the most anticipated documents in the history of the Church. Amoris Laetitia is officially a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation because it is the result of not one, but two Synods on marriage and family in 2014 and 2015. (For more information on the Synods, see this handy site from the USCCB).
While it was clear that the Synods on marriage and family covered a wide range of topics, the central focus of the media, and much of society, was on the issue of whether or not divorced and remarried Catholics could receive communion. He does address this topic, but it takes up just one of nine chapters in the text (Chapter 8).The goal of this summary is two-fold:
First (and foremost), to encourage people to read the document itself. Pope Francis explicitly notes, “I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully” (#7). Due to the richness of the document and the potential controversy involved, I would personally emphasize this as well.
Second, while I am in full support of reading the actual text patiently and carefully, there is an interesting dynamic for Catholics who want to know the content, but are faced with a barrage of news, social media, and conversation before they can read the entire 250+ page document. The summary provides actual text of the document for people to read and grapple with rather than simply settling for secular media headlines and social media status updates.
This summary has various options for people on various time schedules.
If you have 2 minutes, I suggest that you read Pope Francis’ Summary of the Document. This will give you a sense of what the document contains and particular sections you might want to read.
If you have 5 minutes, I suggest reading the Pope Francis’ Summary of the Document and then choosing a particular chapter of interest in the Significant Quotes from Each Chapter section.
If you have 10 minutes or more, I suggest reading quotes from the various chapters below.
Finally, the last section covers various quotes on interesting topics like abortion, transgenderism, technology, social media, and same-sex unions among others.
Note: I will accompany quotes with a number (e.g. #134). These signify paragraph numbers on the document, not page numbers.
Pope Francis’ Summary of the Document
If you want a quick summary of the document, I could probably do no better than Pope Francis’ own summary in the introduction. I’ll simply add the chapters in the parenthesis (my own notes) to help you identify where you look for more information on these topics.
“I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone. (Chapter 1)
I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality. (Chapter 2)
I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family (Chapter 3), thus paving the way for two central chapters dedicated to love. (Chapter 4 – on 1 Corinthians 13 and Chapter 5 – on children and parenting)
I will then highlight some pastoral approaches that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan, with a full chapter devoted to the raising of children (Chapter 6).
Finally, I will offer an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us (Chapter 7), and conclude with a brief discussion of family spirituality (Chapter 8)” (#6).
Significant Quotes from Each Chapter
This is a very long document and so is this summary! Below are 2-3 significant quotes from each chapter. For quotes on additional topics, see various quotes in the next section.
Chapter 1 – In the Light of the World
“The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon – not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue – capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:7; 17:2-5, 16; 28:3; 35:11; 48:3-4)” (#11).
“The idyllic picture presented in Psalm 128 is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love. For good reason Christ’s teaching on marriage (cf. Mt 19:3-9) is inserted within a dispute about divorce” (#19).
“Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth” (#30).
Chapter 2 – The Experiences and Challenges of Families
“At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite” (#36).
“Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness” (#38).
“We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye” (#39).
Chapter 3 – Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family
“In and among families, the Gospel message should always resound; the core of that message, the kerygma, is what is “most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing and at the same time most necessary”… Indeed, “nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wise than that message”. In effect, ‘all Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma’” (#53).
“The indissolubility of marriage – ‘what God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6) – should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage… God’s indulgent love always accompanies our human journey; through grace, it heals and transforms hardened hearts, leading them back to the beginning through the way of the cross” (#62).
“The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses of the salvation in which they share through the sacrament” (#72).
Chapter 4 – Love in Marriage
“It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions. At times the opposite occurs: the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant” (#98).
“Our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free and heal that person” (#104).
“If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, that the Father’s love cannot be bought or sold, then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others even if they have wronged us” (#108).
Chapter 5 – Love Made Fruitful
“For ‘children are a gift. Each one is unique and irreplaceable… We love our children because they are children, not because they are beautiful, or look or think as we do, or embody our dreams. We love them because they are children’” (#170).
“Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism… It is they who testify to the beauty of life”.192 Certainly, “a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength” (#174).
“We often hear that ours is “a society without fathers”. In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished. Manhood itself seems to be called into question” (#176).
Chapter 6 – Some Pastoral Perspectives
“Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman?” (#221).
“Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents and the Church. Through them, the Lord renews the world” (#222).
“The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises, yet these are also part of its dramatic beauty. Couples should be helped to realize that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship; instead, it can improve, settle and mature the wine of their union” (#232).
Chapter 7 – Towards a Better Education of Children
“Parents need to consider what they want their children to be exposed to, and this necessarily means being concerned about who is providing their entertainment, who is entering their rooms through television and electronic devices, and with whom they are spending their free time” (#260).
“It is essential that children actually see that, for their parents, prayer is something truly important. Hence moments of family prayer and acts of devotion can be more powerful for evangelization than any catechism class or sermon” (#288).
Chapter 8 – Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness
While I will supply quotes below, I highly suggest reading this section prayerfully and in its entirely. In his introduction, Pope Francis mentions that “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight.”
“If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”,335 the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same” (#300).
“Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. (Footnote directly after this statement reads — In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 , 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).)” (#305).
“In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur” (#307).
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’” (#308).
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Chapter 9 – The Spiritual of Marriage and the Family
“Gradually, ‘with the grace of the Holy Spirit, [the spouses] grow in holiness through married life, also by sharing in the mystery of Christ’s cross, which transforms difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love’.374 Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection” (#317).
“Our loved ones merit our complete attention. Jesus is our model in this, for whenever people approached to speak with him, he would meet their gaze, directly and lovingly (cf. Mk 10:21). No one felt overlooked in his presence, since his words and gestures conveyed the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51). This is what we experience in the daily life of the family” (#323).
Additional Notable Quotes
On Social Media and Relationships
“Here I think, for example, of the speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another. They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly ‘blocked’” (#39).
On Families with Children with Special Needs
“Families who lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are greatly to be admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of faithfulness to the gift of life. In these situations, the family can discover, together with the Christian community, new approaches, new ways of acting, a different way of understanding and identifying with others, by welcoming and caring for the mystery of the frailty of human life” (#47)
On Same-sex Unions
“There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society” (#52)
“Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female” (#56).
On Fruitfulness in Marriage
“From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning,86 even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life” (#80).
“Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life” (#83).
“Each child has a place in God’s heart from all eternity; once he or she is conceived, the Creator’s eternal dream comes true. Let us pause to think of the great value of that embryo from the moment of conception. We need to see it with the eyes of God, who always looks beyond mere appearances” (#168).
“Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth… Dear mothers: thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world” (#174).
“Adoption is a very generous way to become parents. I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation. They will never regret having been generous. Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none” (#179).
On Family and Technology
“This does not mean preventing children from playing with electronic devices, but rather finding ways to help them develop their critical abilities and not to think that digital speed can apply to everything in life” (#275).
“Still, it is clear that these media cannot replace the need for more personal and direct dialogue, which requires physical presence or at least hearing the voice of the other person. We know that sometimes they can keep people apart rather than together, as when at dinnertime everyone is surfing on a mobile phone, or when one spouse falls asleep waiting for the other who spends hours playing with an electronic device” (#278).
“Since adolescents usually have issues with authority and rules, it is best to encourage their own experience of faith and to provide them with attractive testimonies that win them over by their sheer beauty” (#288).