Pope Francis on the airplane: The Synod, the family, Communion for the divorced and remarried

You may have heard that Pope Francis visited the Holy Land.  On the flight back to Italy, His Holiness held another presser.

At this point many of you might be cringing as the thought “What could possible go wrong?” flashes through your brain.  After all, it was on a flight that Pope Francis uttered That Infamous Line™.

And so, during this return flight, from the Holy Land, the Pope was asked, inter alia, questions about Communion for the divorced and remarried and about the possibility of priests being able to marry.   The second I will treat in a separate post.  I will confine myself, here, to the first.

NB: Read the following after reviewing how Card. Balidisseri backtracked after making some edgy comments. HERE

A Spanish language reporter asked:

… In the Church, for example, what is going to happen with Communion for the divorced and remarried, ….

The Holy Father answered saying, inter alia:…. [T]hanks for the question about the divorced.  The Synod will be about the family, on the problem of the family, on research about the family, on the present situation of the family.  The preliminary essay that Cardinal Kasper made had five chapters: four on the family, beautiful things about the family, the theological foundation, some familiar problems; and the fifth chapter, the pastoral problem of separations, of matrimonial nullity, the divorced… Holy Communion come into this problem.  And I don’t like that many people – even in the Church – priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod for giving Communion to the divorced”, and they’ve gone right there, to that point.  I have heard it as if the whole thing had been reduced to case study.  No, the matter is more than this, it is wider.  Today, everyone knows it, the family is in crisis: it is in a global crisis.  Young people don’t want to marry or they don’t marry or live together, marriage is in crisis, and so too the family.  And I wouldn’t want that we fall into this (as if it were) case law [Italian “casistica”: it is hard to render what what the Pope is talking about here in his less than clear Italian.  He means by this, surely, that he doesn’t want an impersonal, theoretical, legalistic view of the problem. It has to do with English “casuistry”].  Can you do it?  Can’t you do it?… For this reason, thanks much for this question, because it gives me the opportunity to clear this up.  The pastoral problem of the family is very, very broad, very broad.  And it must be studied case by case.  Something Pope Benedict said three times about the divorced has helped me a lot.  Once, in the Valle d’Aosta, another time in Milan, and the last time in the public consistory which he held for the creation of cardinals: to study the procedures for matrimonial nullity; to study the faith with which a person comes to matrimony and [NB] to clarify that the divorced are not excommunicated, and so many times they are treated as excommunicated.  And this is a serious thing.  On this case study [casistica – here I think he means something like “problem to be examined”.  Again, casuistry is involved.], the Synod will be about the family: the riches, the problems of the family.  Solutions, nullity, all that.


I’ll stop translating there. Hacking through this stream of words, which is in an Italian that is less than perfect, we find a couple main points.  And note that he doesn’t always speak of the divorced and remarried, though it is fairly clear that he includes them in his remarks.

First, the Holy Father is upset that all the talk about the Synod is focusing on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried.  Thus, he says the word “family”, over and over again.

Second, he was clearly prepared for this question, because he worked in that his (still living) predecessor treated the issue three times and even said where.  He was telling the newsies to look up what Benedict XVI said.   Thus, by the way, he was telling the newsies what I said for an entire year after Francis’ election: Read Francis Through Benedict.  He aligned himself with Benedict even as he clings to what Card. Kasper presented (which in many respects – not all – was flawed).

Third, he wants to review the procedures by which “annulment” cases are handled.  Fine.  A review doesn’t hurt anything.  However, I can assure you, there has to be a canonical procedure.  The Synod and the Holy Father won’t sweep aside canonical procedure in the review of marriage cases.  The Synod really can’t change that.  Changes to the procedure could very well imply changes to doctrine.  Thus, changes to procedure would have to be studied closely and with great caution.  Alas, what could happen, an unintended consequence, is that priests will simply stop sending in cases.  The low-information, weak-synapse type (liberal) priests out there in LaLa Land may do what they did in the matter of Humanae vitae: distort and defy and do their own thing.  That would be bad.

Fourth, Francis wants everyone not to treat the divorced as if there were excommunicated.  Or else, “stop treating the divorced as if they were excommunicated”.   I am not sure where that is taking place.  After all, some people who divorce may be divorced for good reasons, sad as the circumstances may be.  Moreover, those who are divorced for good reasons are admitted to the sacraments (read: they are not excommunicated).  They can go to confession and receive absolution.  They can receive Communion.  They can be anointed.  Sure, there are some divorced people who divorced for sinful and ignoble motives.  They must amend their lives, just like anyone else who sins and must amend their lives.  But make no mistake!  That line about making sure that the divorced are not treated as if they were excommunicated is probably the most important line of the longish answer.  The Holy Father clearly wants the Synod to reinforce that people who are divorced as treated with compassion as well as with justice.

I could go on, but that is enough.

The Pope obviously tried to move the discussion away from Communion for the divorced and remarried.  That is not what he wants the Synod to be about.  He is unhappy that some people are making the Synod out to be mainly about this point, as important as it is.

That said, the question is not going away.  It must be addressed with force and clarity, because we uphold our Catholic identity and we defend the doctrine of the Faith.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Iacobus M says:

    I appreciate that the Pope does not want the synod to be about communion for the divorced and remarried, but those who do, and their henchmen in the media (both Catholic and otherwise) will push and shout and try to drown out everything else. It worked with Humanae Vitae.

