BOSTON, MA—Bishop Gerald Barnes was one of 12 bishops from around the world invited to participate in a two-day reflection and discussion of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) at Boston College.
The bishops gathered with a group of theologians on Oct. 5-6, listened to the presentation of papers on the document and had a chance to ask questions and discuss it among themselves. Much of the discussion of Amoris Laetitia in the United States has focused on a short passage in chapter eight that grants internal forum on the matter of distributing communion to those Catholics who are divorced and remarried outside of the Church. The wording essentially allows priests to discern and evaluate each case of a divorced and remarried Catholic and, depending on the circumstances, allow them to receive communion.
“It’s being sold short because we’re looking at this one connection,” Bishop Barnes says of Amoris Laetitia.
About ten percent of the discussions at the two-day event focused on the internal forum issue, Bishop Barnes said. Much more time was spent reflecting on chapters four and five of Amoris Laetitia, which focus on married love and the love that exists in family life, respectively.
“Nobody had their shields up,” Bishop Barnes said of the discussions. “It was open and honest dialogue.”
Unlike European and Asian countries, who have found ways to foster widespread discussion and implementation of Amoris Laetitia, many dioceses in the U.S. have not yet found a way to present the document in its fullness. Bishop Barnes said his participation in the Boston College conference “opened my eyes about a lot of things,” including the need for the Church to support family life and talk about its importance to sustaining the faith.
“It’s something that’s going to change the Church—in how we do things,” he said of Amoris Laetitia. “This is part of the Pope’s call to accompaniment, discernment and pastoral listening.”