At his Wednesday General Audience, His Holiness Pope Francis spoke on the situation of the divorced and civilly remarried. The MSM has inadequate reports about what the Pope said.
First, let’s be clear about something.
People who marry in the Church and then civilly divorce and then civilly marry someone else, are out of sync with their true spouse, with the Church, and with Christ. They are still married to their true spouse in the eyes of the Church because they are still married in the eyes of Christ. Because they are living out of sync with the truth, they cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. Furthermore, if they are not willing to amend their lives in an appropriate way, they cannot be given absolution. Their situation is spiritually perilous and, often, it gives public scandal (i.e., it undermines the social fabric and makes it easier, by their bad example, for others to do the same and think that it’s okay).
Here’s what the Pope said (not my translation – my emphases and comments):
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
With this catechesis we take up again our reflection on the family. After speaking last time of wounded families caused by the misunderstanding of spouses, today I would like to focus our attention on another reality: how to take care of those that, following the irreversible failure of their marital bond, have undertaken a new union. [i.e, divorced and civilly remarried. The “union” they have undertaken may be recognized by the state but it is not recognized by the Church, because it is not recognized by Christ.]
The Church knows well that such a situation contradicts the Christian Sacrament. [Get that?] However, her look of teacher draws always from her heart of mother; [Do I detect Google Translate at work? This is tricky, but it is closer to something like “Her teacherly gaze draws upon her motherly heart…”. I hear in that a gaze of one who teaches and corrects, but does so in a loving way (which is sometimes stern, as when a loving mother must warn a child away from the hot stove for the umpteenth time).] a heart that, animated by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and salvation of persons. See why she feels the duty, “for love of truth,” to “discern the situations well.” Saint John Paul II expressed himself thus in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (n. 84), pointing out, for instance, the difference between one who has suffered the separation and one who has caused it. This discernment must be made. [Recently, the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming October Synod mistranslated Familiaris consortio 83. HERE]If, then, we look at these new bonds with the eyes of little ones – and the little ones are looking – with the eyes of children, we see even more the urgency to develop in our communities a real acceptance of persons that live such situations. [I must ask: Are these people not being accepted far and wide? What is “acceptance” in this context?] Therefore, it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes are always attentive to persons, beginning with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most, in these situations. [One might add here that, if we are to be most attentive to the children in these situations, perhaps parents should avoid choices that will hurt those children and… stay together. There may be some few situations where separation is necessary but, for the most part, if people strive to overcome their passions and appetites and selfishness and choose to act for the good of their children, many of these “broken” marriages can be avoided. Perhaps that’s where we ought to put our efforts as a Church right now: helping to heal marriages that are struggling rather than try to “fix” something that’s broken with quick fixes?] Otherwise, how will we be able to recommend to these parents to do their utmost to educate the children in the Christian life, giving them the example of a convinced and practiced faith, if we hold them at a distance from the life of the community, as if they were excommunicated? [Perhaps telling children the truth about the situation could be a good start: Holy Communion can be received in the state of grace. That’s a start. Also, is it possible that children seeing that their parents do not receive Communion and who then explain why would be giving in a powerful way an “example of a convinced and practiced faith”? We must not not not slip into the trap of thinking that reception of Communion is obligatory for the daily practice of the Faith. Mass isn’t to be reduced to a Communion Service. I fear that in many places it has been. Sometimes we practice our Faith by not receiving Communion. We violate our Faith and give a bad example of the Faith to others when we receive Communion when we shouldn’t and people know we shouldn’t (which could be the situation of pro-abortion politicians, openly homosexual persons in civil unions, and the divorced and remarried.] We must proceed in such a way as not to add other weights beyond those that the children, in these situations, already have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children and youngsters is truly great. It is important that they feel the Church as a mother attentive to all, always willing to listen and to come together. [How true this is. And how true it also is that people who are divorced and remarried are still obliged to teach their children the Faith and are still obliged to attend Holy Mass on days of obligation (including every Sunday, of course). They must still practice their Catholic Faith even though they cannot be admitted to Holy Communion while their manifestly discordant situation continues. Sometimes a Mother has to say “No.”]
