It’s our own Elizabeth Scalia—turning into an international papal pundit—with some thoughts on Pope Francis, divorce, annulments and the sacraments:
This month…the pope will meet with the eight cardinals who advise him to discuss the pastoral care of the modern family, which has been wracked by divorce, redefined by secular interests and the sexual revolution, and is in dire need of spiritual direction and large slices of capital “T” Truth, served up with generous dollops of mercy.
They will be looking at data culled from a recent questionnaire sent to diocese around the world, which asked specific questions about matters of divorce, same-sex partnerships and the children being raised within them, in preparation for October’s Synod. By all accounts the question of divorce and annulment will be a primary focus.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – while emphatically declaring the need to obey the teaching of Christ Jesus on the subject of marriage – noted “the church has the authority to clarify those conditions which must be fulfilled for a marriage to be considered indissoluble, according to the sense of Jesus’ teaching.”
In 2005, as Pope Benedict XVI, he reissued the essay with additional notes, touching on how the Council of Nicaea and the practices of Eastern Orthodoxy, along with a reasoned conscience, might expand our present understanding of marriage – particularly in the cases involving the “baptized-but-unbelieving”.
Particularly in his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis has indicated that he is thinking along similar lines, and that is not surprising. He has called the church “a field hospital” doing triage and treatment to a wounded world, and he seems intent on advancing the medicine of the Holy Eucharist to its patients:
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.
Those Catholics whose first marriages were doomed by reasons of coercion, ignorance or immaturity have been in the waiting room for a long time. They have been hoping their wounds can be treated with something penitential and effective (yet less onerous than the thorough, exacting and complicated surgery that has been our annulment process) so they, and their children, can come home and receive the powerful healing that is inherent in the Eucharist and in the fullness of community.