Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Canonical Digits

The blog's biggest fan read the last post about the "canonical eye" and submitted the following question: If there is no irregularity with a weak canonical (left) eye, what does that mean for candidates to the priesthood who have no thumb or forefinger on one hand or both hands to hold the host at consecration time?

 As noted in that post, Canon 984.2 of the 1917 Code basically stated: "bodily defective men who, on account of debility cannot safely, or for reason of deformity with due dignity, engage in the sacred ministry of the altar" are irregular/impeded from the reception of orders; more significant defects, which have the same effects, impede the exercise of orders already received. Notice the two factors which come into play: safety and due dignity. A bodily defect which hiders or prevents either or both results in the irregularity. A defect which does not hinder or prevent safe and/or dignified ministry of the altar does not result in an irregularity.

Addressing the notion of "due dignity" in the ministry of the altar, a commentary on the 1917 Code said:
Becoming performance (of ministerial acts) requires two things: (1) that the faithful are not disgusted or offended by reason of the physical defect of the person performing the sacred act; (2) that by reason of the deformity liturgical laws are not violated in a matter of importance (Buscaren-Ellis, 3rd ed., p. 423).
In general, if a man is unable to observe liturgical law "in a matter of importance", then it is possible that he cannot carry out the ministry of the altar with "due dignity."

Now, to the specific topic at hand (see what I did there?): I have heard people refer to "canonical digits", meaning the two thumbs and two index fingers. Look through the old Code, though, and you won't find specific reference to the thumbs and fingers. Looking through the standard, English language, canonical commentaries on the 1917 Code, I haven't seen a reference to "canonical digits." Where was this term used, if not in canonical commentary? Where did it come from? I don't know.

At any rate, in the older form of the Mass, the rubrics specifically instructed the priest to hold the Host with the thumb and index finger of both hands. (In the "new Mass", by the way, the rubrics say only that the priest takes/holds the Host; nothing is said about fingers or thumbs.) Here we see the requirement to use the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. Clearly, a man who doesn't have both thumbs and both index fingers would not be able to observe liturgical law. One commentator on the 1917 Code had this to say:
One who is minus a hand or a finger which are necessary for handling the sacred species, is irregular. This is the case if thumb and index finger are missing. In cases where the hand was complete, but a great stiffness of the arm, caused by apoplexy or paralysis, rendered the breaking of the host or the making of the sign of the cross impossible, the S. Congregation denied a dispensation (Bachofen, vol. 4, p. 480)
Just because a dispensation was denied in that case doesn't mean it would never be granted. When a request for dispensation is made, there are three possible answers: "no", "yes", and "there is no irregularity." Each case is addressed on its own merits and there can be changes in perspective over time. As a commentary on the 1917 Code says, "there is no accurate list of bodily defects which bar a candidate from the priesthood, but each case must be judged on the candidate's ability to perform the sacred functions safely and with becoming dignity." (Woywod/Smith, vol. 1, p. 948).

Along those lines, I can point (no pun intended this time) to two cases where a dispensation for this sort of deformity was granted.

First, in 1918, Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments dispensed a man who lost his entire right hand in the war. He had artificial hand and proved that he able to carry out the rites required for Mass. Since he was so able to do this, he was dispensed from the irregularity (see CLD v. 1, p. 485). I'm no expert in artificial limbs but I doubt that this priest could actually hold the Host with the artificial hand. Nevertheless, he was dispensed.

Years later, in 1955, a man who had "mutilated" left thumb (the portion above the knuckle was missing) wished to be ordained. The Congregation instructed his bishop that a dispensation can be granted but the man should obtain a gold/gold plated cap, if possible, for the thumb (see CLD v. 6, pp. 585-586).

(Another case, exceptional in more ways than one, is St. Isaac Jogues.)

Having said all this, I suppose I should answer the question from the beginning of the post: the current law says nothing about bodily defects which result in an irregularity (unless we are talking about self-mutilation). If a man is missing thumbs or fingers or even a hand or arm, he is not "irregular." Rubrics (for the "new Mass) do not say that the priest has to use his thumbs and index fingers to hold the Host. (He simply needs to be able to hold the Host, somehow.)

