US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Pope preparing to shake up sacramental marriage?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

James Carroll at the Boston Globe sounds pretty confident that Pope Francis is going to make changes in the way the church deals with divorce and remarriage: "This is a time of mercy," he quotes the pope saying. I think the bigger signal, which Carroll also mentions, is the German bishops open resistance to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the matter. The Diocese of Freiburg has already published a guide for readmitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, despite CDF head Gerhard Muller's explicit reaffirmation of the church practice on the matter of divorce. Muller went as far as criticizing the Orthodox practice of allowing remarriage as unfaithful to the gospel.

The care of divorced and remarried Catholics is probably one of the most common pastoral problems faced by pastors, and the annulment process has long been criticized as dishonest (to the extent that marriages that lasted decades are treated as if they never existed) and emotionally difficult. The reality is that some marriages end--for a variety of reasons, many of which cannot be shoe-horned into an "impediment." We can still affirm that marriage demands an intention to create a lifetime commitment without insisting that a person only gets one chance to make it stick.

Next year's Vatican synod on family life will provide the signal of change--or lack thereof. I expect there to be significant pushback on any change in discipline but for the pastoral voices, led by Pope Francis, to tilt the scale.