PopeWatch: Not Another Interview


Well, Pope Francis gave another interview on his flight back from the Middle East.  Father Z gives us the details and his comments:


You may have heard that Pope Francis visited the Holy Land.  On the flight back to Italy, His Holiness held another presser.

At this point many of you might be cringing as the thought “What could possible go wrong?” flashes through your brain.  After all, it was on a flight that Pope Francis uttered That Infamous Line™.

And so, during this return flight, from the Holy Land, the Pope was asked, inter alia, questions about Communion for the divorced and remarried and about the possibility of priests being able to marry.   The second I will treat in a separate post.  I will confine myself, here, to the first.

NB: Read the following after reviewing how Card. Balidisseri backtracked after making some edgy comments. HERE

A Spanish language reporter asked:

… In the Church, for example, what is going to happen with Communion for the divorced and remarried, ….

The Holy Father answered saying, inter alia:…. [T]hanks for the question about the divorced.  The Synod will be about the family, on the problem of the family, on research about the family, on the present situation of the family.  The preliminary essay that Cardinal Kasper made had five chapters: four on the family, beautiful things about the family, the theological foundation, some familiar problems; and the fifth chapter, the pastoral problem of separations, of matrimonial nullity, the divorced… Holy Communion come into this problem.  And I don’t like that many people – even in the Church – priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod for giving Communion to the divorced”, and they’ve gone right there, to that point.  I have heard it as if the whole thing had been reduced to case study.  No, the matter is more than this, it is wider.  Today, everyone knows it, the family is in crisis: it is in a global crisis.  Young people don’t want to marry or they don’t marry or live together, marriage is in crisis, and so too the family.  And I wouldn’t want that we fall into this (as if it were) case law [Italian “casistica”: it is hard to render what what the Pope is talking about here in his less than clear Italian.  He means by this, surely, that he doesn’t want an impersonal, theoretical, legalistic view of the problem. It has to do with English “casuistry”].  Can you do it?  Can’t you do it?… For this reason, thanks much for this question, because it gives me the opportunity to clear this up.  The pastoral problem of the family is very, very broad, very broad.  And it must be studied case by case.  Something Pope Benedict said three times about the divorced has helped me a lot.  Once, in the Valle d’Aosta, another time in Milan, and the last time in the public consistory which he held for the creation of cardinals: to study the procedures for matrimonial nullity; to study the faith with which a person comes to matrimony and [NB] to clarify that the divorced are not excommunicated, and so many times they are treated as excommunicated.  And this is a serious thing.  On this case study [casistica – here I think he means something like “problem to be examined”.  Again, casuistry is involved.], the Synod will be about the family: the riches, the problems of the family.  Solutions, nullity, all that.


I’ll stop translating there. Hacking through this stream of words, which is in an Italian that is less than perfect, we find a couple main points.  And note that he doesn’t always speak of the divorced and remarried, though it is fairly clear that he includes them in his remarks.

First, the Holy Father is upset that all the talk about the Synod is focusing on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried.  Thus, he says the word “family”, over and over again.

Second, he was clearly prepared for this question, because he worked in that his (still living) predecessor treated the issue three times and even said where.  He was telling the newsies to look up what Benedict XVI said.   Thus, by the way, he was telling the newsies what I said for an entire year after Francis’ election: Read Francis Through Benedict.  He aligned himself with Benedict even as he clings to what Card. Kasper presented (which in many respects – not all – was flawed).

Third, he wants to review the procedures by which “annulment” cases are handled.  Fine.  A review doesn’t hurt anything.  However, I can assure you, there has to be a canonical procedure.  The Synod and the Holy Father won’t sweep aside canonical procedure in the review of marriage cases.  The Synod really can’t change that.  Changes to the procedure could very well imply changes to doctrine.  Thus, changes to procedure would have to be studied closely and with great caution.  Alas, what could happen, an unintended consequence, is that priests will simply stop sending in cases.  The low-information, weak-synapse type (liberal) priests out there in LaLa Land may do what they did in the matter of Humanae vitae: distort and defy and do their own thing.  That would be bad.

Fourth, Francis wants everyone not to treat the divorced as if there were excommunicated.  Or else, “stop treating the divorced as if they were excommunicated”.   I am not sure where that is taking place.  After all, some people who divorce may be divorced for good reasons, sad as the circumstances may be.  Moreover, those who are divorced for good reasons are admitted to the sacraments (read: they are not excommunicated).  They can go to confession and receive absolution.  They can receive Communion.  They can be anointed.  Sure, there are some divorced people who divorced for sinful and ignoble motives.  They must amend their lives, just like anyone else who sins and must amend their lives.  But make no mistake!  That line about making sure that the divorced are not treated as if they were excommunicated is probably the most important line of the longish answer.  The Holy Father clearly wants the Synod to reinforce that people who are divorced as treated with compassion as well as with justice.

