Hell and Remarriage: Whose Business?

Lots of internet damage control today on a piece of gossip: did Pope Francis tell a woman who “shouldn’t” be receiving the Eucharist that she could? The usual suspects weigh in. Plus lots of Catholic chicken littles thinking the sky is falling.

One, what a priest tells a person in confidence is none of our business. None. Approaching to receive Communion is a matter, like it or not, of choice. It is beyond the control of watchers, cluckers, cuckoos, and others.

Two, bloggers of canon law and coffee mugs can pontificate all they want. Commentariats can cry foul. It matters not. None of this is within their control. On the other hand, their own divorces, remarriages, and such–they might be experts on those events.

Three, the reports from or about the person in question may or may not be accurate. Journalists, pajama or suited, and their fans were not a party to any conversation. And even the listener may well have heard what she wanted to hear. Damian Thompson, for example, offers up a disclaimer:

(G)iven the complexity of this subject, we need much more clarity on what Francis reportedly said.

The lack of clarity certainly hasn’t stopped the punditry from speculating.

Four, it is never about someone else’s worthiness to receive a sacrament. It is about my worthiness. That’s as far as it goes.

Remarriage after a divorce is an unforgiveable sin. Unless a Catholic married outside the Church in which case it’s not. And if a non-Catholic married outside the Church, too bad: it counts. And if a person who wants to be Catholic is married to a divorced person, too bad: you can’t become a Catholic. Not without forsaking your marriage.

Of course this is all complicated. Human-made rules and a flinty interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11.

Likewise all this fuss about some movie based on some book that supposedly posits that heaven is for everybody. Or almost everybody. And that, somehow, is all wrong.

Again, who makes it to heaven or hell, or how many, is none of our business. Jesus says this pretty plainly in the Gospels. He also suggests that people who think they have a bead on particulars are going to end up surprised. Sinners, prostitutes, divorced-and-remarried, tax collectors, and such: I think we can count on more than expected from those categories. The religiously self-assured: perhaps under 100%.

Shocking, I tell you. Simply shocking.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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