People have been hyperventilating about Pope Francis not judging gays of good will, but I thought the most heartening comment from his informal presser touched on the issue of many of my friends and parishioners.
Apparently, this is not a settled matter:
This is an ongoing issue. I think this is the time to show mercy. Times have changed and the Church faces many problems, partly because of the negative testimonies of certain priests. Clericalism has caused a lot of wounds and these wounds need to be healed with mercy. The Church is a mother and in the Church we need to be merciful towards everyone.
Most priests I know are sincerely compassionate to divorced believers. They also see couples who marry who are, let’s say, on the edge of having a successful marriage, but who are not there. And some never get there. Two things struck me in the Holy Father’s comments. One was that we shouldn’t wait for the alienated to come back to Church:
We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us, we need to go out and search for them. I think the time for mercy has come as John Paul II predicted by introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy.
Well, wow. When the intercommunion issue surfaces, it is up to the believer to approach the Church. Remarried people–this is a little more off the core of acceptable Catholic practice.
Pope Francis does know what church practice is:
Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. Here I must add that the Orthodox follow the theology of economics and allow second marriages.
This second point was the biggest shocker of the day:
When the commission of eight cardinals meets at the beginning of October we will discuss how to proceed. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage.
Whoa. The Gang of Eight is looking at issues like this? Man, I would love to see the “gray book” that’s making the rounds between them. If Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics is on the table, I wonder what else might be.
This call for mercy: this is huge. I also think a careful discernment is essential. We are talking about the core understanding of the permanence of marriage. But we also face tens of millions of Catholics who have a true hunger for the Eucharist and who are in situations that practically prevent them from returning to the Church. Remarriage is the unforgivable sin, as presented by the tone of church teaching. Faith, meaning sacramental faith, has got to be more important than legislative practice. The Orthodox understand this. I hope Pope Francis and his super-cardinals give it a thorough discernment.