Pope Francis’ Treatise Marks Change Within the Catholic Church
Pope Francis has just released a 256-page treatise called The Joy of Love. In this treatise, he insinuates that the church should take more progressive stances on divorce and women’s rights. For a Church that is as old and as steeped in tradition as the Catholic Church, the fact that the Pope is implying that the Church should move in a more progressive direction is significant.
In this treatise he implies that divorced people should have the right to have the sacrament of communion, something that was previously unheard of. Traditionally in church teachings, divorced people cannot take communion unless their marriage has been officially annulled by the Catholic Church. This is a very long process, which can take years to occur. These people cannot take communion because they would be committing adultery, and therefore cannot take the sacrament. In his treatise, Pope Francis says that “no one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” Pope Francis later urges priests to take this into consideration and to determine themselves whether or not a divorced person can take communion.
Unfortunately, the Pope explicitly said that a same-sex union was not analogous to traditional marriage. However, the Pope also said that these people should not be discriminated against and should still receive pastoral care to help them “carry out God’s will in their lives”. The Catholic Church has historically been very judgemental of divorced and gay people and how they should be treated in church. The fact that the Pope goes on to say that these people should not be discriminated against illustrates how the church is changing its views towards more accepting ones.
Pope Francis says that “if certain forms of feminism have arisen which we must consider inadequate, we must nonetheless see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.” Essentially, the Pope is saying that the Church should support women’s movements that deal with social equality, as those movements are inspired by God. However, the Church should not support other women’s movements such as women’s reproductive rights. In his treatise, the Pope maintains the Church’s position that women should not be allowed to use artificial methods of contraception and that abortion is wrong. Though this stance on feminism is a contradiction, as women’s reproductive rights are a large part of feminism, the fact that the Catholic Church is taking steps in this direction indicates that they are slowly changing their views on women. This is especially important as women cannot be ordained in the Catholic Church. If the Church is taking steps to see women as equal, this may mean that in the future, women may be able to be ordained.
Though these implications may feel small and insignificant, it is important to remember that a large number of Catholics look to the Catholic Church and the Pope for moral guidelines. While Pope Francis’ treatise may not offer a significant change from traditional Catholic dogma, any steps that the Church takes to become more accepting of others is a step in the right direction.