Cardinal: Document on family develops doctrine, doesn't change it

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ document on the
family reflects an “organic development” of church teaching and doctrine,
said Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, theologian and participant in both
synods that dealt with the topic.

“There are true innovations, but no break” in
tradition, the cardinal told reporters during a news conference at the Vatican
April 8 presenting the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

The document emphasizes the need for greater reflection
and discernment by pastors and Catholic couples in so-called
“irregular” situations as they look for ways they can participate more
deeply in church life, he said.

Proper discernment is nothing new, the cardinal told
another reporter. It has always been the serious duty of the lay faithful and
their pastors or confessors. Everyone is responsible, he said, because “you
cannot play with the sacraments, you cannot play with the conscience.”

Those in a broken marriage must honestly examine their
conscience before God, he said, and reflect on their role in the marriage’s breakdown
or whether it was canonically valid in the first place.

A married couple, both philosophy professors, spoke at
the news conference about their impressions of the exhortation.

Giuseppina De Simone said the pope’s tone and style made
it feel like he was taking people “by the hand to discover the beauty of
our families — imperfect, fragile, but extraordinary because they are
supported in their daily journey by the love of the Lord who never tires,
doesn’t renege, and makes everything new.”

She said the text is an invitation for people to step
away from the noise, confusion and discouragements in the world, and to look,
listen and truly appreciate “the treasure we have in our hands, the great
good there is in the normalcy of our lives.”

So many problems and crises in families, she said, grow
out of an inability to make time for the other and look at others with mercy
and respect.

Families and love are a “dynamic process” that
require “struggle and rebirth, reinventing itself and always starting
over,” she said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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