Pope Francis released a document today (April 8, 2016) that paves the way for new integration into the Roman Catholic Church for divorced Catholics, but does little to soften the church's strict views on hot-button topics like gay marriage, abortion, and contraception, according to the USA Today website.
While the 256-page apostolic exhortation called "Amoris Laetitia" -- Latin for "The Joy of Love" -- makes no change to church doctrine, it establishes that the pope sees individual conscience as the most important principle for Catholics trying to navigate difficult issues surrounding sex, marriage, and family life.
"I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion," the pope said. "But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness." He added, "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."
The apostolic exhortation says that a "breach of the marriage bond" is "against the will of God." But it also said that while the church "constantly holds up the call to perfection" it must also "care for the weakest of her children, who show signs of wounded and troubled love, restoring them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port."