A(nother) Bizarre Papal Move
Robert Royal writes that Pope Francis has not only definitively modified teaching on divorce and remarriage but has offered a new vision of the Eucharist as well.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2016
So now we know. We knew before, really, but didn’t have explicit confirmation. The long, agonizing slog, however, is finally over: from Pope Francis’ invitation to Cardinal Kasper to address the bishops in Rome in February of 2014 to the pope’s letter last week to some Argentinean bishops affirming guidelines they had developed in a joint document that, in “exceptional cases,” people divorced and remarried (living in an “adulterous” relationship as we believed for 2000 years in Western Christianity), may receive Holy Communion. This whole affair is bizarre. No other word will do.
As I wrote on this page many times before the two Synods on the Family, daily during those events, and subsequently, it was clear – at least to me – that the pope wanted his brother bishops to approve some form of what came to be known as the Kasper Proposal. That he did not get such approval – indeed, that he got significant pushback from bishops from various parts of the globe – visibly angered him, and even led him into a bit of snark at the close of the second Synod, that some opinions had “at times” been expressed there, “unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways.”
Well, one man’s not entirely well-meaning ways, is another’s conviction about remaining faithful to the words of Jesus. And since then and even after the publication of Amoris laetitia, Catholics – indeed, the whole world – have been embroiled in tumultuous and fruitless speculation on whether things had changed or not. Even the notorious footnote 351 of Amoris laetitia, for all the worries it caused traditional Catholics, did not really come out and say what the pope evidently thought.
The puzzlement was understandable. Has a pope ever changed something of such significance via confused footnotes and, now, a private letter to a small group of regional bishops? In that obscure context, he’s quite categorical: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”
I say again: bizarre – both in process and substance. It took several days before it was even certain that the letter to the Argentinean bishops – leaked, only later confirmed by the Vatican – was authentic.