Monday, April 28, 2014
A BOMBSHELL THAT FIZZLED: WHAT POPE FRANCIS ALLEGEDLY SAID AND ACTUALLY SAID
"BOMBSHELL" on Pope Francis speech to African bishops concerning marriage. In this speech Pope Francis upheld the Church's traditional teaching on marriage, linked his own teaching to that of the corpus of teachings of Saint Pope John Paul II and was the most explicit teaching on marriage from the current pontiff.
The reason I called it a bombshell was for the fact that the previous two days there had been a media firestorm in both the Catholic and secular press concerning a "cold-call" of Pope Francis, one of many to various people throughout the world, where the husband of the one called posted his interpretation of what the pope had told his "wife."
Basically, and this has not been confirmed, the Holy Father indicated that the woman who is in an illicit marriage not recognized by the Church due to either her own or her husband's previous marriage (or both have previous marriages) that she could go to Holy Communion nonetheless.
There was plenty of coverage on the hearsay of what the pope said which was not helped by the Vatican Press Office's response to it.
But I did not see any coverage of what the pope explicitly said in a higher level of teaching, an official level, to the African bishops which was a very traditional teaching on marriage and an explicit call to uphold the indissolubility of marriage. He also stated marriage is obviously between one man and one woman.
Why no coverage on this by the Catholic media, Catholic bloggers and the secular media. Is what the Holy Father tells Africans not important? Do people read what the Pope says to Africans?
What is more important about the African speech is that it was on the heels of what was being reported that the pope said to an Argentinian woman which could not and was not corroborated. I do not think it is an accident that the African speech included strong words about the Church's traditional teaching on marriage.
Then on top of that, Pope Francis at Sunday's canonization emphasizes the corpus of teachings on marriage and the family in his homily and makes explicit mention to the Synod of Bishops who would be meeting in October. He stated that Saint John Paul II's teachings would guide the synod. I would call that a bombshell also. The only report of this is from Fr. Z's Blog. Where is everyone else?
This is Fr. Z's brief analysis of the Pope canonization homily:
So, if the sermon really wasn’t about these Popes, what was it about? Rather, what was it also about?
Next, it seems to me that there was carefully woven into this sermon a subtle message about changes that will be proposed at the upcoming Synod which could be a “scandal” to many. On the one hand, many would be tested when the Synod recommends to uphold what we have taught and done for so many centuries.
The reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching in clear terms would be hard and a stumbling block for those who have caved into what the world presses us to do in our weakness. On the other hand, were the Synod Fathers to make a recommendation clearly against what the Lord and Church has taught… well… scandal doesn’t begin to paint the picture of what would result.
Francis’ talk about forgiveness underscores my view.
MY FINAL COMMENTS: So what are we to make of Pope Francis' "cold call" to an Argentinian woman and what he said to the African bishops a day later and what he said about Saint Pope John Paul II's teachings on marriage and family to guide the upcoming synod to them and at the canonization Mass?
I am a pastor and I have encountered many divorced and remarried Catholics who are making the best of their illicit situation in terms of being good people, believers, and taking care of their family and other obligations. Some of these Catholics have been in illicit situations for most of their adult lives. Some of them are aging or have life-threatening diseases where the sacraments of the Church are truly desired to assist them.
Often they are unable to obtain annulments, not because there are not legitimate grounds for one, but because there are not enough witnesses who will cooperate or give testimony, or the witnesses are dead. Sometimes a vindictive former spouse will not cooperate or will actively stand in the way of the annulment procedure.
Now this is where it can get messy. If the external, public canonical trial forum for an annulment is tried and fails and it is the determination of the pastor in consultation with the Catholics seeking the annulment that only technicalities are keeping them from receiving the annulment, then a pastoral solution is reached within the context of the Sacrament of Penance, which is under the secret of the confessional and thus called the "internal forum." A priest cannot divulge the contents of what has transpired in this forum and I would go as far as to say neither should the penitent.
Again if an internal forum solution is reached within the context of the Sacrament of Penance,(and can only be done so after the external forum dead ends due to technicalities, not any actual decree upholding the bond of the marriage that ended in divorce) the priest can in no way "validate" the illicit marriage or even offer a blessing of any type. The priest may tell the couple that if they choose to return to Holy Communion, it would be best in a parish where they are not known so as not to give scandal to anyone who might know of their illicit marriage. In other words the onus is on the couple in the illicit marriage, they must place their lives together into the hands of God and should be aware of a negative judgement God could render them at their personal judgement at the moment of death. The priest can't give permission for someone in an illicit marriage to receive Holy Communion apart from informing them of the truth I just enunciated, otherwise the priest would be held accountable at his own personal judgment at the hour of death!
This sounds a bit like the advice the Holy Father gave to the Argentinian woman. I agree that the Holy Father shouldn't place himself in a situation where is private words go viral. Given his high office in the Church, His Holiness must be more prudent and not micro manage the pastoral life of dioceses where he is not the Bishop. I would have hoped that he called the local bishops first before calling this woman! Where is the collegiality and subsidiarity in this?
But the great service the Synod of Bishops on the Family can give to bishops and pastors is a more explicit canonical teaching on the "internal forum" and to make that teaching clear and public.
This is what I think the synod will tackle but at the same time uphold what Saint Pope John Paul II taught about marriage and family.
The internal forum as it is now is more theoretical that explicitly taught and is misused by many bishops, priests and laity.
Finally, Pope Francis seems to be concerned with bringing both the orthodox and heterodox in the Church together and his outreach to the heterodox is causing apoplexy amongst conservative, orthodox, traditional Catholics--making them as shrill and ugly as the heterodox were toward Pope Benedict.
The heterodox thought that Pope Paul VI, who soon will be beatified according to some reports, was on their side when it came to marriage and sexuality. They thought for sure that Pope Paul VI would change the Church's teaching on natural law as it concerned sexual acts in marriage and the use of artificial contraception. They became apoplectic when Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae. Will the current modern day heterodox do the same to Pope Francis and his synod when they uphold the teachings of the Church as enunciated by Saint John Paul II? Are the 1960's going to happen again in 2014?
Humanae Vitae is the most important teaching of the Catholic Church in centuries for it safeguarded the Deposit of Faith as it concerns the three legs of the basis of Catholic moral teachings: Scripture, Tradition and natural law. If he had excluded natural law in Humanae Vitae rather than to emphasize it, the Catholic Church today would be one with the worldwide Anglican Communion in allowing artificial contraception, endorsing divorce and remarriage, allowing for women in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and allowing same sex marriage.
Humanae Vitae has prevented this and will prevent it in the future. It is an infallible teaching! No pope has the power or authority to change infallible teachings, if they do, they become heretical and could be name an anti-pope.
As far as Pope Paul's other weaknesses in allowing a radical departure from the traditional Mass in term of some of the reforms he endorsed, the fact that he issued Humanae Vitae which has far reaching consequences for the Church, especially today given the secular and religious pressures on the true Church, justifies his canonization! Make him a saint soon too!