What does all of this mean? It means that whether a man with this sort of disability is ordained or not depends only on the decision of his bishop (or major superior). The bishop (or major superior) would make this determination based on the man's ability to carry out the priestly ministry (at the altar and otherwise).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Canonical Eye

You've probably heard of "the eye of the tiger." You may know about "the evil eye." Have you ever heard of the "canonical eye"? Me neither, at least until this morning. It is not the eye of a canon lawyer. It's not an eye for detecting inspired Scripture. It's actually the left eye.

Canon law includes not only impediments for marriage (cc. 1083-1094) but also impediments (aka irregularities) for ordination (cc. 1040-1044). There are impediments both for receiving orders as well as impediments for the exercise of orders. For example, a Catholic man commits the crime (as understood in canon law) of apostasy. It would be illicit for him to be ordained (see c. 1041.2). Unfortunately, we have heard of ordained priests who have lost the faith and become heretics. If such a priest commits the crime of heresy in a public way, it is illegal for him to carry out any acts of the priestly order (see c. 1044.2). One irregularity concerns mutilation of self (c. 1041.5) but, other than that, there are no irregularities related to a man's physical condition. That doesn't mean physical condition is irrelevant (see c. 1029) but it does mean that no defects in physical condition are, strictly speaking, impediments to ordination.

In the old Code of Canon Law, however, the list of irregularities/impediments was much longer. One such irregularity included "bodily defective men who, on account of debility cannot safely, or for reason of deformity, engage in the sacred ministry of the altar" (c. 984 of the 1917 Code). If a man could not see at all, he would be considered "irregular" (that just caused me to recall Amoris laetitia!) What if he only had one, functional eye? Is either eye more important than the other? Yes, it was thought so.

Consider the fact that in the "old Mass", the priest would stand at the middle of the altar during the praying of the Canon of the Mass (the "Eucharistic Prayer") and that the missal would always be placed to his left (this still seems to be true: I can't recall seeing any priest who put the missal to his right...). The priest's left eye was the one that would have a more direct line of sight to the Canon. Therefore, it was referred to as the "canonical eye." If that eye was strong but the right eye was weak, it was thought that no irregularity existed.

In 1924, though, a question was submitted to the Sacred Congregation of Religious (why not the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments? The case must have involved a Religious candidate for orders...). It was asked whether or not "the mere deprivation of the use of the left eye ... is sufficient to constitute an irregularity." The answer: no, it is not (Reference: Canon Law Digest, vol. 1, p. 486).

I now have an image of an evil, canonical eye of the tiger....

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Not finished with Amoris laetitia ... but I'm done

In the history of this blog, I've spent more time on Amoris laetitia than any other document or topic. When it comes to vast swaths of chapter 8, though, I'm faced with a few problems:

  • It's so vague/ambiguous that I don't know what it means
    • So, I can't apply it to a particular circumstance
  • I don't think anyone cares what I think about something I don't understand
    • Because even I don't care what I think about something I don't understand
The last thing I intend to say about the document is to present a scenario which may be something like what Pope Francis alludes to in chapter 8 with the phrase "a variety of situations":

A baby boy is baptized Catholic in infancy but not raised in the faith. He contracts a civil marriage with a divorced, non-Catholic and has a few children. As far as he's concerned, everything in his pagan life is great. He then has an awakening to his Catholic faith and wants to begin practicing it, including regularizing his marital state. Since he has good direction from a priest, he is informed that the Church does not consider him to be married and so he is not to act as a married man (circumlocution alert).

The other Party thinks all of this is ridiculous and has no intention whatsoever to become Catholic or even abide by the teaching of the Church. She thinks that the man has no right to impose any restriction on her exercise of her own rights as a wife. Acrimony ensues. The man then tells his priest that the woman will take the kids and leave if he "keeps going on like this." What is he to do?

I find it easier (even though it's not an easy problem) to take the teaching of the Catechism or Familiaris consortio and apply it to this scenario than to take the teaching of Amoris laetitia and apply it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Taking a break from Amoris laetitia: Familiaris consortio

After the 1980 Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to the topic of the Christian family, John Paul II issued the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. Francis refers to it 24 times in Amoris laetitia and so I think it's helpful to read this prior exhortation to get situated in what the Church has taught on the topic of marriage and family.

