He called for divorced and remarried Catholics to participate more fully in church life. But he closed the door on gay marriage. He quotes Jorge Luis Borges and Jesus Christ. There is an entire chapter on Love.
But more than anything, Pope Francis’s long awaited document on family life, released Friday by the Vatican, amounts to an exultation of traditional marriage while recognizing that life, in his own words, isn’t always “perfect.” Yet rather than judging, he commanded, the church should be a pillar of support.
Although the pope did not explicitly call for a rule change, he seemed to suggest that such cases should be studied and ruled on one by one. At one point, he mentions that people who are living in an “objective situation of sin” can “also grow in the life of grace.” Then, in this footnote for priests, he notes:
“I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
The pope seemed to say that the church must deal with the world it lives in, not the world it wants. He sometimes sounded less like a pontiff than a marriage counselor.
One more bit:
Monsignor Fred Easton, who led the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s tribunal for 31 years, said Friday morning that the pope’s document was not offering the divorced and remarried a path to the Eucharist, but rather encouraging laypeople and priests to find every possible other way to include them in church life. He acknowledged the wording might prompt different analyses.
That last sentence is the understatement of the year. Here is Footnote 351, on page 237. It is a footnote to a line about how people can be living in “an objective situation of sin — which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such,” and should still be included in the life of the Church. The footnote reads:
In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 , 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”
That is the footnote that ate the rule of church law governing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. It’s a hole that bishops and priests will drive a fleet of trucks through. It’s the principle of economia, I get that; we use it in the Orthodox Church. Maybe it’s the right thing to do here. But conservative Catholics are right to see this as a big deal. Francis seems to be changing church law de facto without changing church law de jure. It’s all now up to the pastor’s discretion, it sounds like. Here’s a passage from Chapter 8:
Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.
I understand what the pope is saying here, but is this not, in fact, a renunciation of standards, replacing them with situational ethics, at the discretion of the pastor? Eh?
UPDATE: This is a very good question:
Does Pope Francis have a category for repentance that could possibly bring lifestyle discomfort and require change? Genuinely asking…
— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) April 8, 2016