Top Italian Bishop Nunzio Galantino Says Church Must Welcome 'Unconventional Couples'Posted:
My Comments first and the RNS article below my comments: Bishop Nunzio Galantino Pope Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy has stirred the waters a few times since he has risen to fame and has had to back track once or twice in his pastorally insensitive comments.
He seems to have stirred the pot again according to Religious New Service. Of course we have to wait and see what the Synod on the Family promotes in October. But when reading the Italian Pastoral situation let me offer a few comments from the perspective of my Italian relative in Livorno whom I visited and had a conversation about some of these things last October to be exact!
1. Italian clergy tend to be very clerical and aloof, but not all certainly. They do not seem to have been trained well in pastoral theology or sensitivity to the legitimate requests of Catholics, either practicing or not practicing. For example, one of my first cousins was incense that a relative of hers who had a baby who was dying could not get a priest to come and baptize the baby because the mother, though a cultural Catholic, was not practicing the faith. This sort of thing is a scandal and pushes even practicing Catholics to the brink!
2. Annulments are not as common in Italy as in the USA where is has been a great, very great pastoral tool. Keep in mind that civil divorce was not allowed in Italy until relatively recently, in the past 30 years or so. The Church's fight to keep divorce illegal rankled not a few Italians especially those who had spouses who left them for someone else and had no legal recourse in terms of separation benefits.
Thus annulments are rare. When I spoke about the annulment procedure and how many Catholics I had marriages blessed in the Church after an annulment they couldn't believe their ears. None of my relatives knew of anyone who ever got an annulment!
So if the Synod moves the Church in Italy and elsewhere to find solutions to divorced and remarried through the Church's structure of annulments, that is a great thing to say the least and it is pastoral.
I do not believe there will be solutions apart from the External Forum's (tribunals) system. I do believe the synod will ask that tribunals and education about annulments will be beefed up especially in areas of the world where it is weak. I think too, the Internal Forum, that of Confession, will be clarified.
The External Forum may be simplified in some ways.
So don't jump to conclusions. I don't see anything radical happening independent of the ways we are already doing things in the USA. It will simply be extended to others and the internal forum will be clarified with more rules to govern it!
ROME (RNS) The Catholic Church should make “unconventional couples” feel at home instead of making them targets of “de facto discrimination,” the leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis said this week.
“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.
“The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination,” he said Wednesday (Aug. 27) in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian hill town of Orvieto.
Galantino was Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy, and from the beginning the bishop has adopted the pontiff’s inclusive approach. That has often landed Galantino in hot water, as he has spoken about the need for the church to welcome gays and to consider optional celibacy for the priesthood.
But Galantino has not softened his views, which are especially newsworthy because in October the Vatican will host a major conference of the world’s top bishops, called a synod, to discuss issues facing the modern family.
How to deal with gay and cohabiting couples is a likely topic of discussion, but the question of whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment can take Communion has emerged as a focal point of disputes among bishops.
That’s because the issue is a test case of whether the church under Francis will, or can, change its policies relating to the central sacrament of Communion. Some say such a change is impossible, while others say that changes are not only possible but imperative given that so many couples have divorced and remarried and feel alienated from the church.
Galantino’s remarks were widely reported in Italian media, including Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, and were translated by the Italian news agency ANSA.
In his talk, Galantino, who is secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference, stressed that everyone should “feel at home” in the church, and especially at Mass — including migrants, the disabled, the poor and those in unconventional relationships.
He spoke about the need for churches to make their buildings accessible for those with disabilities, for example, and said Catholics should take care that the poor are not treated differently from the wealthy at Mass.
But he appeared to send a strong message about divorced and remarried Catholics who are excluded from the sacraments.
“They live in their situation with great suffering,” he said, “and they perceive the church’s regulations as very severe, not compassionate if not punitive.”