We are in the midst of chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia so I'm going to quote the part of FC that is most related to chapter 8. I'll have a few comments along the way, in red. Here is Familiaris consortio, starting at n. 79:

Pastoral Action in Certain Irregular Situations

79. In its solicitude to protect the family in all its dimensions, not only the religious one, the Synod of Bishops did not fail to take into careful consideration certain situations which are irregular in a religious sense and often in the civil sense too. (What does "irregular" mean? It means against the rule/law. It is an accurate description of a marital relationship which isn't a recognized marriage. We aren't saying the people themselves are "irregular.")  Such situations, as a result of today's rapid cultural changes, are unfortunately becoming widespread also among Catholics with no little damage to the very institution of the family and to society, of which the family constitutes the basic cell.

a) Trial Marriages

80. A first example of an irregular situation is provided by what are called "trial marriages," which many people today would like to justify by attributing a certain value to them. But human reason leads one to see that they are unacceptable, by showing the unconvincing nature of carrying out an "experiment" with human beings, whose dignity demands that they should be always and solely the term of a self-giving love without limitations of time or of any other circumstance.

The Church, for her part, cannot admit such a kind of union, for further and original reasons which derive from faith. For, in the first place, the gift of the body in the sexual relationship is a real symbol of the giving of the whole person: such a giving, moreover, in the present state of things cannot take place with full truth without the concourse of the love of charity, given by Christ. In the second place, marriage between two baptized persons is a real symbol of the union of Christ and the Church, which is not a temporary or "trial" union but one which is eternally faithful. Therefore between two baptized persons there can exist only an indissoluble marriage.

Such a situation cannot usually be overcome unless the human person, from childhood, with the help of Christ's grace and without fear, has been trained to dominate concupiscence from the beginning and to establish relationships of genuine love with other people. This cannot be secured without a true education in genuine love and in the right use of sexuality, such as to introduce the human person in every aspect, and therefore the bodily aspect too, into the fullness of the mystery of Christ.

It will be very useful to investigate the causes of this phenomenon, including its psychological and sociological aspect, in order to find the proper remedy.

b) De Facto Free Unions

81. This means unions without any publicly recognized institutional bond, either civil or religious. This phenomenon, which is becoming ever more frequent, cannot fail to concern pastors of souls, also because it may be based on widely varying factors, the consequences of which may perhaps be containable by suitable action.

Some people consider themselves almost forced into a free union by difficult economic, cultural or religious situations, on the grounds that, if they contracted a regular marriage, they would be exposed to some form of harm, would lose economic advantages, would be discriminated against, etc. In other cases, however, one encounters people who scorn, rebel against or reject society, the institution of the family and the social and political order, or who are solely seeking pleasure. Then there are those who are driven to such situations by extreme ignorance or poverty, sometimes by a conditioning due to situations of real injustice, or by a certain psychological immaturity that makes them uncertain or afraid to enter into a stable and definitive union. In some countries, traditional customs presume that the true and proper marriage will take place only after a period of cohabitation and the birth of the first child.

Each of these elements presents the Church with arduous pastoral problems, by reason of the serious consequences deriving from them, both religious and moral (the loss of the religious sense of marriage seen in the light of the Covenant of God with His people; deprivation of the grace of the sacrament; grave scandal), and also social consequences (the destruction of the concept of the family; the weakening of the sense of fidelity, also towards society; possible psychological damage to the children; the strengthening of selfishness).

The pastors and the ecclesial community should take care to become acquainted with such situations and their actual causes, case by case. They should make tactful and respectful contact with the couples concerned, and enlighten them patiently, correct them charitably and show them the witness of Christian family life, in such a way as to smooth the path for them to regularize their situation. But above all there must be a campaign of prevention, by fostering the sense of fidelity in the whole moral and religious training of the young, instructing them concerning the conditions and structures that favor such fidelity, without which there is no true freedom; they must be helped to reach spiritual maturity and enabled to understand the rich human and supernatural reality of marriage as a sacrament.

