The Seven-Percent Section

pie chartIt seems that the bulk of canon lawyers are working on numbers 1055-1165, about seven percent of the legal corpus. What happens if, over the next few years, taking action on declarations of nullity fades away? Will the Church’s canon lawyers, many of them lay people, be turned out of their offices? That shouldn’t affect the deliberations of the college of cardinals today. Or should it?

If there are changes in church practice, then there will need to be attention given to those who once served couples in marriage tribunals. Retrain them to be pastoral listeners? Wouldn’t that be more the role for a parish pastor, to listen carefully to divorced persons and discern with them a path to greater holiness.

Others have remarked this week that the Lord’s approach to a divorced and remarried person was to inspire her to be an apostle.

On PrayTell, Rita Ferrone asked, “What are we fighting about?” And a fairly good discussion ensued, though sparkled with a few older siblings. But they are as much our sisters and brothers as those people who have been divorced and even remarried.

It is good for us to wrestle with these issues openly. Divorced and remarried people, especially those alienated from the faith community need to know that thoughtful and compassionate people have them in mind, and advocate for them in the face, sometimes, of adolescent insults and game-playing. Prime example: playing the “adultery” card.

To be clear, the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage are not up for grabs. It is the response to people who have broken marriages and who, despite bad experiences with spouses, families, the secular legal system, and the Church, still seek the blessings of the married state.

Lastly, I’m unimpressed by the pelagian strain I see in many of the self-styled orthodox who are outraged that Catholics on a second marriage may be invited to return to the Eucharistic banquet, free of their “ex-communication.” The Eucharist is not a reward for good behavior. In the situation of broken people, the Eucharist is a sacrament of grace and healing. Some people, the ones most in need of mercy, may be most in need of the nourishment and the sacrifice the Lord provides.

I’m curious about the long-term impact on clergy studies and eventually, the appointment of bishops. Under Pope Benedict XVI, it seemed every bishop had some background in canon law. These days, we even have a campus minister in a cathedra. Will this be a good thing for the ministry of bishops in the Church in the 20’s, 30’s and beyond?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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