Time online's headline proclaimed, "Pope Francis Pushes Church to be More Open to the Divorced". Newsday opined, "Pope Francis' 'The Joy of Love' says individual conscience should guide sex, marriage, family". The International Business Times said, "Pope Francis’ Long-Awaited Document ‘Joy Of Love’ May Open Doors For Communion To Remarried Divorcées The National Catholic Reporter and like-minded publications have characterized Amoris Laetitia as a "radical shift" in the practice of the Church.
In an article published in the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Raymond Burke, states that Amoris Laetitia is Pope Francis' "personal reflections," and is not intended as official Church teaching. "A post-synodal apostolic exhortation, by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time," Cardinal Burke explained.
How should the faithful respond to Amoris Laetitia? Cardinal Burke makes clear that it should be received with all the respect due the Supreme Pontiff. However, such respect should not be equated with an obligation to believe every utterance or written statement that the pope makes:
[T]he Catholic Church, while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine Office as instituted by Our Lord Himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium.Burke asserts that "the post-synodal apostolic exhortation can only be correctly interpreted, as a non-magisterial document, using the key of the Magisterium as it is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church." and that "There can be no opposition or contradiction between the Church's doctrine and her pastoral practice."
Read Cardinal Burke's article in full here.
On the other hand...
The Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica insists the Pope has removed all barriers to Communion for the divorced and remarried. In the latest issue, released in conjunction with the apostolic exhortation, Father Spadaro S.J., Civiltà Cattolica's editor, declared that Pope Francis has removed entirely restrictions on divorced/remarried persons' access to the sacraments.
As reported in L'Espresso by Vatican Correspondent Sandro Magister:
Francis – [Fr. Spadaro] writes confidently – has removed all the "limits" of the past, even in "sacramental discipline," for "so-called irregular" couples: a "so-called" that is not Spadaro’s but the pope’s, and that in the judgment of Church historian Alberto Melloni "is worth the whole exhortation," because all by itself it absolves such couples and makes them "eligible for the Eucharist."
And this in spite of the fact that this time as well in the 264 pages and 325 paragraphs of the papal exhortation there is not even a single word in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried, but only a couple of allusions in two minuscule footnotes, numbers 351 and 336, this latter promptly defined by Melloni as "crucial."
Fr. Spadaro is not just any Jesuit. He is director of "La Civiltà Cattolica," which historically has always been "the pope’s magazine" and is so now more than ever, "because of the interest that Pope Francis shows concerning some statements of the magazine that accompany his magisterium," as attested to last March by a witness of sure reliability, Fr. GianPaolo Salvini, its former director.Fr. Spadaro's claim contradicts assertions that Amoris Laetitia made no major changes in Church teaching or discipline. Moreover, Civiltà Cattholica is considered semi-authoritative because it is approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication. Fr. Spadaro is a close advisor of Pope Francis, and helped draft the exhortation.
Comparing a papal encyclical with an apostolic exhortation is not an apples to apples comparison [obviously, the former has far more weight]. Nonetheless, Pope Paul VI's Humanae vitae, while controversial, was without obfuscation, open-ended footnotes or accommodations. It was, in short, definitive. Francis' Amoris Laetitia is inconclusive in relying on the subsidiarity judgment of individual priest and prelates – whose diversity in opinions is almost sure to result in confusion, acrimony and recrimination.
For an interesting take on what Pope Francis has wrought see Dr. Jeff Mirus' "The Controversy at the Heart of Amoris Laetitia".