The People of God should also make approaches to the public authorities, in order that the latter may resist these tendencies which divide society and are harmful to the dignity, security and welfare of the citizens as individuals, and they must try to ensure that public opinion is not led to undervalue the institutional importance of marriage and the family. (It's safe to say that we dropped the ball here.) And since in many regions young people are unable to get married properly because of extreme poverty deriving from unjust or inadequate social and economic structures, society and the public authorities should favor legitimate marriage by means of a series of social and political actions which will guarantee a family wage, by issuing directives ensuring housing fitting for family life and by creating opportunities for work and life.

c) Catholics in Civil Marriages

82. There are increasing cases of Catholics who for ideological or practical reasons, prefer to contract a merely civil marriage, and who reject or at least defer religious marriage. Their situation cannot of course be likened to that of people simply living together without any bond at all, because in the present case there is at least a certain commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, even though the possibility of a future divorce is often present in the minds of those entering a civil marriage. By seeking public recognition of their bond on the part of the State, such couples show that they are ready to accept not only its advantages but also its obligations. Nevertheless, not even this situation is acceptable to the Church.

The aim of pastoral action will be to make these people understand the need for consistency between their choice of life and the faith that they profess, and to try to do everything possible to induce them to regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle. While treating them with great charity and bringing them into the life of the respective communities, the pastors of the Church will regrettably not be able to admit them to the sacraments.

d) Separated or Divorced Persons Who Have Not Remarried

83. Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the often irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.

Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life.

The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.

e) Divorced Persons Who Have Remarried (This is a subset of letter "c": Catholics in civil marriages, with the added impediment of a prior bond.)

84. Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The Synod Fathers studied it expressly. The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.

Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion (this is what "scandalized" means--it doesn't mean being shocked or outraged about something) regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples." (this is a quotation from a homily of Pope John Paul II)

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord's command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Notable passages in Amoris laetitia, chapter 8, part I

This is going to take a while.

At the outset, the Pope has made it clear that he thinks the contents of this chapter, while "challenging" (see n. 7), are not the most important. In his latest airplane press conference, he said:
Look, one of the recent Popes, speaking about the Council, said that there were two Councils: Vatican II, which took place in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and another Council which took place in the media. (Pope Benedict XVI said that). When I called the first Synod, the most of the media were concerned with one question: Will the divorced and remarried be able to receive communion? Since I am not a saint, this was somewhat annoying to me, and even made me a bit sad. Because I think: those media that say all these things, don’t they realize that that is not the important issue? Don’t they realize that the family, all over the world, is in crisis? And the family is the basis of society! Don’t they realize that young people don’t want to get married? Don’t they realize that the declining birth rate in Europe is enough to make us weep? Don’t they realize that the shortage of jobs and employment opportunities is forcing fathers and mothers to take two jobs and children to grow up by themselves and not learn how to talk with their mothers and fathers? These are the big issues! I do not remember that footnote, but surely if something of that sort is in a footnote it is because it was said in the Evangelii Gaudium. I don’t recall the number, but surely that is the case.
It's obvious: if marriage is strengthened and divorces decrease, there will be less and less ""irregular"" relationships. (Yes, I know I double quoted that.) The Church wants valid marriages that last until death and, as I said earlier, that's why the Pope wrote this document. If we examine our parish, what's more common: people who do not care about what the Church (and the Lord) says about marriage or people who are in ""irregular"" relationships (i.e., married, divorced, "remarried")? Since participation in Sunday Mass is about 25%, and the number of Catholic marriages and baptisms has gone over the cliff, the first group is much more numerous. I'm sure the Pope is fully aware of this. As he says in n. 307: "Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown." With this in mind, let's nevertheless get into this chapter: "Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness."

I find the use of the term "weakness" to be interesting. I recall some discussion during one of the Synods about trying to find new language for expressing the Church's teaching. Is it better to use "weakness" instead of something like "sin"? You might say "well, maybe there was no 'sin' involved on a particular person's part." I would then say "well, maybe there was no 'weakness' involved on that person's part either." Do people respond positively to being called "weak" or one of the "weakest" in the Church (see n. 291)? Say I commit a particular sin and attribute it to "weakness"; does it help me if the confessor says "yes, you are weak/among the weakest"? I don't know that it would.

Somewhere, I saw someone say that there is no mention of "adultery" in this document. That's true, except for those instances when "the woman caught in adultery" is mentioned. But, guess what, in Familiaris consortio, the word "adultery" shows up ... once, and not in the section on irregular marriages. In chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia, on "weakness", we read about "actions" of people who are not in a recognized marriage. That's a broad term and it is not defined but it would seem to be in reference to conjugal actions. In any case, it is clear that the Pope has adopted a certain linguistic style and tone. This is not new. Is it an improvement?

