Friday, the United States woke up to the first wave of editorial headlines about the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laeticia. For those who haven’t take the time (a lot of time) to read the exhortation what they know about it is what they have heard and read in the media.
- USA Today editorial website: ‘Pope has good news for divorced, but not for gays’
- LA Times editorial website: ‘Pope Francis eases the way for divorced Catholics, but reiterates opposition to gay unions’
- Wash Post editorial website: ‘Pope Francis offers hope to divorced Catholics, says no to gay marriage’
- Boston Globe editorial website: ‘Pope offers ray of hope to divorced Catholics’
- NYT editorial website: ‘Rather Than Rules, Pope’s Document Gives License to Adapt’
- Chicago Tribune editorial website: well… they just used the Washington Post’s headline and article.
It is getting old to say, but once again media is driving the discussion. These headlines focused in on about ten out of 325 paragraphs (I did mention a lot of time). Ostensibly the media is watching out/caring for society but it isn’t really their main goal; and in this case their desire to pass judgement on the church takes them to the opposite ends of the continuum. The usual scenario is that one day they are blasting the Church for various wrongs (actual, perceived or just made up) and the next day they are blasting them for perceived long-overdue changes – in most of these headlines they are doing both!
First, let me say that some parts of the Exhortation have some ‘edge’ to them; I am still in need of a reread of the eighth chapter. There are legitimate questions to some of what the Pope wrote. There are in any Apostolic Exhortation, after all, they are reflections on discussions that happened; in this case in the past two synods (extraordinary and ordinary). But what is striking is that the worldwide media if focusing on only these ten or so paragraphs. But the greatest parts (both in size and importance) of Amoris Laeticia are ignored. The majority of the exhortation, is a wonderful and inspiring proclamation on marriage, family and their issues. It is a well written and insightful reflection on what our families, in all parts of the world, have to deal with, and it offers choices to help them, as well as, reassure them that Holy Mother Church walks with them. However, these parts don’t fit with the media’s idea of how the world should work; and besides, the media is all about ratings and the bottom line. They have no time for participating in addressing the ills that challenge families; it takes too much time, is boring, and it doesn’t bring them those ratings and dollars. They are concerned with tantalizing the viewers/readers with exciting morsels of controversy – making a name for themselves.
For us, however, there is exciting value in this document, and one of the most exciting aspects of Amoris Laeticia is that it is a clarion call for Catholics to proclaim these good ideas about the good news. And can we do this:
- By our words, as we talk about the whole document. Which means we need to read it.
- By our lives, as we try living as the family that God intended us to be. Which means we should to read it.
- By our embracing our extended families, which include the marginalized. Which means we should to read it.
In other words, we owe it to our faith journey and to the world to understand just what the synod fathers and the Pope distilled from the two synods. We need to be familiar with the document’s ideas so that we can both live the faith more fully and defend the teachings of church more knowledgeably. But first we need to start with prayer. We need to pray for our Pope and his bishops and clergy, especially our priests; because like it or not, thanks to this exhortation they will be on the front line. And we need to pray for ourselves, as we read this document and try to implement those ideas it contains that strikes our heart. Finally, we need to pray for the ability to help undo the damage done by appetizer-like headlines and editorials that do no more than tease us with partial truths and colored opinions.
The media will tantalize the world with tasty headlines, but it is the Lord and His followers that will feed them with sustenance.