Cardinal Marc Ouellet urged the audience at the 12th Gaudium et Spes Award to reread 'Amoris Laetitia' carefully, August 2. Photo by Michael Swan

Cardinal Ouellet tells Knights to re-read Pope's exhortation on family

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  • August 3, 2016

TORONTO – Cardinal Marc Ouellet, once strongly identified with conservative resistance to any change to the ban on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, has given a ringing endorsement to Amoris Laetitia, the controversial exhortation by Pope Francis that sums up two synods on the family.

“In all honesty, I think that controversies around Amoris Laetitia are understandable,” Ouellet told about 2,000 Knights of Columbus gathered in Toronto for their annual convention.

But rather than demanding clarifications, Ouellet urged his audience to reread the 250-page document with its 400 footnotes.

“It is a document worth reading and re-reading slowly,” he said. “Especially Chapter 4 on love.”

In the run-up to the 2015 Synod on the Family, Ouellet re-published and updated his 2007 book Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization. The book was a frequent touchstone for those arguing against any change in Church discipline which regards civilly remarried Catholics as living in sin with their current spouses.

But in his Aug. 2 speech to the Knights of Columbus, Ouellet emphasized that Pope Francis hadn’t touched Catholic teaching regarding divorce and the indissolubility of marriage.

“What is proposed is a new pastoral approach,” said the Canadian Cardinal in charge of vetting and appointing bishops around the world. “More patient and respectful, more dialogical.”

Amoris Laetitia opened the way for remarried Catholics and their pastors to engage in “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases,’ the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.”

This idea of discernment before applying a blanket rule, and the possibility that different bishops in different parts of the world may come to different conclusions, has moved an anonymous group of 45 theologians to write a letter to the college of cardinals demanding they "respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals" they perceive in Amoris Laetitia.

Ouellet’s response was to raise the possibility that such a process of pastoral discernment might be good for everybody, not just the divorced and remarried.

“I am confident this process of discernment will bear fruit for all Christian families,” he said.

In a speech full of praise for Pope Francis’s humility and life of prayer, Ouellet said he was grateful to the Holy Father for Amoris Laetitia.

Ouellet praised the Pope’s Jesuit practice of twice daily examinations of conscience and his outreach to the poor and marginal — especially to prisoners.

“The Holy Father is aware of his own wounds, mistakes and sins,” said Ouellet. “He approaches those in need who are in jail not from on high, demanding respect, but asking for forgiveness.”

Pope Francis life of prayer brings him closer to the Holy Spirit, Ouellet said.

“Our own Pope Francis is also unpredictable, like the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Ouellet urged the Knights to engage in dialogue that is “delicate and respectful, cognizant of our own mistakes.”

He praised the Knights of Columbus for their record of service and charity.

“This aspect of charity is emphasized by the Apostles and Pope Francis,” he said. “Our Holy Father shows us that charity goes beyond being for people. We must also be with people, which also will transform us.”

The Knights of Columbus are holding their 134th supreme convention in Toronto under the banner “A Light to the Nations.” The Knights are using the convention to highlight religious liberty issues in the United States and in the Middle East.

The Catholic fraternal organization and insurance provider gave its 12th Gaudium et Spes award to the Little Sisters of the Poor for their role in challenging the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The convention program highlights presentations from Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church, Archbishop Bashar Wardo of Erbil, Iraq and Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo.

Last year the Knights of Columbus lobbied hard to have the United States Congress declare massacres and mass expulsions of Christians in Iraq and Syria by Daesh (also known as ISIS) a genocide.

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