My notes on Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 9. The Spirituality of marriage and the family.
The Pope speaks of the “spirituality of the bond”, of how spouses can depend upon one another. Yet he is clear that they can depend upon Christ even more.
This chapter does not present the spirituality of marriage and the family in the hierarchic way that we have inherited; that for Christian people who marry, Christ is mediated to them in a new way through their marriage, and that they mediate Christ to one another. The call within Christian marriage is for spouses to form their mutual relationship on the pattern of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
There is a strong sense then, in this chapter that the Christian family is the same as the natural family, but with a Christian gloss. But there is no indication from Pope Francis about the Christian identity. In other words, if a person does not know Christ, he or she is not going to find him through marriage and family life. The foundation for every person is to find Christ, and whoever you are, once you have found him, you will find how he is mediated to you. Amoris Laetitia gives no indication of how a person, who has not found Christ in life, might find him marriage.
Summary of my notes.
There is a natural goodness to marriage and family life, but in Amoris Laetitia, the natural and supernatural goodness of marriage are blurred. The consequence of this is that Pope Francis presents marriage and the family through rose-tinted spectacles. He robs them of their ideal, but does not present them for what they really are. Amoris Laetitia can easily come across as a form of Clericalism – the clergy taking down to families. What the Magisterium should be doing is to give a vision of marriage and the family that flows from people who have given their lives to Christ. But if spouses don’t know Christ, how will they find him in their marriage and family?
Reflecting on Amoris Laetitia puts me in mind of the chicken and egg syndrome. Which comes first, the Church or marriage and the family? It is clear that Christian marriage and the family flow out of the Church. But this is not at all apparent in Amoris Laetitia, and so today’s pastoral problems remain, all stacked up, with no clear route forward. The Pope’s Letter reads as though it precedes John Paul II, rather than follows him.
I hope that some good will come out of Amoris Laetitia, particularly as a help to young spouses and those who will prepare for marriage. I often think of St Bernadette of Lourdes who, when asked by the Blessed Mother to drink the water, found that she had first to dig and clear away the mud, before she could discover the clear water. The problems of our age are many, but the path to travel on is Christ. Christian spouses who have submitted their lives to Him are truly great lights in the Church and in the world.