  2. LeeF says:

    Re case law, Pope Francis has said on more than one occasion that case-based reasoning / casuistry is not the way to approach problems/situations, but rather, that one should start at the beginning with God’s plan for us or for matrimony, etc. Thus one discerns God’s plan and principles and applies same instead of merely applying the rule(s)/principle(s) in isolation from their purpose, and at the same time avoid relativism. At least that’s the way I understand it.

  3. Robbie says:

    When I read yesterday the Pope planned on holding a press conference during his flight home and the contents of it were embargoed until a later time, my first thought was uh oh.

    At this point though, it doesn’t really seem to matter what Francis says anymore. The media members hear what they want, run with it, and that becomes the de facto understanding of what Francis is thinking.

    It definitely seems the Pope was ready for the question on communion for the divorced and remarried, but the Vatican press office really needs to step up its game. And they may want to consider banning all pressers on planes!!!

  4. Del says:

    We shall have to wait and see what happens. Meanwhile, it is fun to predict.

    I suppose that the liberal and secular media-drivers already know that the synod will come back with a Catholic answer to the problem of the disintegration of the modern family. And yet the media are priming the public to anticipate something impossible. Their punchline will likely be, once again, that the Church is irrelevant and antagonistic to the modern world. Misogynistic patriarchy, and all that.

    The bishops know this will happen. We shall see how the Holy Spirit leads the bishops through the minefield (or into the teeth).

  5. Dax says:

    I went through this about five years ago. Me and spouse are both Catholic but were never married in the Church. I had a profound reversion back to our faith five years ago and wanted desperately to go and get married in the Church. My wife would have none of that so I went to see a priest who told me in no uncertain terms that we would have to live as brother and sister and that I COULD NOT receive Communion until the marriage was addressed. This actually made me embrace our faith even more and never did I feel outside the Church, excommunicated, etc. The situation just showed I had work to do.

    Well, three years later, my ‘wife’ sued me for divorce. She just did not understand how I could put my faith ahead of my marriage. Very tough for me but I never waivered.

    Now my ex, who prayed the Rosary with me outside abortion mills, has quit going to Mass and is somewhat politically active, advocating for homosexual ‘marriage’ and every leftist cause out there. What really stings here is that my youngest child who – was 15 at the time of the divorce suit – quit going to Mass as well. The ex said she let my son decide and what a shocker thay his decision was to no longer attend.

  6. aviva meriam says:

    I am grateful he was better prepared for the questions…..
    I am also grateful he is learning and growing into his role (regarding clear communication).

    Wish he had more time to practice his responses so that the language was clearer and more concise.

  7. mamajen says:

    While I doubt that many priests are making the mistake of treating divorced persons like they are excommunicated, I know that many, many lay people, especially older generations, somehow have the mistaken notion that divorce in and of itself excludes them from the sacraments. It’s a tragedy when people are kept away due to misconceptions about the Church’s teachings.

    As for liberal priests, they are already doing their own thing. I’m not sure it will make a difference to them either way.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    I am convinced that the upcoming synod on the family might be too vague. The problems with the family within a Catholic context are pretty clear – they amount to a lack of clear catechesis on Catholic issues and the consistent application of the same by those in authority. The reasons for the break-up of the family or lack of formation of families, worldwide, while sharing some common aspects of the Catholic situation, such as the increasing narcissism in inter-personal relationships, ease of chemical contraception, etc., does not directly lend itself to the usual Catholic solutions of better catechesis and control, but would have to start at a much more fundamental level of apologetics. Until the Church can convince the world to see theology, once more, as a valid science (and the idiotic mis-representation of, “the Scientific Method,” as a proxy for any science in educational institutions has got to be combatted), the world, which is all caught up in materialism, simply will not recognize any wisdom that the Church puts forth.

    So, there, really, has to be at least two foci of the synod – a tight solution for those in the Church and a broader solution for those outside the Church. Of course, the family touches on many related aspects, such as evangelization. It would be nice to know if they have any working schema for the synod, yet.

    The Chicken

  9. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oh, and yea for Pope Francis for trying to get the focus back on the family unit and not what happens after it breaks down. He seems to be getting his media chops.

    The Chicken

  10. The language he can be confusing. If people who are divorced and living in remarriage cannot receive communion, then in plain fact they ARE excommunicated–that is, removed from admission to communion. Right? What else do people think the word “excommunicated” means?

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    One more thing and I’m over and out…it really is hard for a nice Catholic boy to find a nice Catholic girl, these days. I would think that if young people with a clear and proper vision of the Church could find each other, they would become beacons for marriages. Alas, I hear it all too often that either it is hard for young Catholics to find each other, or they put off marriage in pursuit of other things until, after getting their heads screwed on straight, they are too old to find spouses, because many of the potential mates are already married, and, sometimes, to less than suitable spouses. Does any of this make sense?

    I would like to see dating go retro…full on courting, parent and community scrutiny, etc. Sigh, I wax nostalgic.

    The Chicken

  12. torch621 says:

    His Holiness was referencing those who are merely divorced and not divorced and remarried, Henry.

  13. Imrahil says:

    As for “casistica”, the dear LeeF has already mentioned it: the proper English term for what the Holy Father meant here is “casuistry” (which was once a frequent term of abuse against the Catholics and specifically associated with the Jesuits – the Pope’s order, by conincidence).

    Quoth Gilbert Chesterton, using the frequent example of saying the truth/hiding the truth/lying (excuse the length),
    Every gentleman was expected to say he would be delighted to dine with a bore; every lady said that somebody else’s baby was beautiful if she thought it as ugly as sin: for they did not think it a sin to avoid saying ugly things. This might be right or wrong; but it was absurd to pillory half
    a dozen Popish priests for a crime committed daily by half a million, Protestant laymen. The only difference was that the Jesuits had been worried enough about the matter to try to make rules
    and limitations saving as much verbal veracity as possible; whereas the happy Protestants were not worried about it at all, but told lies from morning to night as merrily and innocently
    as the birds sing in the trees. The fact is, of course, that the modern world is full of an utterly lawless casuistry because the Jesuits were prevented from making a lawful casuistry. But every man is a casuist or a lunatic.

