Pope Francis has said that everything in his post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia was agreed by a majority of the Synod fathers.
In an interview (English translation) with the Belgian magazine Tertio, the Pope described his method as: “Do not descend from high to low, but listen to the churches, harmonise them, discern. And so there is a post-Synodal exhortation, which is Amoris Laetitia, which is the result of two Synods, in which all the Church worked, and which the Pope made his own. It is expressed in a harmonious way.
“It is interesting that all that it contains [Amoris Laetitia], in the Synod it was approved by more than two thirds of the fathers. And this is a guarantee. A synodal Church means that there is this movement from high to low.”
Since being issued in April, Amoris Laetitia has generated several conflicting interpretations. In particular, it has been claimed that the document signalled Pope Francis’s openness to allowing some divorced and remarried people to receive Communion even if they are not living “as brother and sister”.
John Paul II and Benedict XVI had taught that the Church’s existing discipline – that the remarried can only receive Communion if they undertake to live “in complete continence” – cannot change.
The Pope’s latest comments echo those of the recently-appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich said last month that the document was “the fruit of two synods, and the fruit of propositions that were voted on by two-thirds of the bishops who were there”. He added: “this isn’t just a document out of just the Pope by himself, it stands as part of a synodal process that has been going on for a number of years.”
Cardinal Cupich is one of the bishops who believe the document authorises Communion for the remarried. Others, such as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, have said that Amoris Laetitia upholds Church teaching.
The journalist Edward Pentin, author of a book on the synod, rejected Cardinal Cupich’s claim. He said that while the synod organisers had tried “to manipulate and jostle the synod fathers into accepting the most controversial propositions”, including Communion for the remarried, these proposals had not passed the first vote.
Pentin also quoted a synod father who said that, in the vote the following year, the voters were misinformed about what they were voting on. The synod fathers believed that the final document followed John Paul II’s teachings, but the writers of the document “left it open to other interpretations… They neglected to mention some things.”
The Pope’s claim that the synod supported everything in Amoris Laetitia comes amid continuing debate over the document’s meaning. In September, four cardinals submitted a private request to the pope for clarification of some disputed points. The Pope has so far not answered the request, which the cardinals have taken as an invitation to continue the discussion publicly.
Elsewhere in the new interview, the Pope deplored the media’s use of “slander” and “defamation”, and said that the media’s dragging up of events from people’s past lives was often sinful. He added that the media’s focus on scandals was a kind of “coprophagia”.
Invited to give some advice to priests, Francis said: “Remember that you have a Mother who loves you, and never cease to love your Mother, the Virgin. Secondly, let yourself be looked at by Jesus. Third: seek out the suffering flesh of Jesus in your brothers: there you will encounter Jesus.”
To young people, he said: “Seek out horizons, go ahead, continue to work in this human task.”