Go here to read the rest.  Another convoluted Rorschach answer for people to read into what they will.  PopeWatch has just one observation:  a Synod is always a poor place for a “pastoral approach” to anything.  Synods are to assist a Pope regarding doctrine.  “Pastoral” is for pastors, priests who know individual sinners from the confessional and other interaction.  A priest who knows the facts of an individual situation may counsel a couple to attempt to have an annulment granted by a tribunal and might testify on their behalf before the tribunal.  When a Synod attempts to play pastor it takes on a role it is completely unsuited for, and the outcome will likely be the watering down of doctrine.  PopeWatch fears that Cardinal Kasper’s, at best, guestimate that 50% of marriages are invalid is an attempt to have the Synod pretend to a knowledge it does not possess, and to play pastor with people unknown to the members of the Synod, in an attempt to de facto overturn the doctrine of the Church regarding remarriage by the divorced and their subsequent reception of communion.  C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters has Screwtape remarking what havoc the forces of Hell had wreaked with the term “puritanical”.  PopeWatch suspects that much the same could be said about the term “pastoral”.

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  1. Karl: Pope Francis can be trusted to speak “in persona Christi” at the Consecration of the Mass and the Sacrament of Penance. These are the two most important.

  2. He ought stick to subjects of which he knows something.

    But to be fair. There’s so much of this stuff going around these days.

    I do like him. But keep mum on politics and economics…and hockey.

  3. There is a lack of clarity about whether simply divorced or civilly divorced -and-remarried. Perhaps a clarification of terms is still needed ( we recognize civil divorce/ we do not recognize divorce according to canon law).
    Also clarity regarding “excommunication”. Excommunication , unless I guess, it formally includes Anathema, does not prevent anyone from the Sacramenr of Reconciliation, contrition, repentance, and a firm will not to continue in sin. THERE in the confessional is where the pastoral approach shines forth.
    However, the confessional is where Humanae Vitae was undercut for many Catholics 40 years ago. It could be the way that a poor understanding of “primacy of conscience” ,along with a false understanding of what constitutes mercy could set up a married person to be judge of their own tribunal.
    All very dangerous for the people of God. Being led away by their own pastors.
    The problems faced by the family are not best addressed by making divorce and remarriage easier or more acceptable, but rather by encouraging Humility and Obedience.

  4. ( we recognize civil divorce/ we do not recognize divorce according to canon law).
    Anzlyne: I never heard of divorce according to cannot law. Invalid marriage is no marriage.

  5. Agree, Mary. The Church no more recognizes civil divorce for Catholics than it does civil marriages, at least in the formal sense of recognize. That said, the Church has pastorally acknowledged the practical effect and imnportance of civil marriage and divorce and (i) will often not permit a sacramental marriage unless civil requirements have been satisfied and (ii) will sometimes even encourage a separated spouse to seek a civil divorce if necessary to protect her basic legal rights or those of her children. In other words the Church recognizes the practical importance of civil marriage and divorce as a pastoral matter, but does not canonically recognize civil marriage or divorce as a sacramental matter.

  6. “In other words the Church recognizes the practical importance of civil marriage and divorce as a pastoral matter, but does not canonically recognize civil marriage or divorce as a sacramental matter.”
    This is a confusing statement if not outright weird.
    CCC Divorce
    2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.
    Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”
    2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.
    If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
    2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:
    If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.
    2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.
    2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.

  7. FM,
    I’m puzzled by your confusion. My quoted statement is wholly consonant with the CCC provisions you cite.

    I could have stated it more elegantly though:

    “In other words the Church acknowledges the practical importance of civil marriage and divorce as a pastoral matter, but does not recognize the sacramental efficacy of civil marriage or divorce as a canonical matter.”

  8. Karl you are right.
    The man (Pope Francis) can not be trusted anywhere.
    If he says “good morning”. My advice check on your watch first to be sure it is actually morning.

  9. @Mike Petrik on Thursday, May 29, A.D. 2014 at 9:53am: Thank you! The more clarity we can help provide these days, the better.
    Btw, the church recognizes the marriages of non-Catholics. And another btw, a valid marriage between a catholic and non-baptized person is not a sacramental marriage. Marriages between baptized persons are sacramental [marriages].
    Sacrament being a sign that confers grace. The sign it points to (as above) “covenant of salvation”: God’s eternal love for His people , and Christ for His Church.
    May God bless His Work at your hands.

  10. A Pope who is directly or indirectly responsible for causing so much turmoil and uneasiness in the faithful is marked by the alarm raised using the criterion of St. Ignatius of Loyola for the discernment of spirits: this one is certainly bad. Saul Alinsky would be quite delighted with what is going on.

