AN OPEN LETTER ON THE GOSPEL OF MARRIAGE
AND PARTICIPATION IN THE SACRAMENTAL LIFE OF THE CHURCH
Please do not misinterpret the Openness of Pope Francis!
Lately, there have been several quotations from Pope Francis that have led to him being misquoted or misinterpreted and, as a result of that, people may become confused regarding the true Doctrine of the Church. The Holy Father has been consistent in supporting the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church but has also suggested our tone needs to be more merciful and pastoral with those whom we encounter along the journey.
The Pope is promoting a "Culture of Welcome" against a "Culture of Waste", in all kinds of ways that 'waste' can be manifested, such as: through violence, slavery, poverty, exclusion, judgment, isolation due to illness, euthanasia, and so on.
Another case of misinterpretation of the Pope's words is in regard to his openness to review some irregular situations in marriages. Again, Pope Francis is asking Bishops and Priests to act more loving and merciful with people that find themselves in 'opposition' to Jesus' gospel and the Church's law. He has not overridden the existing Canon Law nor the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regards to Catholics remarried civilly or living in common law.
The Church says that as long as these situations persist, they contravene God's law and consequently people affected cannot receive Holy Communion (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1650).
Pope Francis is asking pastors to better accompany, discern and integrate weakness into our more effective pastoral care. He also talks about the "Gradualness in Pastoral Care" (Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8), in which "entering into pastoral dialogue with these persons is needed to distinguish elements in their lives that can lead to a greater openness to the Gospel of marriage in its fullness".(AL 293). In this pastoral discernment, there is a need "to identify elements that can foster evangelization and human and spiritual growth". (AL 293).
We all agree and are very hopeful that the openness of the Pope and of the Church will lead us to a better understanding of these irregular situations, a more compassionate pastoral approach and, in the near future, to a clearer ruling. Nevertheless, the Church must apply what the Pope recommends: "Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits" (AL 305).
It is Pope Francis who foresaw a possible misinterpretation by saying: "In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God's plan in all its grandeur" (AL 307).
We cannot leave unheard the Pope's calling to pastors: "The Church's Pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church's teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgments" (AL 308).
From the point of view of a Parish Pastor, I personally encourage parishioners that may have some difficulties with marital situations in which they cannot fully participate in the sacramental life of the church, to look for opportunities to speak directly to a parish pastor. Perhaps in that way we can put into practice what Pope Francis is urging us to do.
Fr. Carlos A. Sierra T.
Pastor, St. Brigid's Church
1 H.E. MSGR. ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, From the Proceedings on the XXIX International Conference Organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, 20-21-22 November 2014, New Synod Hall –Vatican City. Referring to the care of Pope Francis for the sick and the suffering:
The culture of waste: 'asks for the elimination of human beings, especially if they are physically or socially weaker´
The culture of Welcome: will assure to vulnerable and defenseless people a ´dignified life´ even when there are 'grave difficulties': ´a sign of true Christian civilization´.