Catholic Family News
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A Priest on Pope Francis' Latest - Divorced & "Remarried" Catholics

The following is a general email that a a priest friend - a theologian in the US - sent to his friends and associates. This good priest sees clearly the game that is afoot and offers common sense Catholic insight based on decades of pastoral experience, as well as knowledge of how progressivists operate. Reading this is well worth your time - j vennari


A Priest on Pope Francis' Latest
"Judging by my own pastoral experience, I can't help wondering whether Pope Francis isn't assailing a straw man here."

     At yesterday's General Audience (August 5), Pope Francis yet again gave the media an opportunity to raise hopes that the upcoming Synod will end the Communion "ban" (a word suggesting a mere human regulation that can be reversed with the mere stroke of a pen) for divorced and civilly remarried couples:

     The Holy Father's remarks insinuate that many Catholic clergy and laity are widely and without warrant treating such couples as "excommunicated", thereby being harsh and uncharitable to their children as well. But the Pope did not say precisely what constitutes treating such couples as "excommunicated", i.e., what specific kinds of harsh treatment they are currently receiving that he thinks they should not be receiving.

     Judging by my own pastoral experience, I can't help wondering whether Pope Francis isn't assailing a straw man here, i.e., deploring a situation that scarcely exists in reality. Catholics living in irregular situations are rarely if ever given the 'cold shoulder' or made to feel unwelcome and excluded if they come to Mass with their children. If their pastor observes orthodox Catholic doctrine and discipline, they know they can't receive Communion or be ministers of Holy Communion, etc., but they normally are treated in a friendly, respectful way by the priest and other parishioners, often taking part in parish picnics, get-togethers, working bees, and other activities, without any social problems or friction.

     As for the children of such couples, I cannot recall even one instance, in over 30 years as a priest, of hearing that they were discriminated against, or made to feel excluded, on account of their parents' irregular situation. They are invariably accepted in catechism classes and other activities like all other parish kids, and treated with the same smiles and affection by priests and parishioners as the other kids receive. So I am puzzled as to why Pope Francis feels it necessary to warn us all that we must not "increase the burdens that the children in these situations already find that they must bear!"

     I just said that he is warning us "all"; but, come to think of it, by no means "all" of us are being addressed by the Pope's warning. For the umpteenth time, he is clearly targeting only 'conservative' (orthodox) Church members! For who else could Francis possibly think need to be sternly and one-sidedly reminded that "a fraternal and attentive welcome is necessary, in love and truth, towards baptized [Catholics] who have started living together after the failure of a sacramental marriage"?  Who else could he suppose needs to be thus admonished, complete with with finger-wagging repetition and exclamation marks? ("In fact, these persons are absolutely not excommunicated: they are not excommunicated! And they are not to be treated as such: they always make up part of the Church.")

     As Pope Francis surely knows well (but conspicuously failed to mention in yesterday's exhortation) those on the dissident liberal wing of the Church (particularly in German-speaking Europe), far from treating couples in irregular unions as "excommunicated", are erring in the opposite direction. At grass-roots level, "progressive" priests and even bishops are already often violating the Church's clear doctrine and discipline: they are tacitly or openly allowing such couples to receive Communion and do all the other things that are reserved for those living in accordance with Catholic teaching. 

     One might have thought that the Supreme Pontiff might at least have been even-handed in his comments by rebuking both those who (if they really exist) treat as outcasts these irregular couples and their children, and those (who certainly do exist) who treat such couples as if they were living in accordance with the law of Christ and his Church. But no. Only those nasty, mean (and probably phantom) discriminators on the Catholic 'right' are singled out and admonished.  

     That is why the Holy Father's comments yesterday will be warmly welcomed by Cardinal Kasper and his supporters as we draw closer to the Synod - especially since the Pope's lack of specificity will strengthen their credibility in the minds of many listeners and readers. How so? Well, the fact is, large numbers of ill-informed Catholics (and non-Catholics) mistakenly, though understandably, suppose that "excommunication" means, by definition, being excluded from Holy Communion. Thus, by insisting as strongly as possible that non-sacramentally-married cohabiting couples are not - repeat, not! - to be treated as "excommunicated", but without explaining what exactly he means by such treatment, Francis will leave the impression hanging out there in a great many minds that he is implicitly saying the "ban" on their receiving Communion should be lifted.

     Is the ambiguity intentional or otherwise?  Yes, I know. No need to tell me. One hears it all the time from devout, solid Catholics: always give the Pope the benefit of the doubt! OK, but perhaps it also needs to be remembered that popes are not supposed to keep on - and on, and on - saying things that provoke the kind of doubts that we need to give them the benefit of.


Here is the Italian original of the relevant part of Pope Francis' Wednesday audience address:
Del resto, come potremmo raccomandare a questi genitori di fare di tutto per educare i figli alla vita cristiana, dando loro l’esempio di una fede convinta e praticata, se li tenessimo a distanza dalla vita della comunità, come se fossero scomunicati? Si deve fare in modo di non aggiungere altri pesi oltre a quelli che i figli, in queste situazioni, già si trovano a dover portare! . . . Grazie all’approfondimento compiuto dai Pastori, guidato e confermato dai miei Predecessori, è molto cresciuta la consapevolezza che è necessaria una fraterna e attenta accoglienza, nell’amore e nella verità, verso i battezzati che hanno stabilito una nuova convivenza dopo il fallimento del matrimonio sacramentale; in effetti, queste persone non sono affatto scomunicate: non sono scomunicate!, e non vanno assolutamente trattate come tali: esse fanno sempre parte della Chiesa.

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