BY STEVE SKOJEC ON JUNE 16, 2016
The general consensus, as you’re probably already gathering, was that even if this is true — and it may not be — it’s a pretty stupid and discouraging thing to say. Of course, there was the question — always present in the “second hand information” defense — of whether the pope really said it at all. (Ross Douthat did note that the former Cardinal Bergoglio referenced this belief on the part of his predecessor in Buenos Aires, but Francis didn’t take ownership of the belief at the time)
Well, we no longer need to wonder. From a papal address today [ www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/most-marriages-today-are-invalid-pope-francis-suggests-51752/ ]:
“We live in a culture of the provisional,” the Pope said in impromptu remarks June 16. After addressing the Diocese of Rome’s pastoral congress, he held a question-and-answer session.
A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”
The Pope answered from his own experience.
“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.
“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say “yes, for the rest of my life!” but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”
He spoke of his encounter with a woman in Buenos Aires who “reproached” him. She said that priests study for the priesthood for years and can get permission to leave the priesthood to marry and have a family. For the laity, this woman said, “we have to do the sacrament for our entire lives, and indissolubly, to us laity they give four (marriage preparation) conferences, and this is for our entire life.”
He goes on to talk about some of the reasons he believes that people will enter the lifelong commitment to marriage without being ready for it:
He noted that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he had prohibited marriages in the case of “shotgun weddings” where the prospective bride was pregnant. He did this on the grounds there was a question of the spouses’ free consent to marry.
“Maybe they love each other, and I’ve seen there are beautiful cases where, after two or three years they got married,” he said. “And I saw them entering the church, father, mother and child in hand. But they knew well (what) they did.”
Pope Francis attributed the marriage crisis to people who “don’t know what the sacrament is” and don’t know “the beauty of the sacrament.”
“They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” the Pope said.
He added that a majority of couples attending marriage prep courses in Argentina typically cohabitated.
“They prefer to cohabitate, and this is a challenge, a task. Not to ask ‘why don’t you marry?’ No, to accompany, to wait, and to help them to mature, help fidelity to mature.”
These are valid concerns, but where is the call to repentance? To chastity? How can they mature if they won’t amend their lives?
Personally, I believe there may be some validity to the idea that a number of modern marriages might, if scrutinized, be found to be invalid due to improper formation (and whose fault is that?) or consent. I wouldn’t hazard a guess on how many, nor do I think that’s a particularly good idea. The more the idea is promoted that “your marriage probably isn’t valid,” the more likely it is that people are going to try to get out of it. And many of them aren’t going to wait for a canonical process. They’re going to jump right to the highly questionable situations outlined in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia with full pastoral approval; we already know that nobody in the Catholic hierarchy is going to counsel them otherwise.
Will those who made such strong statements about how imprudent Kasper’s repetition of this idea level the same charge at Francis? Will they call him “reckless”, or say how they’re going to ” the divorce lawyer’s office, and then, with Cardinal Kasper’s quote in hand, a petition for annulment”?
I suppose we’ll soon find out. Until then, pray for the conversion of Pope Francis, for God’s will to be done with this papacy, and for the next successor of St. Peter to be a wise and holy and courageous man who can begin setting things right.
UPDATE: Somehow, I missed this line in the last paragraph of the above-linked CNA report:
“I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity, but there are local superstitions, etc.”
That’s a quote from Pope Francis. These “cohabitations” are a “real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity…” I have nothing else to say.