    The Holy Father has repeatedly shown his distaste for casuisty. Being only a normal man who, despite a liking for theory, sometimes wants a question answered, a command about what I have to do, what I have to avoid, and what is allowed to me given, I cannot completely follow him there.

    The question about the divorced and remarried is in the room.

    The Church gives answers; she can’t direct which questions she’d like to be asked.

    Having the broader picture is all well and fine, but the broader picture won’t make the detailed question go away.

  14. Pingback: Pope Francis Presser on Divorced & Remarried - BigPulpit.com

  15. wmeyer says:

    mamajen, the CCC is readily and cheaply available. There is no reason for an adult Catholic to remain ignorant of his faith when for the price of a couple of coffees at Starbucks he can own a copy.

  16. acardnal says:

    Chicken wrote, “I would like to see dating go retro…full on courting, parent and community scrutiny, etc. Sigh, I wax nostalgic.”

    Nostalgic? Not at all. The TLC reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting” promotes and lives that very statement! They are evangelical Christians living in Arkansas.

  17. paladin says:

    Henry Edwards wrote:

    The language he can be confusing. If people who are divorced and living in remarriage cannot receive communion, then in plain fact they ARE excommunicated–that is, removed from admission to communion. Right? What else do people think the word “excommunicated” means?

    Well… I think he and most others were referring to the term “excommunicated” in the canonical, formal sense of being excluded from ALL the Sacraments (e.g. Confession, etc.), not simply the reception of Holy Communion. From what I understand, the excommunicant cannot receive Holy Communion, but he who is prohibited from receiving Holy Communion is not necessarily an excommunicant (e.g. a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square). Reception of Holy Communion and being in “communion” with the Church are two distinct (though overlapping) things.

  18. Vecchio di Londra says:

    This is the umpteenth time that a journalist has asked a question very clearly using the correct language (‘divorced *and remarried*’) and the Pope has answered by referring to ‘divorce’ – without mentioning remarriage.
    Once again he tells us that the [unculpably] divorced are not excommunicated – but we all know this: nor (in general, and certainly not necessarily) are they *treated* in any local church as if excommunicated – except perhaps by the ignorant or uncharitable.
    The divorced and remarried – an entirely different kettle of fish. As we all know. But the language the Holy Father used in his reply is so confusing that a lay, non-Catholic reader might reasonably assume that the answer covers *all* the divorced (including the irregularly remarried).
    The discussion cannot progress as long as Francis fails to answer a well-framed question with a direct answer in precise language.
    Most of us here have assumed that when he speaks of ‘the divorced’ he means just that: the divorced. But what if in six months time at the synod he were to say, ah, but I was answering the question about the divorced and remarried…what I said applies to them too.
    This constant haziness of terminology and his stubborn refusal to answer a straight question is unhelpful at best, very damaging at the worst.
    And Our Blessed Lord did not say ‘but we need a case-by-case study’.

  19. paladin: From what I understand, the excommunicant cannot receive Holy Communion, but he who is prohibited from receiving Holy Communion is not necessarily an excommunicant (e.g. a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square). Reception of Holy Communion and being in “communion” with the Church are two distinct (though overlapping) things.

    But then the SSPX apparently are not in “communion” with the Church even though not excommunicated. And can receive communion (I assume). The language IS confusing, isn’t it?

  20. John of Chicago says:

    The phrase in the Pope’s remarks that well may be key to the upcoming synod’s reflection on the sacrament of marriage and the process of annulment, I think, is “to study the faith with which a person comes to matrimony”. The true depth of respect, freedom, maturity, understanding and commitment required of both the man and woman required for this sacrament may be more profound than many imagine.

  21. kpoterack says:

    “This is the umpteenth time that a journalist has asked a question very clearly using the correct language (‘divorced *and remarried*’) and the Pope has answered by referring to ‘divorce’ – without mentioning remarriage.”

    KP: Well, actually Pope Francis did make the distinction in the interview on the plane back from Rio last July and, according to Cardinal Meisner, in a personal meeting with him that was reported last December. As well as through his doctrinal representative, Cardinal Mueller, in his letter last October. So let’s be fair.

  22. Phil_NL says:

    For those who think excommunication and not being admitted to Holy Communion are the same thing, I suggest to revisit the proverbial excommunication scene from “Becket” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnxJyEF4qLE ).

    Quite different language from merely not being allowed to receive….

  23. schmenz says:

    But isn’t this, Father, just a replay of what happened around the time of Humanae Vitae? Months of talk about approving contraception, nebulous words from a vacillating Pope Paul, then the document comes out reflecting (for the most part) the authentic Catholic teaching. And then the aftermath: despite the encyclical, priests and Bishops more or less gave approval to Catholics to go ahead and use contraception if they feel “it’s the right thing to do”.

    Isn’t this just going to be a repeat of the above, now with regard to Communion for the divorced/remarried? I very much fear that it might be.

  24. Nan says:

    Priests already have differing interpretations and have for years; I know someone living in the SW who is divorced and living with a widow. According to the priest, the man may not receive communion because of his divorce and lack of annulment but the woman may receive. I was under the impression that neither should receive as they live together outside the bonds of matrimony but the priest doesn’t care about that.

