'Some Exceptions May Apply'

From our editorial on Amoris laetitia, now up on the homepage:

The pope’s conservative critics must know that even the church’s strictest teachings often have exceptions. What are the Pauline and Petrine privileges, after all, if not exceptions to the church’s general rule about the indissolubility of valid marriages? (These “privileges” allow a pope to dissolve a marriage between a baptized person and his or her unbaptized spouse “in favor of the faith.”) Despite such impeccably traditional departures from Christ’s commandment against divorce, there is a tendency among some conservatives to confuse fidelity with a one-size-fits-all legalism. And if there is one thing you can confidently say about Pope Francis, it’s that he isn’t a legalist. Near the beginning of Amoris laetitia, he rebukes those who would reduce the Gospel message to a set of rigid disciplines—“stones to be hurled at others.” The pope wants to remind us that what Christ said of the Sabbath is also true of the sacraments and the rules surrounding them: they were made for us, not we for them. The rules exist not to protect the sacraments from being soiled by contact with sinners, but to protect us, the children of God, for whom the sacraments were instituted in the first place. The Eucharist, for example, is to be understood primarily as a gift that brings healing and nourishment, not as a remote display of supernatural power to be approached only with trepidation.

For more about the exhortation, see the responses we've posted by Peter Steinfels, William L. Portier, Sandra Yocum, and Dennis O'Brien.

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