  11. PS “In other words the Church acknowledges the practical importance of civil marriage and divorce as a pastoral matter, but does not recognize the sacramental efficacy of civil marriage or divorce as a canonical matter.”
    A lot of problems with this … for her [the Church’s] children, civil marriage does not count.
    Pastoral … from V II till now, isn’t this the source of the problems within the Church? From the very beginning, when has the Church never been ‘pastoral’? It appears to me that these pastoral solutions apart from the shepherding that God and His Christ wants, are nothing more that placating the conscience of an individual while not providing them with what they really need.

  12. Disagree, FM. There are perfectly sound reasons for the Church to pastorally recognize the practical benefits of both civil marriage and divorce. An abandoned wife and children should not have to endure deprivations of basic material needs as a legal consequence of still being civilly married. Such civil divorce has no bearing whatsoever on the canonical status of their sacramental marriage.

  13. “In other words the Church recognizes the practical importance of civil marriage and divorce as a pastoral matter, but does not canonically recognize civil marriage or divorce as a sacramental matter.”
    @Mike Petrik, this is a conclusion you draw, however elegantly you want to restate it.

  14. FM: Paying closer attention to the very words is important to understanding the meaning of the directive.“a ratified and consummated marriage” Even a “ratified” marriage, that is, agreed to, consented to; not consummated, may be annulled.
    These rules must be explained to the participants by their pastor. It is up to the individual involved to keep the rules. It is up to the pastor to ascertain that individuals understand their predicament.

  15. My pastor, Reverend August Newman, RIP explained to me to accept a civil divorce to settle civil matters. I was still married in the eyes of the church unless, or until I chose to seek and received annulment. Pastor Newman’s support and friendship was and still is indispensable.

  16. Thank you @Mary De Voe, my prayer and hope is that whatever has come in your life, and whatever may come, draw you ever upward to Our LORD, the One Thing Necessary. God bless!
    PS I would have been shocked if you had written something like, ‘My pastor, Rev. ‘Pastoral’, explained to me to continue in my civil marriage, as a pastoral matter, because of its practical importance.’ Then I would have hoped that you really prayed for him to RIP …

  17. Posted by Father Anthony Cekada on Thursday, May 29, 2014 2:45 PM (EDT):
    What Francis will do is what he’s been doing already: Occasionally pay lip service to traditional doctrines or moral principles (Yes, marriage IS indissoluble!) but utterly undermine these principles on “pastoral” grounds (Well, the poor woman living in the adulterous second marriage just NEEDS the Eucharist, etc.)
    This is the same trick the 60s modernist “pastoral” bishops pulled: “Oh, sure, the Church teaches that artificial contraception is wrong, but we have to apply that teaching in a PASTORAL way.” So priests who regularly absolved contracepting couples or told them “follow your mature Christian conscience” were never disciplined and were allowed to negate the teaching in practice, and seminarians who in mock confessions gave the morally correct answer were refused ordination.
    Wait for it, folks! It’s back to the ‘60s!
    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/a-reader-with-jitters-about-pope-francis-writes#blogComments#ixzz338PCYK1O

  18. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say ‘he has a demon’. The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’. But Wisdom is proved right by Her actions” Matthew 11.18-19

  19. Pope Francis should have told Walter Cardinal Kasper to shut his mouth. He hasn’t.

    Cardinal Kasper would do well to remember the admonishment of St. John Chrysostom.

  20. @FMShyanguya: Thank you for your kind wishes. As you might already know that God is never outdone in generosity. The American Catholic is one of my blessings.

  21. Fantastic discussion. As most if u know, I am new to the Catholic Faith having been a Protestant most if my life. I have always searched for and believed in my spirit in the sacramental marriage that the Catholic Church teaches. There is no such teaching regarding marriage in the Protestant denomination in which I grew up–but I have always known in my spirit that these things were true & should exist even though I never received explicit teaching regarding them. It has often been the case that I have known a spiritual truth before I found it in scripture or heard the teaching explained.

  22. I have started seriously dating a fellow who is Catholic. I think he is awesome. This morning my sister, who has been a Protestant pastor’s wife for 30 years, and I had a discussion in which I explained to her my understanding of the Catholic teaching on marriage. we discussed many of the things y’all have said here in your comments. I told her that a Catholic can marry anyone who has been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit as long as they are married in the Catholic Church. She thought that the Catholic Church would not recognize any marriage carried out by other churches. I told her that the Catholic Church recognized any marriage between 2 baptized people ( I am meaning of course one man & one woman who are not married to any others.) I have always been taught in my Protestant faith that God blesses marriage–meaning that He approves of & provides grace for those in a Biblical marriage. So that is not a new concept. However, the Protestant faith I was brought up in had no concept of a Biblical marriage existing after there was a civil divorce or existing apart from a civil marriage. Once a civil divorce took place–the marriage was dissolved as far as my Protestant Faith was concerned.

    Please be patient with me as a beginner when you all are so advanced in your knowledge. What a blessing to learn from you all!

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