I looked through the footnotes in this chapter, just for fun. There are 55 footnotes, some with more than one reference. Here is how those references break down, according to my count:
  • Pope Francis: 18
  • 2014 Synod:14
  • 2015 Synod: 10 
  • St. John Paul II:
  • St. Thomas: 5
  • International Theological Commission: 2
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2
  • Benedict XVI: 1
  • Vatican II: 1
  • St. Augustine: 1
  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 1
  • Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts: 1
It may help to provide context to some of these references. Let's look at a couple easy ones first.

The reference to Benedict XVI leads to his "off the cuff" response to a question about "divorced and remarried" Catholics and their participation in the life of the Church. Here is the response:
Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people - as you have said - the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment. 
Perhaps you can see some similarities in this response and some passages of Amoris laetitia.

The Legislative Texts reference is to a document concerning the applicability of canon 915 to those who are "divorced and remarried." It's not a long treatise but I don't think I'll quote it here: it's worth reading in full.

Some references to John Paul II lead to Familiaris consortio, the Exhortation on the family which he wrote after the 1980 Synod of Bishops. I'll pick up there in the next post.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Notable passages, IV

Chapter 7 of the Exhortation is titled "Towards a Better Education of Children." This chapter is primarily the thought of the Pope--there are few (about 20) references in general with nine to the Pope's own prior statements and only seven to the 2015 Synod. Even if it is not all practical for every family, the entire chapter is worth consideration. Also, it is necessary to recall canon 1136, which was noted earlier in the Exhortation (n. 84) and we should read this chapter in light of that canon: "Parents have the most grave duty and the primary right to take care as best they can for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of their offspring."
If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space (261).
Obsession is bad, of course. I think I know what the Pope is getting at here but "always knowing where...children are" shouldn't be equated with "controlling all their movements."
Moral formation should always take place with active methods and a dialogue that teaches through sensitivity and by using a language children can understand. It should also take place inductively, so that children can learn for themselves the importance of certain values, principles and norms, rather than by imposing these as absolute and unquestionable truths (264).
I'm a firm believer in imposing values as absolute truths, at least sometimes. "You are valuable: don't set yourself on fire." By nature, we "question" pretty much everything so I wouldn't support the notion of "unquestionable truths." As we all know, a child can (and does) ask "why?" in every imaginable circumstance and in response to every possible comment.
When children or adolescents are not helped to realize that some things have to be waited for, they can become obsessed with satisfying their immediate needs and develop the vice of “wanting it all now”. This is a grand illusion which does not favour freedom but weakens it. On the other hand, when we are taught to postpone some things until the right moment, we learn self-mastery and detachment from our impulses (275).
Self-mastery can be difficult to learn. We have to start small: "you don't really need that third ice cream cone." ... Maybe that's not so small. Anyway, some actions should be "postponed" indefinitely since there is never a "right moment" for them. If we can't put off little things that we can licitly do, we may well be unable to always resist the urge to do something we can never licitly do.

Detachment and self-mastery is a lifelong process, as the Catechism notes: "Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life. The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence" (n. 2342). This section of the Catechism, which is dedicated to the vocation to chastity, is a good source of additional information.

Near the end of the chapter, we read:
In all families the Good News needs to resound, in good times and in bad, as a source of light along the way. All of us should be able to say, thanks to the experience of our life in the family: “We come to believe in the love that God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16) (290).
Amen.

I'm now going to skip over chapter eight and go to the last one, chapter nine: "spirituality of marriage and the family." 

Hmm...I don't have any comments to make on this short chapter.

Next, we'll dive into the difficult, challenging, chapter 8.