  25. Phil: I suggest to revisit the proverbial excommunication scene from “Becket”

    The single finest video scene the cinema arts have produced. The 2nd finest being the final communion scene in “Brideshead Revisited” to which Fr. Z referred several days again.

  26. kpoterack says:


    Not to belittle your concerns, but these aren’t the 1960’s anymore. We are living in a different enough context. At least in the USA, as well as other places, we have much better bishops, increasingly better priests and many lay apostolates that educate people on the Church’s teaching.

    Just to give one example, of the solidly orthodox Catholic colleges in the USA: Christendom, Thomas Aquinas, Wyoming Catholic, Magdalen, Steubenville, Thomas More and Ave Maria University, only one of them pre-dated Vatican II (Steubenville) and it had a kind of “re-founding” in the 1970’s after having gone bad right after Vatican II.

    My understanding is that many simple Catholics didn’t contract in 1964, but by 1968 were doing so because their confessor said it was OK. They had no other sources of information. Now there is a veritable army of colleges, websites, organizations, etc to help set Catholics straight on the Church’s actual teaching.

    Again, not that I have no concerns, but people within the Church are better prepared for such a situation than they were 50 years ago.

  27. kpoterack says:

    whoops, I meant “My understanding is that many simple Catholics didn’t practice contraception in 1964 . . .

    I’m sure they did “contract” in 1964 with full approval of the Church. ; ^ )

  28. PA mom says:

    How can it be good to tell people who married without impediment, but outside of the Church, that they should physically estrange from their spouse if the spouse will not at that moment remarry them in Church?
    People experience spiritual awakenings differently and at different times. St Francis de Sales had something very wise to say about being married to a less fervent spouse, something about much prayer, never causing the Faith to be a source of strife but rather a personal source of joy with which to warm the other and those around.
    This would seem to be a topic appropriate for discussion and clarification.

  29. Vecchio di Londra says:

    kpoterack – Yes, that is a useful point of reference: if we go back to that July 2013 Rio plane interview, what the Pope said in reply (eventually) was: “About the problem of Communion to those persons in a second union, that the divorced might participate in Communion, there is no problem. When they are in a second union, they can’t.”

    Which seems so clear, you wonder why he didn’t just give the same clear answer now and more recently.

    However, that apparent clarity was then disturbed by various qualifications:
    ”I believe that it is necessary to keep this within the entirety of pastoral care of marriage. And for this it is a problem.* But *also… a parenthesis, the Orthodox have a different praxis. They follow the theology of economy, as they called it, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem, and I close the parenthesis, must be studied in the framework of marriage pastoral ministry.
    …For instance…Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor [in Buenos Aires] said that for him half of all marriages are null. That’s what he said. Why? Because they are married without maturity, they get married without realizing that it’s for an entire lifetime, or they are married because socially they must get married. And in this also pastoral care of marriage is a factor. And also the judicial problem of the nullity of marriage, that must be revisited, because the ecclesiastical courts aren’t enough for this.”

    But we don’t stop bringing cases to court because the judges are feeling rather overworked…

  30. Elizabeth D says:

    PA mom, if at least one of them is Catholic then a couple “married without impediment, but outside the Church” are NOT married, they are not spouses. They are objectively living in concubinage–cohabiting. Dr Ed Peters has suggested that the Church review the requirement of canonical form of marriage, suggesting that canon law could be changed so that Catholics entering into what would for anyone else be valid as natural marriage would also for them be valid as marriage (I’m not convinced it would actually be a great idea but he’s right it should be considered). Pretending that invalidly married couples are married is not the solution. When our own family members who are Catholic marry apart from the Church they are not married and we cannot witness such a “wedding” ceremony or treat them as actually married; unfortunately this is my brother’s situation.

    Isn’t there also such a thing as “radical sanation”, where the original attempt to marry is retroactively validated… even if one of the parties didn’t want to marry in the Church? Wouldn’t that have been the solution for Dax’s case? But if the other party was a Catholic who was actively saying they did not want that, it might be seen as the person stressing they do not really want to be married in the real sense.

  31. aegsemje says:

    I have some experience with being treated badly due to being divorced. I was abandoned by my ex-husband through no fault of my own….later received an annulment through the Church, and have since married and now have 7 children. I did everything as I was supposed to according to the rules of the Church, but there are a few traditional Catholics who will not speak to me after I tell them about my past…..even though I did nothing wrong.

  32. Unwilling says:

    It is fascinating, though not very, to know what the Pope wants, what bugs him, what he believes others should know, or think, or want. But he’s not really obliged to share these personal inner thoughts. He has a job to do that is not all about him, but for others.

    John 21:17-18 Jesus said to [Peter], “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.”

  33. lana says:

    Dax, may Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament be your consolation.

  34. Mojoron says:

    As one who has persevered through the annulment process that took three years, I often wondered how the “K’s” (Kennedy’s and Kerry) were so lucky to have their marriages annulled so quickly, which, I think, who most secular Newshounds think of first (and who don’t understand how the Catholic annulment marriage process works,) get so confused when the subject of marriage and annulments are concerned. When non-Catholics see the rich and powerful Catholic’s get special treatment by the “hierarchy” they often believe that treatment is normal: just say it Francis and all will be better.

    Frankly, I’m amused how the press is keyed on “communion for the divorced and remarried” and how it has become an issue for the press since most of them don’t have any clue what “communion” is.

