There are a number of people who seem to keep missing this key point, the super decoder ring to the entire synod and exhortation process. Gather round, everyone, and I’ll share the secret:
To the average person — or the willing priest or bishop — it doesn’t matter that the exhortation didn’t change doctrine. If they’re given permission to ignore doctrine through “pastoral” justifications, they will.
If that statement isn’t clear enough, how about just one example? On April 9, the Philippines bishop’s conference issued a statement that said, among other things:
After collective discernment, your bishops will come up with more concrete guidelines on the implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation. But mercy cannot wait. Mercy should not wait. Even now, bishops and priests must open welcoming arms to those who have kept themselves out of the Church because of a sense of guilt and of shame. The laity must do no less. When our brothers and sisters who, because of broken relations, broken families and broken lives, stand timidly at the doors of our churches – and of our lives – unsure whether they are welcome or not, let us go out to meet them, as the Pope urges us to, and assure them that at the table of sinners at which the All-Holy Lord offers himself as food for the wretched, there is always room. O res mirabilis manducat Dominum pauper, servus et humilis…O wonderful reality that the poor, the slave and the lowly should partake of the Lord. This is a disposition of mercy, an openness of heart and of spirit that needs no law, awaits no guideline, nor bides on prompting. It can and should happen immediately.
Your honor, I rest my case.