In these decades, in truth, the Church has not been either insensitive or slow. Thanks to the reflection carried out by Pastors, guided and confirmed by my Predecessors, the awareness has greatly grown that a fraternal and attentive acceptance is necessary, in love and in truth, [truth] of the baptized that have established a new coexistence after the failure of their sacramental marriage; [I am not sure of what that means. I am unaware that there was a lack of “coexistence” with people whose marriages failed. What am I missing? The Church is always available to them, even if they are not able to frequent the sacraments while their relationship is disordered.] in fact, these people are not at all excommunicated, they are not excommunicated! And they are absolutely not treated as such: they are always part of the Church. [Again, I am not sure what this means. Are there places in the world where the remarried are being shunned as if they old category of vitandus was still in force? It is true that the divorced and remarried are not excommunicated. No authority in the Church is saying that they are. That said, it remains true that people in these situations share a burden of those who are excommunicated: they may not receive Communion. The excommunicated may not receive sacramental absolution until the censure is lifted (or in some cases until the process of lifting the censure has been initiated through a confessor). The remarried, however, not being excommunicated, can seek the Sacrament of Penance and they can receive absolution provided that they have a firm purpose of amendment of their lives! The Church does not say that the remarried cannot confess their sins. The Church says that a person who is in the state of mortal sin (whatever that sin is) who has no intention to amend his life cannot be absolved.]
Pope Benedict XVI intervened on this question, soliciting careful discernment and wise pastoral support, knowing that “simple recipes” do not exist (Address to the 7th World Meeting of Families, Milan, June 2, 2012, answer n. 5).
Hence the repeated invitations of Pastors to manifest openly and consistently the community’s willingness to receive and encourage them, so that they live and develop increasingly their belonging to Christ and to the Church with prayer, with listening to the Word of God, with frequenting of the liturgy, with the Christian education of the children, with charity and service to the poor, with commitment to justice and peace. [cf. Familiaris consortio 83.]
The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18), summarizes the mission that Jesus received from the Father: to give his life for the sheep. This attitude is also a model for the Church, which receives her children as a mother that gives her life for them. “The Church is called to be always the open House of the Father […]” No closed doors! No closed doors! “All can participate in some way in ecclesial life, all can form part of the community. The Church […] is the paternal home where there is a place for each one with his difficult life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47). [Again, this is all correct, but… are there places in the world where doors are being closed in the faces of the divorced and remarried? I don’t know of any. And… sometimes a good Mother must say “No.”]
In the same way all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Above all Christian families can collaborate with Him by taking care of wounded families, supporting them in the community’s life of faith. [The Spiritual Works of Mercy apply.] May each one do his part in assuming the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinite love!
A passionate call from Pope Francis to reach out to people who are in irregular marriages!
I will repeat here what I say at Sunday Masses: Never underestimate the power of an invitation. Be inviting to people who are estranged from the Church! You never know how your invitation might be the little drop of healing balm in a grace-filled moment that stirs a wounded heart and mind to deeper conversion.
Invite people to come to Mass.
Invite people to go to confession with you.
The Ordinary Synod is coming. Between now and then, especially in September, there will be a torrent of pieces – especially from the Left, which seek to undermine the Church’s teachings in the name of “mercy”. They will portray those who uphold the Church’s teachings as being against “mercy”.
But “mercy” without truth is not merciful.
I urge all of you, especially pastors of souls, to obtain the so-called Five Cardinals Book™, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. The essays in this book provide a useful overview and response to all the issues that are being raised. Also, priests have communicated how useful this book is as a resource in the preparation of couples for marriage.
BTW… another book is on the way. More about that later.
The moderation queue is ON.
John L Allen’s take HERE:
One could read the pope’s call for welcome and encouragement as an indirect boost for the reform position, a way of preparing Catholic opinion for an eventual change. That’s an especially tempting conclusion in light of his emphasis on discernment in different situations.
Just as easily, however, one could read his language as a way of preparing people hoping for such a change for disappointment. Francis could be saying, “Even if we don’t budge on the Communion ban, that doesn’t mean we’re abandoning you.”
It’s notable that Francis explicitly said that remarriage after divorce “contradicts” the sacrament. Moreover, in ticking off ways in which divorced and remarried believers can still be part of the Church — through prayer, attending liturgies, etc. — Francis didn’t say anything about Communion.
Bottom line: Both sides could read what Francis said Wednesday and feel encouraged, but neither can claim a papal endorsement.
In the end, perhaps that was the point.