  35. Johnno says:

    Another tidbit from Pope Francis:

    There shan’t be an St. Pius XII anytime soon…

    Not enough miracles it seems… I guess his heroic efforts and personal holiness aren’t a factor…


  36. Pingback: PopeWatch: Not Another Interview | The American Catholic

  37. PA mom says:

    Elizabeth-I have read here all of the legalities, but looking at the results, we cannot possibly think that those are desirable. The spouse is objectively worse off and so are the children. The ‘fruits’ of the actions are so negative that other possibilities need to be considered.

    St Paul instructs married people to exercise some abstinence, but then to unite as necessary rather than to fall into sin. Did he say anywhere that they needed to remarry through the Church to be married? Did Jesus? I completely buy into the understanding of the sacraments as channels of tremendous grace and went to the trouble of convincing my husband to have a priest remarry us, my grandmother too, so I assure you that I take it very seriously!
    But to have a marriage be broken over what could have been a temporary unwillingness, seems to me a serious misapplication of efforts.

  38. PA mom says:

    Convincing my grandmother’s husband to allow a priest to redo their civil union, that is.
    Not convincing the priest marry us to my grandmother. ;)

  39. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Re: Pius X attendees and communion–

    I’d assume that the issue is one of skipping Mass, since you’re not supposed to use SSPX to fulfill your Sunday obligation. So, if you’ve been skipping out on your Sunday obligation, then you need to go to confession (to a priest with the authority to hear your confession, so no SSPX priests) before you can receive communion again.

    It’s the same problem the pope points to here. “excommunicated’ and ‘needs to hit the confessional’ are not synonyms.

  40. Johnny Domer says:

    I tried to find the addresses of Pope Benedict’s that Pope Francis mentioned. Here is Benedict XVI’s address to priests in Valle d’Aosta:


    Here is (I think) the address in Milan to which Francis referred:


    I’m not really sure to which consistory address the Holy Father is referring. Anyone else have an idea?

  41. Elizabeth D says:

    PA Mom, I share most of your fundamental concern since this is my own brother’s situation, however Catholics who marry apart from the Church aren’t spouses, they aren’t married. I’m glad you were able to marry in the Church, you began to be married at that time that you married in the Church. My civilly-married-only brother isn’t married. I don’t want there to be any unnecessary barriers to him coming back to the Church and to God when/if he became ready. I;ve done enough penance myself I’m willing to do any just penance for him.

    Because couples who didn’t marry in the Church are now entering into something new (marriage) this is likely to require some learning about Catholic teaching and a new choice as to whether they want to make ALL the commitments that go with marriage, a second but more profound “I do”. The first attempt may have been with a partial understanding of marriage, so now again they are discerning about marrying. How the civilly married couple should live until they are able to regularize their situation I don’t know, they should consult with a priest.

  42. kpoterack says:

    Vecchio di Londra , good point. Pope Francis, so it seems, does have this unnerving tendency at times to speak every single thought that goes through his head. It gets very confusing. He actually is getting a bit better.

    What I find an enormous relief is that he fairly consistently thinks in terms of marriages being either “valid” or “null,” and does NOT seem to embrace the more eccentric Card. Kasper theories about tolerating adulterous second unions – even though he let the man speak his peace. Yes, I was initially disturbed back in July by Pope Francis’ talk about there not being enough marriage tribunals, but I don’t see that as a principled position of his – just a thought thrown out. He hasn’t mentioned it since and I think that it is up to the bishops and canonists to come up with solutions. These I think he will listen to and take seriously.

    I was very heartened by his referencing Pope Benedict’s three addresses on the matter. (VERY heartened.) I am also heartened by the fact that a young Fr. Ratzinger in the 1970’s even toyed with not using the marriage tribunals but changed his mind later and said that the internal forum solution was “unworkable.” I hope and pray – and have good reason to believe – that good sense will prevail with Pope Francis on this issue. He does seem to make use of good advisors – including the Pope Emeritus.

  43. PA mom says:

    Elizabeth-to your brother, if he shows any interest in Catholism, it could be suggested that a beautiful way to celebrate an ‘anniversary’ would be to involve a priest. :)

    But further, I find it a dangerous thought that the firm line of the Church is something like, ‘if we didn’t do it, it didn’t happen’.

    Whether or not a priest is involved, a public vow is taken by two people, which is continued to be spoken through their personal expression to each other. That is reality, and a good thing, and something the Church and all of society needs more of. The Theology of the Body idea would suggest that there should be significant weight given to these acts.

    I don’t thnk one should be discerning their spouse after having done all that. Why would the Lord want us to abandon our spouse, rather than desire that we live in radiant love of Him and our spouse, which would be far more likely to draw them to Him? Unless there is a very serious problem, that is a family unit, to be guided together, not pushed towards abandonment.

  44. whitewings says:

    notes that Pope Benedict did revisit the internal forum solution in 2011, but in conjunction with the tribunal system


  45. marcelus says:

    Here’s a little translation on the Pope’s “press conference” back tto Rome. (the spanish report somehow is more complete) so here are the highlights:
    There are three bishops who are under investigation: one has been condemned and we are evaulating what punishment will be applied . No privilegesThis subject of children is such an ugly crime!, we know that it is a serious problem in many places, but I am interested in Church.
    What brigs about he who does this to the Church? He betrays the Lord’s body because these priests should carry this child, this boy, this girl into saithood, and this boy, this girl trust him. And these priests instead of taking them to holiness, they abuse them. And this is so serious. It’s like … I’ll do a comparison: it’s like a black mass, for example, you have to guide them into holiness and instead create aproblem that will last a lifetime.

    The Catholic Church has married priests. Greek Catholic, Coptic Catholic, is in the Eastern Rite. Since you do not debate on dogma, celibacy is a rule of life that I appreciate and that is a gift to the Church. But, not being a dogma of faith, the door is always open.

