PopeWatch: Que?

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Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes on the arduous task of attempting to make sense of the Pope’s recent remarks on marriage:

I’m somewhat confused.  People who hate Pope Francis, like people who all but worship the man even if they deny it, will be of no value.  Much of what he says is rooted in his own experiences in Latin America.  As such, they don’t apply here in my cultural context.  Some of what he seems to be saying is that people are living  in what used to be called sin, not because they are living in sin, but because they are ignorant of the Sacrament of Marriage.  As such, he continues, people live in all ways outside of the Church’s understanding of a Sacramental Marriage even if they think they aren’t.  I’ll leave others to hammer out the implication of most marriages being invalid.

Here’s the part that caught my eye, and it could be a matter of translation, but he seems to be saying something about cohabitation and civil marriages that I can’t grasp.  According to the article, he first says:

“They prefer to cohabitate, and this is a challenge, a task.  Not to ask ‘why don’t you marry?’  No, to accompany, to wait, and to help them to mature, help fidelity to mature.”

If they weren’t confused about the Sacrament of Marriage before that sentence, they could be forgiven for being confused now.  I know I am.  Is he saying that it doesn’t matter if they are married as long as we foster fidelity?  I’ll assume he means that we need to help them to mature, and their fidelity to mature, meaning that it finally turns into marriage of a Sacramental nature.

He then goes on:

He said that in Argentina’s northeast countryside, couples have a child and live together. They have a civil wedding when the child goes to school, and when they become grandparents they “get married religiously.”  

OK, this is paraphrasing what Pope Francis says.  Note the only quotes are at the end.  But again, it is a strong reference steeped heavily in his own cultural context.  It doesn’t really apply to the US, or from what I know, most European Catholic countries, though I could be wrong about the latter.  But this section is important, because it sets up the most confusing part of the article:

“It’s a superstition, because marriage frightens the husband.  It’s a superstition we have to overcome,” the Pope said.  “I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitation, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity, but there are local superstitions, etc.” 

OK.  First, note this is now a quote.  Translated to be sure, but quote nonetheless.  I have no clue what to do with the part about the it being a superstition because of the husband’s fear, so we’ll move on to the second part.  There are different ways to read this, if you get right down to it.  And in some ways, that is the biggest problem with Pope Francis.  While sometimes he leaves no room for debate, at other times we’re left trying to scramble for an authoritative interpretation of what he is talking about.


In this, he almost seems to be saying that people who are cohabiting outside of marriage, but who have a strong bond of ‘fidelity’, are for all intents and purposes married sacramentally due to their strong fidelity.  Since that just seems wrong, we’ll have to think of another way to read it.

Another way is that he is talking about these older grandparents who, by now, have become married ‘religiously.’  Theirs is a real marriage because of their fidelity.  The problem here is that he says ‘I’m sure that this is a real marriage.’  The only thing I can think of is that he is contrasting this ‘real marriage’ to the bulk of marriages today that he has declared invalid.  For these folks, who started out living together, jumped through a secularized civil ceremony, and only later in life got married, a true religious marriage is the result.  As opposed to the bulk of the rest of us who, I guess, waited, got married in Church, and for some reason are part of a large group of invalid marriages.

The second is better, because it doesn’t sound like Pope Francis is tossing out Catholic teaching and saying marriage doesn’t matter, just the feelings and emotional bonding.  The second suggests Pope Francis is saying that folks who go through life outside of the classic preference for waiting until marriage to consummate the relationship might end up in a better, more sacramental marriage than the folks who followed the numbers.  I guess.

Those are the only two ways I can read this.  Perhaps there’s another.  But somehow it seems as though he is saying that the traditional understanding of wait until marriage, get married, have sex, have kids, stay married doesn’t have to be the only way.  Either that or he’s saying you don’t even have to be married.  I’ll defer to the first option.  And yet, I’m not sure that is much better.  It seems, once again, a concession to the modern, post-Christian progressive culture.  Technically the Sacrament of Marriage is the goal, but it turns out the traditional way to get there is now up for grabs, one way or another.  If there are other interpretations, I’m all ears.

Go here to read the comments.  PopeWatch appreciates the intense effort of Dave Griffey to parse the words of the Pope.  The problem of course is that gibberish is hard to understand and too often the Pope is very sloppy in his language, and, I assume, just as sloppy in his  thoughts behind the words.  The only substance that PopeWatch can glean is that the Pope has a fairly romantic view of people, to use the Pope’s words, on the periphery, while those following the rules of the Church often get the back of the Papal hand.

More to explorer

PopeWatch: Uncle Ted

 “Yeah, five years. If we had five years, the Lord working through Bergoglio in five years could make the Church over again.”

Requiescat in Pace: Pat Caddell

  Pat Caddell has passed away at age 68.  He went from being Jimmy Carter’s wunderkind pollster in 1976 to supporting Trump


  1. All through my children’s growing up, I worried and fretted that they hated reading. While other first graders were reading the Harry Potter series, my oldest could barely read the word “the.” None of my children loved reading, ever. I thought it was God playing a trick on my because I LOVE reading, and always have. But, now that they’re older, I’m seeing it as an amazing grace. I don’t have to worry about them trying to read anything that Pope Francis says. If I read to them any of the parts of what he said each one of them would say, “That’s not right.” It’s pretty sad that 11, 14, and 15 year olds would know better. Defending the faith will become a difficult task when non-Catholics start saying, “well, Pope Francis said you don’t even have to get married.” Fasting and praying seems to be all we can do.

  2. Any interpretation of his words ends up with an endorsement of concubinage, and a dismissal of young people marrying in the church.

  3. PF said he was going to transform the Church. We give him far too little credit when we attribute his words, without context, as being “gibberish” or “confusing”. He has an agenda and he intends to carry it out. His words do not warrant myopic interpretations. Look at the context of his entire papacy and recognize that he speaks in the progressive jargon of a college professor disguising his dangerous ideology with a theological veil. He again attacks priests calling them animals, and then as has become the style of the Vatican under this papacy, his words are edited for re-publication.

  4. This pontiff is not the first knucklehead to hold the papal office and he won’t be the last. We are stuck with him and the idiots who elected him.

  5. We’ve had a couple of homilies– alright, pretty much every time there’s a baptism 😀 — where Father reminds the parents and godparents that the kid is actually supposed to go to church regularly, not just for baptism and then their wedding. (He has a variation for confirmation related masses.)
    There may be sizable cultural Catholic groups where people haven’t learned what marriage is– kind of like how you’ll meet “raised Catholic” people who will insist that it’s about the guy having absolute control or some such drek, not even a nod to the “mutual sacrifice” aspect.

  6. Pope Francis’ apparent mission is to reconcile the world’s understanding of marriage with the Catholic Church. This requires certain contortions of logic and metaphoric interpretations of words and ideas, and dismissal of some Catholic doctrinal positions held by reactionary orthodox Catholics who he regards both uncharitable and out of step with the times. All of this is in line with his thinking that present day Catholics who uphold the faith are not really Catholic but that those folks who consider Catholic teaching nonsensical are really Catholics. How is his “salvation” strategy working? Bravo on alienating traditional Catholics. On the success of convincing non Catholics that they are Catholic insufficient data available to make a judgment. It should be noted that a few far right commentators have gone so far as to consider Pope Francis ideas quite simply madness and others have suggested he might be possessed. If all of this sounds like it should be in the Onion I heartily agree.

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