In 2012, five whole years ago and a few months, Benedict XVI answered a public question about the divorced and remarried. The occasion is a meeting in Milan and the 7th World Meeting Of Families. TEXT HERE
5 THE ARAUJO FAMILY (a Brazilian family from Porto Alegre)
MARIA MARTA: Holy Father, in our country, just as in the rest of the world, marriage breakdowns are continually increasing.
My name is Maria Marta and this is Manoel Angelo. We have been married for 34 years and we are now grandparents. As a doctor and a family psychotherapist, we meet a great many families and we notice that couples in difficulties are finding it harder and harder to forgive and to accept forgiveness. We often encounter the desire and the will to establish a new partnership, something lasting, for the benefit of the children born from this second union.
MANOEL ANGELO: Some of these remarried couples would like to be reconciled with the Church, but when they see that they are refused the sacraments they are greatly discouraged. They feel excluded, marked by a judgement against which no appeal is possible.
These sufferings cause deep hurt to those involved. Their wounds also afflict the world and they become our wounds, the wounds of the whole human race.
Holy Father we know that the Church cares deeply about these situations and these people. [Q:] What can we say to them and what signs of hope can we offer them?
THE HOLY FATHER: Dear friends, thank you for your very important work as family psychotherapists. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering people. Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment [Remember, no Pope before 2013 ever talked about “accompanying”.] during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people – as you have said – the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; [A POPE said that? Really? But, hey. That was 5 whole years ago. Obsolete by now.] they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, [Wow… he said it again.] they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. [He seems to mean what he says, this Pope.] Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. [Accompany them in their suffering?!? Which can be a defense of marriage and love?] They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. [Hmmm… What are these “greater values”, of which he speaks?] I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment.
Let me get this straight.
- A Pope publicly answers a direct question made in public which asks for clarity about the state of the divorced and remarried.
- The divorced and remarried cannot receive sacramental absolution (of course, if they don’t have the intention to amend their lives, etc.).
- They can’t receive Communion.
- They have to be accompanied, made to feel part of the Church.
- Their suffering serves high values in and for the Church.
- Their suffering defends marriage and love.
- Their suffering is a gift to the Church.
- Their suffering is a way to serve the Church.
- Their suffering places them – not on the edge or outside – but in the heart of the Church.
That’s positively medieval!
But that was five whole years ago.