Column: Catholic Church changing, but still has long way to go

Pope Francis leaves after celebrating a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Pope Francis ordained eleven new priests Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

On April 8, Pope Francis made a commotion in the Catholic Church when he released an apostolic exhortation by the name of “Amoris Laetitia,” which translates to “The Joy of Love.” This 256 page statement revolves around various social issues affecting family life from divorce to sex education. It includes some shocking perspective changes on matters like the inclusion of divorced couples in the church.

The document shows the acceptance of the fact that times have changed and the church must change with it, yet it also displays how much farther the church has to go. In his apostolic exhortation, Francis asks priests and bishops to consider the reincorporation of divorced couples into the church on an individual case basis. According to current church laws, because the couple broke the promises of their marriage, they are not allowed to participate in sacraments such as communion, teaching catechism or being godparents.

He encourages those who are interested to speak to a priest about their situation because even if their opinions or desires are not confirmed, they will receive a different perspective on the matter, helping them better understand the situation and move towards personal growth.

This application of moral laws on an individual basis is particularly important for marriages, because in marriages that consider divorce to be living in sin, individuals may force themselves to live in toxic relationships to keep their promise. It is now in church instruction that priests can tell those who left toxic marriages or those whose spouses left them without their say in the matter, that they can participate in sacraments and are thus living in accordance with the church.

The pope addressed many other important and controversial ideas. In a section of the exhortation titled “The need for sex education,” Francis expressed his support for this teaching in a moral context, and in a broader framework of the education of love. He encourages age-appropriate education while advocating abstinence before marriage.

Francis discussed sexual education in more detail, discouraging the use of the terms “safe sex” and “protection” because of the negative connotation this creates for sexuality’s natural procreative purposes and displays an eventual child as if it were an enemy people needed protection against.

This affirmation of sex education is important for the church because of its international and social influence. However, this narrow view of safe sex in strict terms of procreation displays a current lack of sex education. This view shows either a naivety of sexual repercussions or a blatant disregard for the global impact of sexually transmitted infections that education can help prevent. Safe sex also involves matters of communication and consent.

These topics are universal in relationships and are important even in marriage. Despite the fact that the Catholic Church advocates no sex until marriage, they should promote a complete sex education, including information about “safe sex” in all facets of the term.

Amoris Laetitia once again addressed Francis’s views on homosexuality and same sex marriage. He called for the LGBTQ community to be respected, even noting that homosexual unions have “constructive elements.” Yet, he stated homosexual unions should not be placed at the same level as marriages and that they should not be considered even remotely comparable to God’s plan for marriage and family. God’s teachings throughout the Bible call for people to love and serve each other on a nuclear and a macro scale.

The inclusion of specific genders in the matter has grown outdated, just as many laws in Leviticus have become irrelevant and are ignored. This document calls for church fathers to recognize the era in which they are preaching, yet it does not recognize the change in gender definitions and identities.

Francis’s treatise establishes important progress. It recognizes that not all situations can be labeled clearly as wrong or right using strict moral laws, and it acknowledges the importance of sex education, even if it holds that such education should not come to culmination until marriage. Yet the church has a long way to go in recognizing the complexities in sex education and distilling the main doctrines of the Bible in the midst of era specific laws and roles.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.