Local Catholic leaders respond to pope’s exhortation

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local Catholic leaders are reacting to Pope Francis’ release of the much-anticipated “The Joy of Love.”

The document is meant to guide Catholics through the choppy waters of modern-day sex, marriage and family life.

>>RELATED: “The Joy of Love” 

In it, the pope insists conscience, not rules, must guide the faithful.

“This is really a conversation the pope’s been having with families and church leaders all over the world the past two and a half years,” said Mark Mann, who directs Family Life, Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Kalamazoo Bishop Paul Bradley also welcomed the release of the document.

In a release put out by the Kalamazoo Dioceses, Bradley says the document is a reminder that no one and no family is perfect.

“He urges us all to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for any of our mistakes and sins, and he directs all those involved in ministering to families to ‘shepherd with mercy,’ to patiently listen to people in the midst of their struggles, and to guide them toward renewed efforts to keep moving forward,” wrote Bradley.

Put simply, the document calls for a different approach on the part of church leaders towards Catholics who in the pontiff’s words, are simply not perfect.

Is does not suggest a need for change in church doctrine.

“If it is a change of anything, which I might contest, it’s a change of focus on the human person,” said D.J. Florian, director of the Office of Pastoral Service for the Diocese.

Think of it as a kind of hate the sin, love the sinner approach, but taken it a step further.

“He’s challenged us with the word and love the sinner, hate the sin. I think the document is full of what we believe, what we teach, what we profess, and how do we accompany the people,” Florian said.

The answer, according to local church leaders, can be found in reading the exhortation, understanding it and using it to improve and go beyond what’s already in place at the local level.

“Such as strong Catholic families, marriage preparation. Even our prison and jail ministry and immigration services. You can think of how those impact families,” Mann said.

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