[Editor’s note: Stephen Walford is a British Catholic author. Educated at Bristol University, he is the author of two previous books: Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pius IX to Benedict XVI (Angelico Press), and Communion of Saints: The Unity of Divine Love in the Mystical Body of Christ (Angelico Press). His new title is Pope Francis, The Family and Divorce: In Defense of Truth and Mercy (Paulist Press), set to be released Aug. 28.
Walford’s book deals with Pope Francis’s 2016 document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, including its controversial treatment of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Last August, Francis wrote Walford about the book in a letter which is now the preface. Crux publishes the pope’s letter here with permission from Walford.]
Dear Mr. Walford:
I fondly recall you and your family’s visit on 27 July last. To me it felt like a concrete expression of Amoris Laetitia. Thank you! I would also like to thank you for your book on the communion of saints which I have begun reading.
In the letter you left for me, you asked if I could write some thoughts about Amoris Laetitia, and you proposed some questions. I will happily respond but I think it would be better for me to write freely what is in my heart. I hope this will be useful to you.
The post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is the fruit of a long ecclesial journey which involved two Synods and a subsequent consultation with the local Churches through the bishops’ conferences. Institutes of Consecrated Life and other institutions, such as Catholic universities and lay associations, also participated in this consultation. The entire Church prayed, reflected and, with simplicity, offered various contributions. Both Synods presented their conclusions.
One of the things that most impressed me in this whole process was the desire to seek God’s will in order to better serve the Church. Seeking in order to serve. This was done through reflection, the exchange of views, prayer and discernment. There were of course temptations during this journey but the Good Spirit prevailed. Witnessing this brought spiritual joy.
The Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a unified whole which means that, in order to understand its message, it must be read in its entirety and from the beginning. This is because there is a development both of theological reflection and of the way in which problems are approached. It cannot be considered a vademecum on different issues. If the Exhortation is not read in its entirety and in the order it is written, it will either not be understood or it will be distorted.
Over the course of the Exhortation, current and concrete problems are dealt with: the family in today’s world, the education of children, marriage preparation, families in difficulty, and so on; these are treated with a hermeneutic that comes from the whole document which is the magisterial hermeneutic of the Church, always in continuity (without ruptures), yet always maturing. In this regard, in your letter you mentioned Saint Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium Primum: “ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate.” With respect to the problems that involve ethical situations, the Exhortation follows the classical doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas.
I feel certain that your book on Amoris Laetitia will be helpful to families. I pray for this.
Please pass on my best wishes to your wife and your children. I thank them for their witness. And I ask you, please, do not forget to pray for me!
May Jesus bless you, and the Blessed Virgin protect you.
From the Vatican, 1 August 2017