    Religious Freedom:
    Religious freedom is something that not all countries have. Some have an easier and quiet control, others take steps ending in a real persecution. There are martyrs. There martyrs today. Christian, Catholic and non-Catholic martyrs. There are places where you can not wear a crucifix or Bible reading, where you can not teach catechism.
    Today I think, if I’m not mistaken, there are more martyrs than in the early days of the Church. We should approach these cases with caution to help, we must pray for these churches both suffering. The bishops and the Holy See are working to help Christians in these countries.
    But it is not an easy thing. I tell you one thing:in a country it is forbidden to us to pray together. Christians want to celebrate the Eucharist. There is a man who works as a laborer who is a priest. They must pretend to drink tea and celebrate mass. This happens today.

    -The cause of Pius XII is open. I have informed myself and there is still no miracle. A miracle is needed to move forward. We will wait and see how the reality of that cause develops. The truth is that there are no miracles. We need at least one for beatification.

    Family Synod:
    I appreciate the question about divorce . The Synod will be about family!, their problems, the richness of the family , the current situation of the family. The preliminary report made by Cardinal Kasper had five chapters. Four of which dealt with beautiful things about the family from the theological aspect , family problems , the pastoral problem of separation, marriage annulment, the divorced and the problem of communion … Me, I did not like so many people , even in the Church, priests. speaking of communion of the divorced as if everything is reduced to casuistry.
    We know that there is a family crisis . Young people do not want to marry or do not marry, live together … I would not want us to end up in casuistry : what to do or what not to do … That’s why I am so grateful that question because it gives me the opportunity to clarify . The pastoral problem of the family is very, very broad and should not defoliate case to case. What Pope Benedict said three times, once in Alto Adige , one in Milan and one in a consistory , is that annulment proceedings need to be studied .

    And (this is me) one thing I might add, is that Francis , as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, always said that children of “modern”families should not be cast away or forgotten because of their parent’s faults and that the Church had to find a way to take the word of the Lord to them andto bring them into the Church. So we may expect the Synod to deal with that too.

    Finally, I recall Cardinal Mario Poli of Argentina (Cdnl Bergoglio’s succesor, I believe they know each other…) when arriving back in Argentina from Rome right after being made Cardinal, got asked about whether the divorce issue was part of topics of the Synod, to which he answered, “yes it is”. The he got asked ” and what about homosexual marriage?” to which he replied “What? that has got nothing to do with the synod, not part of the agenda”
    God bless you

  46. Priam1184 says:

    So all that gets taken away from the entire weekend in the Holy Land here on this website is another parsing in two different languages of another comment by the Holy Father on another of the useless synods that create a lot of Catholic media hulabaloo but other than that will do nothing. Thanks Father.

  47. marcelus says:

    and last, the now famous line “who am I to judge” makes reference to the actions or intentions in that line, not the person.

    That is the the way we use that in spanish.

    It’s kind of like saying “that is your business or problem”

    [I would like to know more about this. Could you provide the Argentinian Spanish way of putting this and a little more explanation?]

  48. marcelus says:

    Buenos Aires , June 22, 2010 .

    Dearest Sisters

    I write these lines to each of you who are in the four monasteries of Buenos Aires. The Argentine people will face in the coming weeks, a situation whose outcome can seriously injure the family.

    This is about the bill on marriage between persons of the same sex . At stake here is the identity , and survival of the family: dad , mom and children. At stake is the lives of so many children who are discriminated against in advance depriving them of human growth that God would give them with a father and a mother. At stake is the frontal and total rejection to the law of God engraved in our hearts

    I remember a quote from St. Therese when talking about her childhood disease . Shee says the envy of the devil wanted her family charged for the entrance to the Carmel of her older sister. Here is also the envy of the devil , by which sin entered into the world, who cunningly seeks to destroy the image of God : man and woman who are mandated to grow , multiply and rule the earth .
    Do not be naive : it is not just a political struggle, is a destructive claim to God’s plan . It is not a mere legislative project ( this is only the instrument) but a ” move ” by the father of lies intended to confuse and deceive the children of God. Jesus tells us to defend ourselves against this lying accuser, we will send the Spirit of Truth.

    Today the country, in this situation , needs special assistance of the Holy Spirit to put the light of Truth in the midst of the darkness of error need this attorney to defend us against the enchantment of sophistry that seeks to justify this law project , and confuse and deceive even more the people of good will .

    For this I turn to You and I ask your prayer and sacrifice, the two weapons Theresa has confessed to be invincible . . Cry out to the Lord to send His Spirit to Senators who have to give their vote. That they do not vote based on error situations or circumstances but as the natural law and the law of God tells them to . Pray for them, for their families that the Lord wil visit them , strengthen them and comfort them. Pray for them to do much good for the country.

    The bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Look to San José . Mary, the child and ask them fervently defend the Argentina family at this time . Let’s remind what God himself said to his people in a time of great anguish : ” This battle is not yours but God’s .” May they succor us , defend and may we join God in this war .

    Thanks for what you will do in this fight for the Fatherland. And please , I also ask you to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you .


    Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ

  49. robtbrown says:

    Johnno says:

    Another tidbit from Pope Francis:

    There shan’t be an St. Pius XII anytime soon…

    Not enough miracles it seems… I guess his heroic efforts and personal holiness aren’t a factor…

    Did you expect him to say, on a trip to Israel? His cause is moving along, and we’ll beatify him ASAP.

  50. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I am praying to Pius XII that he will aid his successor to speak wisely and reticently.
    That would be the first certifiable miracle.