Notable passages in Amoris laetitia part III

Chapter 6 of the Exhortation is entitled "Some Pastoral Perspectives" and, for the most part, addresses marriage preparation and "accompaniment" of married couples through times of trial. The chapter begins:
The dialogue that took place during the Synod raised the need for new pastoral methods. I will attempt to mention some of these in a very general way. Different communities will have to devise more practical and effective initiatives that respect both the Church’s teaching and local problems and needs. Without claiming to present a pastoral plan for the family, I would now like to reflect on some more significant pastoral challenges (199).
In law, a parish is referred to as a "community" (c. 515). A diocese is not called a "community" (cf. c. 369). "Subsidiarity" is a valuable principle but is the Pope saying that each parish "will have to devise...initiatives" in response to problems and needs? A little later (n. 202), pastoral care in parishes is addressed. Later on, though, we see a reference to "the guidelines of the Bishop" (n. 300) and so the diocese is the reference point. What does "communities" mean? I'm not sure.
Married couples are grateful that their pastors uphold the high ideal of a love that is strong, solid, enduring and capable of sustaining them through whatever trials they may have to face (200).
Let's hope the couples are grateful and that pastors do uphold this "high ideal."

Quoting the 2015 Synod, the Pope says pastoral care for families:
consists not merely in presenting a set of rules, but in proposing values that are clearly needed today, even in the most secularized of countries (201).
There is no necessary distinction, not to mention contradiction, between "rules" and "values." "Rules" sometimes directly state values and are always meant to uphold, protect and foster "values." I get it, though--vast swaths of modern society bristle at the mere mention of law or rules (when it comes to religion, anyway). So, presenting "values" may be more effective in some circumstances.

I'm surprised that I didn't see anything in the secular press about the mention of married clergy in the Eastern Churches (202).

Speaking of premarital preparation for couples, the Pope states:
They do not need to be taught the entire Catechism or overwhelmed with too much information. ... Quality is more important than quantity, and priority should be given – along with a renewed proclamation of the kerygma – to an attractive and helpful presentation of information that can help couples to live the rest of their lives together “with great courage and generosity” (207).
We have a bit of "Franciscan hyperbole" here, in regard to the "entire Catechism" remark. It is a good point, though, if there are places where "more" is thought to be always "better." Let's keep in mind, though, that it's possible to have neither quantity or quality: "less" is not always "better." Also, given the sorry state of catechesis in some places, we can't assume that anyone knows the basics of marriage as found in the Catechism.

In n. 212, the Pope begins to address how it is possible to over-emphasize the wedding celebration to the detriment of the marriage. Are there any pastors or deacons out there who are able to say "you can't have 12 bridesmaids" or otherwise put a cap on wedding extravagance?
Indeed, let us consider the damage caused, in our culture of global communication, by the escalation of unkept promises... Honouring one’s word, fidelity to one’s promises: these are things that cannot be bought and sold (214).
I think it is undeniable: people are more willing, today, to fail to keep promises. At the same time, I think most people still have some sense of obligation to serious commitments. ... Could people benefit from a discussion of the fact that marriage is a contract? When a couple says "let's get married" do they realize that they are agreeing to enter into a permanent, binding contract which says "I have these rights and these obligations in this new relationship. You have the same rights and the same obligations."? If we want to use the word "covenant" instead of "contract", ok.
The answers given to the pre-synodal consultation showed that most people in difficult or critical situations do not seek pastoral assistance, since they do not find it sympathetic, realistic or concerned for individual cases (234).
I don't dispute the answers given in the "consultation" but wonder how people can have an opinion of pastoral assistance which they do not seek. It is, apparently, a preconceived notion.
Pastoral care must necessarily include efforts at reconciliation and mediation, through the establishment of specialized counselling centres in dioceses (242).
This quotation is lifted from the 2014 Synod and addresses situations of marital separation and divorce. Does the typical diocese or parish have any outreach like this?

The Exhortation discusses "certain complex situations" beginning in n. 247. First, "mixed marriages"  are addressed (i.e., marriages involving a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic or a Catholic and an unbaptized person). Quoting the 2015 Synod, the Exhortation then states:
“Particular problems arise when persons in a complex marital situation wish to be baptized. These persons contracted a stable marriage at a time when at least one of them did not know the Christian faith. In such cases, bishops are called to exercise a pastoral discernment which is commensurate with their spiritual good” (249).
I don't understand what "particular problems" would arise when a married person wants to be baptized. Is this "complex marital situation" different from the topic of the previous paragraphs? Are we now talking about a person who was married, divorced and now is "remarried" and wants to be baptized? If so, there is the possibility of dissolution of that first marriage (see, e.g., cc. 1141ff).

Chapter 6 ends with a reflection on the reality of death in family life (nos. 253-258). It is worth reading.

We'll pick up with chapter 7 in the next post.