Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the April 8 document is the conclusion of a two-year synod process at the Vatican that gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world to discuss both the beauty and challenges of family life today.
Both of the synods sparked controversy amid speculation over whether there would be a change in the Church's practice that the divorced-and-civilly remarried may not receive Communion. In accordance with the words of Jesus that "anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery," the Church says that those living in adultery – or any other unrepentant grave sin – may not receive Communion.
In his 1981 exhortation Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II wrote, "The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried."
In his new document, Francis stresses the importance of individual discernment over one-size-fits-all style rules. In chapter eight – a section that particularly sparked controversy – he suggested that in some cases, a person who is divorced-and-civilly-remarried may not be in a state of mortal sin, due to mitigating factors such as a lack of full knowledge and consent.
The document was met with confusion, although numerous bishops and theologians have said that the exhortation does not change the teachings of the Church.
Cardinal Ouellet said that Amoris Laetitia "is a document worth reading and rereading, slowly, one chapter after another – enjoying the marvelous chapter four on Love."