In his reflection on marriage, the Pope upholds the beauty and the sacredness of marriage. He reminds us that "Christian marriage…is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament…"(292). However, he recognizes the reality that some individuals enter into irregular situations or "…forms of union radically contradict this idea" (ibid.).
While urging respect for the dignity of all individuals, the Pope does not shrink from affirming that "there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. He further states that "it is unacceptable that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish 'marriage' between persons of the same sex" (251).
Contrary to any ideology that would reduce marriage by demeaning or eliminating male and female sexuality as a precious gift from God, the Pope teaches that the differences and mutual reciprocity of male and female are essential to the beauty of marriage as designed by the Creator. When these sexual differences are eliminated, we lose the anthropological basis of the family. Thus, the Pope speaks strongly against any gender ideology that makes one's identity as male or female merely a personal choice that can be changed over time (56).
At a time of increased secularization, especially in the United States where the government refuses to recognize the right of Catholics to practice their faith in all areas of their lives, the Holy Father strongly "rejects the forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization and even abortion" (42). To counteract such a mentality, he advocates a return to the wisdom of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae (82). And, at a time when some of our most prominent leaders and judges advocate abortion on demand and legalized euthanasia, the Pope unambiguously offers the truth on the value of every human life. He defends each person's God-given right to life.
As Pope Francis teaches, "the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for. It is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother's womb that no alleged right to one's own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the "property" of another human being. The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last." (83)
Because "the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church" (31), the Holy Father recognizes that the tragedy and heartbreak of divorce cast a dark shadow over family life. In the eighth chapter of his exhortation, the Holy Father reflects on the situation of those Catholics who have suffered a divorce. He urges compassion and understanding to the many and varied situations in which so many divorced Catholics now are living. The Pope encourages pastoral ministers to accompany these individuals toward a fuller participation in the life of the Church.