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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia underscored the urgency of removing the contraception mandate from the U.S. health care law, said he looked forward to more debate about church practice on marriage, and credited Pope Francis with teaching Catholics that they must preach the Gospel before attempting to transmit the church's moral teachings.
Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care. He also said the church would not change its teaching against artificial birth control but should take care to apply it with "much mercy."
Opening a two-day meeting of the world's cardinals, Pope Francis said the church's pastoral approach to helping couples must be "intelligent, courageous and full of love" because the family today is "looked down upon and mistreated."
Catholics across the country continue to feel wounded by the clergy abuse crisis, seek a more welcoming church in which their "lived reality" is prioritized over rules and regulations, and desire lifelong spiritual, pastoral and catechetical formation as disciples, according to a report synthesizing the 10-month synodal process in dioceses.
Saying "superficial" marriage preparation programs leave many couples at risk of having invalid marriages or unprepared to cope with the struggles that arise in every marriage, Pope Francis endorsed suggestions for a yearlong "marriage catechumenate" drafted by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.