The Holy Father has given the Church what Archbishop Chaput called “a serious and extensive reflection on Christian marriage.” Its very length, over 60,000 words and more than 250 pages long, is a manifestation of just how seriously the Church and Pope Francis take the institution of marriage.

Its length and breadth are also why the Pope has asked us to work through the document slowly and prayerfully, and to avoid rushing to fit it into the brief soundbites that pundits are always looking for. As Archbishop Gomez said in response to Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis “has asked us to read his reflections slowly and carefully and I am going to continue to do that.

But a few initial and important points stand out. One is that Pope Francis reiterates yet again that Amoris Laetitia is in no way a change in Church doctrine. His choice of using an exhortation rather than an encyclical underscores this and is consistent with his repeated emphasis that he does not want to change doctrine. Rather, he seeks to present the Gospel in a merciful way that resonates in today’s broken world.

Amoris Laetitia abounds with beautiful language that affirms the unique gift of Christian marriage. It reminds us marriage is an essential vessel for the discovery of the joy of the Gospel and the loving message of Jesus Christ who used the metaphor of marriage to describe his own relationship with the Church.

The Catholic Association looks forward to working through this gift from the Holy Father with prayerful patience with the guidance of our bishops and theologians.

Ashley McGuire
Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association.