Pharisees Lost In Translation

Rocco whispered the Rorate Caeli gossip column* on Eugenio Scalfari’s latest chat with Pope Francis.

“It is true — Pope Francis answered — it is a truth and for that matter the family that is the basis of any society changes continuously, as all things change around us. We must not think that the family does not exist any longer, it will always exist, because ours is a social species, and the family is the support beam of sociability, but it cannot be avoided that the current family, open as you say, contains some positive aspects, and some negative ones.

I suppose this analysis could be disputed. At worst it is a mess of bad news, but it seems accurate to me. It is true that even among so-called “faithful” Catholics, that the extended family is nearly extinct as a living community. The modern refocus is on the nuclear family, and that alone would have given believers pause prior to the twentieth century.

The diverse opinion of the bishops is part of this modernity of the Church and of the diverse societies in which she operated, but the goal is the same, and for that which regards the admission of the divorced to the Sacraments, [it] confirms that this principle has been accepted by the Synod. This is bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.” [Rorate translation, emphasis added]

If Pope Francis is talking about divorced Catholics, he is right. There’s often serious sin afoot when a marriage breaks up. Many Catholics still feel the inner guilt, and I’ve known people who have intentionally withdrawn from the sacraments. But as a “sin” or even something else, divorce is something that can be forgiven.

In the context of RC’s (continuing) outrage, it seems the matter is not about the divorced, but the remarried. But that’s not coming through in the translation.

As for the presumed meaning, the de facto situation has always resided in favor of confessors. Remarried persons presenting themselves for the sacraments might have observers. But the usual premise is that an annulment is part of the picture. There is no official church policing outfit that checks on this. Nosy parishioners may well have their own brand of scandal on their hands if they were to attempt to pry into the state of grace of other communicants.

Honestly, friends, is there any doubt that is how Francis, who has championed this notion from the first moment, sees this? Is there any doubt this is what will be (with some variation, some Pharisaic language) in the post-Synodal exhortation? Now what?

This leaves us in a good position, overall. Our task seems clear to me. The Church at large, including (or perhaps especially) the elder siblings who wrap themselves in virtue have an important task to tackle: the hard work of supporting and strengthening marriages and families where they find them.

I find it curious that so many “faithful” Catholics complain about the lack of support. What if the nudge is that their calling is to support, rather than be supported? What if the calling is to witness to their own lives, rather than be hyper-concerned about prying into the lives of others? What if the calling is for prevention, rather than punishment? What if people are simply invited to be Christians rather than pharisees?

* not necessarily intended as insulting, but just an observation on RC’s sidenotes about the pope’s favorite newspaper, his favorite journalist, and the choice to open the fourth wall with its questions.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Pharisees Lost In Translation

  1. FrMichael says:

    “It is true that even among so-called “faithful” Catholics, that the extended family is nearly extinct as a living community.” That might be true for you living most of your life in the Midwest, but in urban and suburban California the extended family is actually stronger now than in my youth. I would say at parochial school pick-up time that the ratio of parents to grandparents and aunts/uncles is almost 50/50. The various Asian ethnicities (Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean) that are strong in the California Church operate strongly on the extended family model. A good number of white and Hispanic families do as well. A developer acquaintance of mine mentions that many Bay Area new-construction townhomes have two master bedrooms: one for the Indian tech worker and his wife, one for the techie’s parents. It’s a huge marketing plus. I know that my parochial school children socialize mostly with their school classmates and their cousins on weekends, and that is in a majority-white parish.

    The rise of the two-working parent household and astronomic increase in housing prices has led to a surprising resurgence of the extended family.

    • Todd says:

      I see something of your observations among my parishioners from Pacific Island cultures. But they also have adult children long gone from the area, and scattered about the country with jobs and families. The question for each of us, as well as in the Midwest: Is this twenty or thirty notable families out of a thousand or two? The bottom line is that “faithful” Catholics tend not to question the notion of leaving town for good for college, career, and nuclear family.

      • Jim McCrea says:

        Ever since I got out of the Air Force in 1969 it was quickly obvious to me that people go to where the jobs, and ultimately careers, take them. There was nothing for me back in rural Wisconsin and I followed Horace Greeley’s advice and went West. I have never regretted that.

        California grew by leaps and bounds after WWII, and continues to do exactly that, largely for this reason. Now other states (Texas, Nevada and Arizona to name but three) are doing the same thing.

        The Southeast has become a haven for retirees from cold climates. Where their kids are is secondary, primarily because of the ease of getting from one place to the other.

        Extended families residing in the same area are fostered by a LACK of social and employment mobility, not because of it.

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