  51. Lori Pieper says:

    Plenty of folks complained that Francis was beatifying John XXIII on the force of just one miracle (the one that cleared the way for his beatification in 2000). Now we’re all upset that Pope Francis won’t beatify Pius XII with NO miracles? Hmmm.

    Folks, it’s like I said: if you want Pius XII beatified, pray for his intercession for all your miracle needs. And get others to do it too.

  52. Johnno says:

    robtbrown –

    I think you know quite well what I’m getting at… But were I in his position I would’ve defended Pius XII’s heroic virtues right in their faces. Do you think we need to be afraid of the Jews and bury the truth with diplomatic dodges? Particularly one that so hilariously put one’s previous actions into an odd juxtaposition?

    Lori Pieper –

    I’m just pointing out how the reasons sold to us for the recent canonizations aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be. Pius XII deserves the dignity and proof of firstly having his heroic virtues and orthodoxy recognized and only then followed by true authentic miracles that defy scientific knowledge beyond all doubt. The important position of the Devil’s Advocate should be reinstated, and the maximum period of length possible allowed without haste. Canonizations are not some plaything by which means we should attempt to put God to the test in order to facilitate some other agenda.

  53. marcelus says:

    marcelus says:
    28 May 2014 at 2:29 pm
    and last, the now famous line “who am I to judge” makes reference to the actions or intentions in that line, not the person.

    That is the the way we use that in spanish.

    It’s kind of like saying “that is your business or problem”

    [I would like to know more about this. Could you provide the Argentinian Spanish way of putting this and a little more explanation?]

    Well Fr. in spanish , particularly in Argentina we say “quien soy yo para juzgar o juzgarlo?” when somebody makes a remark or states something that at least sounds or is out of the ordinary somehow. I’m no linguist, but I recall seing the plane interview in Italian on the flight back to Rome, and this is exactly how it struck me, as the phrase so commonly used down here coloquially.

    By no means it represents approval or acceptance of… the persons actions or intentions or statements.

    Had he meant something else, he definately would have stated: “if a person is gay and seeks the Lord in good will, then that is ok or that is not ok” plain and simple.

    It generally applies to possible actions or intentions to be carried out by someone, Does not have anything to do with the person and certainly it does not imply approval. The root of it is exactly how those intentions may affect the person and you are looking at that from the “outside”. Definately there is no way you can “extract” approval from that unless you dissect it and just stay with the “who am I to judge?” part and use it as you please. .

    If a person likes to put on a green hat every morning or walk from Brazil to USA next summer, who am I to judge? Sort of like that. It is your desition and eventual problem if you decide to do that. not mine, you may carry on, but againg, i’m indifferent in this case

    Confusing, but that’s pretty much how it goes down here. The rude version of it would be “that is none of my business” which is in a way what it means. You want to do this? ok, up to you. And that is it.

    I do agree with “reading Francis thru Benedict”. They are much much closer than lots of people would like to think. Francis has an old habit, that of writting letters by hand and having them mailed. Eventually, some come to the surface here in Argentina since, some priests (Francis knew practically all of them , 6AM he would start his round of calls to all parishes), at Mass, fillled with joy , have read the letters to their flock. Many times he has mentioned how it is a blessing to have him near, that he consults issues over the phone when in need, and so..

  54. Lori Pieper says:

    I meant to say, of course, that Francis canonized John XXIII.

  55. jacobi says:

    There is a simple answer to the widespread belief, that divorced Catholics are excommunicated. It is for the Pope, and bishops and priests to state clearly that they are not. There is no need for a “Synod” to do this.

    If it helps I can do it, on the basis of my RE classes some years ago. Not saying when!

    Divorce is a legal process and is not sinful in itself. If a divorcee remarries, and lives a married life then that is a Mortally Sinful lifestyle. Such people may not receive Holy Communion. That would be a further Mortal Sin and would I think, constitute Sacrilege. Priests allowing this would be complicit, certainly in Mortal Sin

    A valid marriage cannot “be” annulled. Annulment is a conclusion that a marriage has not taken place. It can only be done by those properly, qualified, not any old bishop and certainly not a parish priest.

    On a wider point, I’m getting a bit fed up with the way in which minorities, and the divorced and remarried are certainly a minority in the parishes I know, are trying to impose their wishes on the rest of us. What about the vast majority of practising married Catholics who despite inevitable problems, and what marriage does not have them, stick together??

  56. robtbrown says:

    Lori Pieper,

    I think I mentioned before that approval of miracles can refer to three different things:

    1) The determination of the investigators.

    2) The approval of the Congregation of Saints.

    3) An official act by the pope.

    The first is usually done thoroughly, and often medical personnel are involved.

    The second involves the cause working its way through the Congregation and involves political forces within and without it. Thus, the casus diaboli might not exist formally, but it still can exist informally.

  57. Lori Pieper says:

    Robtbrown, yes, I know all that. Probably would have explained it myself if I’d had the time. I know nothing in regard to the details of any miracles attributed to Pius XII, just that they have clearly not gotten through stage 2 yet, or the Pope wouldn’t have spoken as he did. The reasons why can be speculated about, of course.

  58. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The first is usually done thoroughly, and often medical personnel are involved.”

    I imagine that if the second step gets a little to, ah, “contentious,” that medical personnel might also be involved :)

    The Chicken

  59. The Masked Chicken says:

    Boys and girls out there who might be reading:

    Don’t do like the Chicken and use, “to,” when it should be, “too.” Brush your teeth and wash your face and always pay attention to prepositions and adjectives.

