Pope Francis, in the inaugural year of his papacy, captured the imagination of Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his nuanced and pastoral discussions of contested issues from the frontlines of the culture wars. In July, Francis surprised journalists with his post-World Youth Day remarks revealing a person-centered approach on many of those issues as well as call for a “deeper theology of women.” In September, he elaborated on these points over a series of interviews with Antonio Spardo, S.J. and published in La Civilta Cattolica. We read Francis questioning an obsessive focus of the Church’s social and moral energy on, for example, issues of sexual morality. Such questioning, however, does not ignore the Church’s moral instruction and concern for those on the bottom rung of the global economy or the Church’s pro-life position when Francis identified abortion with a “throwaway culture” fueling consumerism and exploitation. Having reignited broad interest in family ethics through these remarks, Pope Francis made news again with the announcement that he will convene the world’s Catholic bishops to address family life issues. Consisting of two meetings in 2014 and 2015, the Synod of Bishops will discern first the complex landscape of Christian family life in the 21st century and then, in light of their findings, develop working guidelines for pastoral care of the person and family.
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