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Since its publication nearly a month ago, "Amoris Laetitia" has generated a great deal of controversy and commentary. Meant to be reflections of the Holy Father on the conclusion of the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family, some have said the document — although it reaffirms Church teaching on marriage, abortion, contraception and euthanasia — has brought more confusion than clarity.
High-ranking prelates like Cdl. Raymond Burke felt the need to speak up publicly in an attempt to clarify matters, explaining that Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation is not to be understood as part of the infallible magisterium.
"Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium," His Eminence said. "The very form of the document confirms the same. It is written as a reflection of the Holy Father on the work of the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops."
"In other words," he continued, "the Holy Father is proposing what he personally believes is the will of Christ for His Church, but he does not intend to impose his point of view, nor to condemn those who insist on what he calls 'a more rigorous pastoral care.'"
Canonist Dr. Ed Peters agrees. "[W]hile it does contribute to that magisterium in some respects, most of 'Amoris' is, in fact, not 'magisterial' in content."
This matters because those non-magisterial portions of the apostolic exhortation are not binding on the consciences of the faithful.
"[T]he Catholic Church," Burke clarified, "while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine Office as instituted by Our Lord Himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium."
He continued, "The Church has historically been sensitive to the erroneous tendency to interpret every word of the Pope as binding in conscience, which, of course, is absurd."
Watch the panel discuss the apostolic exhortation in "The Download—'Amoris Laetitia.'"