    The too Embarrassed to say anything, Chicken

  60. StWinefride says:

    Today, May 29, is the 60th anniversary of the canonization of Pope St Pius X by Pope (Santo Subito!) Pius XII:

    “Born poor and humble of heart,
    Undaunted champion of the Catholic faith,
    Zealous to restore all things in Christ,
    Crowned a holy life with a holy death.”

    Quote above from the tomb of Pope St Pius X (my emphasis)

    Pope Saint Pius X and Papa Pacelli: ORATE PRO NOBIS!

  61. Cephas says:

    Fr. Michael Kelly, SJ, Executive Director of UCAN News, asserts that “arguments used by some Church leaders are deeply flawed” regarding the defense of family and ban on communion for divorced-remarried Catholics:

    Battle lines drawn for October’s family synod

    Fr Michael Kelly,
    May 29, 2014


    Pope Francis has called an extraordinary synod of bishops on the family in October. The hot button issue for the gathering is already well known — whether divorced and remarried Catholics can or should be able to receive the Eucharist.

    Battles lines at the Vatican have already been drawn in the differing views expressed by the German cardinals Walter Kasper and Gerhard Mueller. How this plays itself out in Rome in October was spelled out in Manila earlier this month when the secretary of the Vatican’s Council on the Family, Archbishop Jean Lafitte, restated the failure of some Catholic authorities to engage with the reality of the family today.

    The views were given at a conference in the Philippines, a country that is 86 percent Catholic. It is atypical of the Church in Asia and most of the world, as it remains perhaps the only country in the world where the Church’s influence is such that there is no civil divorce.

    But on display in Manila were how one section of the Church’s leadership sees the issue and will propose defense of the family in October:

    This section of the Church wants all the Church to confront a relativistic culture out to destroy the family. It believes that the term “family” doesn’t need to be defined and can be assumed, despite plain evidence that there is no such thing as an abstract, universally applicable and accepted understanding of what the family is. It also maintains that, while less than 20 percent of the world’s population are obliged by the Church’s sacramental understanding of lifelong monogamous marriage, no one should question a group of Catholics proposing a legal universal application based on Church rules.

    What is frequently heard when a debate is cast in these terms, as it was in Manila, is that any slackening in opposition to same-gender partnerships or to divorce undermines the time-honored and Church-sanctioned understanding of marriage, and that same-gender partnerships are a threat to lifelong monogamous heterosexual relationships.

    The weakness in this line of argument is that there is no evidence to support it. How does someone else’s divorce undermine my commitment? How does the same-sex attraction and commitment of a same-sex couple undermine the commitment of a committed heterosexual couple?

    I don’t know and can’t see the evidence. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, it’s an argument that does little to further what the Church actually wishes to foster in sacramentally confirmed, lifelong monogamous marriages. And that, after all, is the only thing the Church really has at stake anywhere in the world in the marriage debate.

    Rather than simply lament that the abstract understanding of Catholic marriage isn’t universally endorsed by the mostly non-Catholic world, Church leaders will do a lot to help people if they can suggest some constructive ways of engaging with the real dilemmas and choices people actually face.

    However, what will galvanize the debate in October is not gay partnerships or threats to the abstract Catholic understanding of marriage as constructed by senior male clerics.

    It will be what pastors throughout the world know: how to meet the pastoral challenge of people who have failed relationships, regret the failure, still see the Catholic faith as their core and center but are told they cannot receive the Eucharist if they have remarried without going through the Church’s courts.

    The issue is often portrayed as a conflict between what the Church teaches and what ordinary Catholics want. Conceived that way, it is really a phony war. There are two main ways that failed marriages can be resolved in the Catholic Church.

    The first is the well known and invariably long-winded and difficult process of annulling a Catholic marriage through the Church’s court procedures, called “the external forum”.

    It is called “external” because it is public and can work only if certain conditions are fulfilled. But it may fail for any number of reasons, some of which include: one party not participating in the process, lack of evidence and qualified canon lawyers and excessive Vatican regulations that cause parties to abandon the process.

    The other, and commonly unmentioned, approach is what is called the “internal forum”, which the bishops of Germany have highlighted in their procedures for their dioceses, much to the chagrin of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Mueller, as reported frequently in ucanews.com and elsewhere in the Church’s media.

    The “internal forum” is another word for how an informed conscience becomes part of pastoral practice and where Catholics work out their relationships with God and the Church. Conscience is, in the teaching of Vatican II, that inner core of a person’s life where moral and religious norms are discovered for their application to actual life situations.

    It was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who underlined the significance of conscience in the operational life of the Church when he wrote before he became Pope Benedict XVI: “Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of Church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of Church authority.”

    At the conference in the Philippines earlier this month, we got an insight into just where the Catholic Church has been on this subject for the last 30 years and where the opposition to more pastorally flexible approaches to dealing with marriage and divorce is coming from. It will doubtless surface in Rome at the bishops’ synod in October.

  62. aviva meriam says:


    Are you REALLY that embarrassed?

  63. aviva meriam says:

    “The weakness in this line of argument is that there is no evidence to support it. How does someone else’s divorce undermine my commitment? How does the same-sex attraction and commitment of a same-sex couple undermine the commitment of a committed heterosexual couple? ”
    REALLY? So the longitudinal studies of homosexual males that demonstrate a lack of monogamy (as well as a promiscuity level) that is stunning don’t exist? The studies about the destruction of the family and the impact divorce has not only on the health of the parents but also on the children don’t exist? The studies of the pervasiveness of divorce within our modern culture and its growing acceptance don’t exist? I cannot tell you how many people I know of who think marriage and relationships are temporary….

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