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Archbishop Aymond, others react to pope's document on marriage and family life

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Pope Francis wants to make sure those who have not lived up to every letter of Catholic doctrine do not feel like outcasts.

Friday, the Pope issued a 256-page document called “The Joy of Love.”

"In issuing the Joy of Love the pope is calling us to a deeper understanding and respect for marriage and for family life and very much acknowledging that marriage and family life is very different than it was in generations in the past,” said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

The Pope’s document does not change church doctrine.

"If a person is divorced and remarried the church teaching is that they should not avail themselves to Holy Communion and he has not changed that teaching," Aymond said. "What he has said though, and this is very significant, he has said those people should be included as part of the church, they're part of the body of Christ."

And in his writing the Pope emphasized the church’s stance same-sex marriage.

"He's very clear that marriage for the Catholic Church is between one man and one woman for life and so he reaffirms that,” Archbishop Aymond further stated.

But he does call on all Catholics to embrace families in all their forms.

"Whether it's in a situation of adoption or whether it's the child of a same-sex couple, or that's the way family is defined today,  that's not the way we as church would define it in some of those circumstances, but that is how family is defined today and he's saying in his exhortation that we cannot neglect those people, we have to accept them, and love them in the complexity of their situation, and reach out to them and see if there's any way in which we can enlighten them to come to a better understanding of church teaching, in some cases maybe to have a change of heart," Aymond said.

While the Pope did not change any Catholic doctrine with "The Joy of Love," he is asking many faithful to take a hard look at how they use those teachings.

"I think what Pope Francis is doing is, is saying let's not focus so much on laws because sometimes we use laws as rocks, as stones that they throw at other people, let's call people to joy, let's call people to God's love,” said Dr. Tom Ryan, Director of the Loyola Institute of Ministry.

Catholics leaving St. Patrick’s Church Friday seemed to agree with the pope’s message.

“Because if they got kids involved, I think they should be more forgiving so the kids and all can get back into church,” Lori Alonzo stated.

"A lot of people, for whatever the reason, they don't want to be a family anymore. They move on and I think God accepts all, that's the way I look at it,” said Tom Abeler.

And while church teaching does not sanction the remarried partaking in communion, the pope thinks one’s conscience has a role to play.

"A church leader, a priest, or deacon can never give permission for someone to do that because church teaching has not changed, a person through discernment, which means thought and prayer with God, asking God for enlightenment to look at the circumstances they have to be guided by the priest, the religious leader and the ultimate decision is theirs,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Aymond as well as Dr. Ryan both agree that's one's conscience has also been a part of church teaching.
"The church has always emphasized the importance of conscience,” Ryan said.

 "At times, people have perceived the church as very judgmental, or excluding, and that becomes hurtful, and he's saying just the opposite, he's saying that the church and particularly confession is not a torture chamber, but it's a place of mercy, it's a place of forgiveness,” Aymond said. "What I hear in the exhortation is God gives up on no one, therefore we as church must never give up on anyone."

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