An unfortunate and inaccurate piece of the headline at RNS: heresy debate divides church.
Francis issued a video message to a conference organized by Italian bishops on his controversial 2016 document on family life, “The Joy of Love.” The document has badly divided the Catholic Church, with some commentators warning that it risked creating a schism given its opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
We are seeing less a phenomenon of schism and more of elder siblings retreating to the front porch to go into an all-out pout.
No marital break-up is quite the same. Canon law can be stretched to include people outside of Catholicism, but often enough, declarations of nullity are a difficult to impossible point for a number of people. It’s a good thing that bishops, pastors, and confessors are seen as the front lines these days on divorce and remarriage. Especially the trickier situations that have been settled by internal forum as of late.
Critics of Pope Francis have two serious biblical tripping points. First, the hijacking of 1 Corinthians 11:17ff out of its context of a worship abuse based on inhospitality and arrogance of the rich. Nothing is listed in Saint Paul about people approaching the table communion with sins other than the larger reference. We can accept the teaching as a generality, and certainly apply it more widely. Every opportunity to engage in the sacramental life should merit careful conscientiousness from sinners. But we should be clear the apostle isn’t preaching specifically at all remarried believers.
Jesus’ citation of describing divorce and remarriage as adultery is well-taken. It is an example of a common technique he used. But there remain two challenges: a discrimination against (or ignorance of) his other pronouncements with (or without) rabbinical exaggeration, plus any number of situations in which one can objectively question the existence of mortal sin–the classical definition that includes knowledge and intent. Supposedly, the annulment process covers some of this. But it still doesn’t cover some fairly common ground: divorces among non-Catholics, Catholic partners who lack the intent to commit serious sin (escaping from abuse, neglect, addiction), not to mention marriages which have simply ended years in the past. The sacramental bond may or may not be in evidence, but the union of woman and man is long dead.
Divorce and remarriage certainly never applies to #faithfulCatholics, so maybe it’s best to let this one go. Maybe place some trust in another sacramental situation–the one that has given us confessors and pastors since the beginning.