Pope Benedict XVI sent some mixed messages on his trip to France, encouraging a warm welcome for those who reject the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council but dismissing proposals for admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion.
"Everyone has a place in the church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home and never rejected," said the pope, according to Reuters, encouraging French bishops to make the Tridentine liturgy available for Catholics who desire it. (The pope liberalized the celebration of what he called "the extraordinary form of the Roman rite" a year ago.) France's hierarchy has been reluctant to do so because of the strength in France of the schismatic Society of St. Piux X, which founded by a French archbishop in opposition to the reforms of Vatican II.
The pope was less encouraging to those who hope for a change in the church's approach to divorced Catholics who have remarried. "Initiatives aimed at blessing irregular unions cannot be admitted," said the pope, responding to requests from bishops around the world to find a solution for Catholics in that situation.
It's too bad the pope cannot apply the first, more generous quote to divorced Catholics as well as those who miss the pre-Vatican II church. The pope can defend the permanence of marriage while still acknowledging that sometimes human beings fall short of the ideal. Christianity practically invented Confession for that purpose; it seems a great failure of imagination to consign divorced and remarried Catholics to the fringes of the faith, especially since many want to take full part.
If Confession can restore even a murderer to Communion, one has to wonder why it is unable to reconcile those whose relationships have irreparably faltered. Catholicism, indeed the gospel itself, hardly suggests that we get only one bite at the apple.