Jimmy Akin on Francis…

on Lutherans and Communion. Jimmy is his typically lucid self.

I think Francis is struggling with this. As did Benedict.  Benedict, recall, gave communion to Br. Roger of Taize, who was not a Catholic.

I realize this is all cut-and-dried for a lot of Catholics, but I think it is a real source of anguish for not a few of the Church’s members, including two popes at least.  For my part, I go with the present discipline of the Church and would counsel anybody not in full communion with the Church to do the same. But I also realize this is precisely one of those pastoral questions that actual pastors are really struggling with and that plump suburbanites like me have no business speaking of blithely. I have no dog in this fight.  But our bishops and pope–unlucky souls–have to figure out a way to navigate the problem.  My very strong suspicion is that, privately, bishops and priests do like Benedict did with Br. Roger on a fairly regular basis.  I know this makes those who see the faith as a System of Rules very nervous. But my sense has always been that our shepherds tend to take a much more  loose, easygoing Mediterranean attitude to such rules if they think it appropriate.  After all, the law was made for man, not man for the law.

So I mostly thank God that it’s not my problem and not my office to parse.  I have no idea how any of that will play out, nor do I have a big interest in in how it will play out.  My own guess is that nothing will change much, since the logic of the Church’s position is really quite sound. But logic doesn’t necessary quiet the heart so I, for one, find it hard to get very upset about Benedict giving communion to an obvious old saint like Br. Roger.  I basically just say, “God, it was *you* who gave some to be bishops, not me. So I’m gonna trust that you will guide them and I’m not gonna worry about it.”

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  • ivan_the_mad

    The popes have without fail noted the ecumenism of blood, a unity that transcends disparate denominations. Nor is it the only sign of a unity that fallen man has yet been unable to shatter.

  • ” Benedict, recall, gave communion to Br. Roger of Taize, who was not a Catholic.”

    Popes are not subject to canon law, although they cannot change doctrine. What Benedict did in one instance is not material to the question.

    Those who cite this one case are either ignorant or disingenuous.

    • jaybird1951

      It is my understanding that Br. Roger made a private declaration of faith in the Catholic Church to the pope but felt he could not formally and publicly do so given his responsibilities as head of the Taize community. He was given a Catholic funeral with a cardinal officiating.

      • Didn’t know that. Thanks.

        However, one would wish, since he was a public figure, he would have made a public declaration. But it does clear up the action of the Holy Father.

  • “My very strong suspicion is that, privately, bishops and priests do like Benedict did with Br. Roger on a fairly regular basis.”

    We know what some priests do, for instance offering the Blessed Sacrament to public scandalizers, like some well-known politicians.

    To offer the Blessed Sacrament to those who are not in communion and do not believe what the Church believes is a betrayal of the Faith and an injury to themselves and those who receive without being in communion.

    “I have no dog in this fight. ”

    Oh yes you do.

    • Yeah, that some priests do X can never be an argument for X. Priest do a lot of things privately that you wouldn’t feel comfortable hand waving simply because they’re priests doing those things…

      In fact, we are not donatists, so we know that the priest’s human character is not what gives him the authority he possesses.

      It’s not that we believe the Church is a “System of Rules”. It’s that the Church much maintain coherent logic or else anything can be justifiable.

  • Steve

    The Pentin article at the Register was hair-on-fire in the commentary. Seems this is happening all too often over there lately. Is it just Pope Francis that has people with their undies in a bundle? Or has it been this way for many years? I find it extremely unhealthy; there is no joy in that presentation of the Gospel.

    Anyway, I did find myself wondering if it was a loosey-goosey translation (or some of Pope Francis’ ambiguity) in saying “go forward”. Is that, “Go forward to receive Communion?” or could it be “proceed” or go forward in terms of your Christian walk and possible move toward communion with the Catholic Church? And I think people forget he was in a Lutheran assembly. What exactly do people expect him to say?

    Would be nice if people would at least pray for the Holy Father, as he is constantly asking us to do.

    • “What exactly do people expect him to say?”

      What the Church says and has always said.

    • Prayers, most certainly.

      He should speak to the Lutherans as he would speak to any other assembly, with courtesy of course.

  • Andy

    How about – “I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.” He is offering the women who asked the question the path forward – talk tot he Lord, determine why you are not a Catholic, and then move forward to becoming one. The pope does not say go and receive communion. If all we look for are the negative meanings then all we find are negative or frightening meanings. If we look at the Pope as a pastor then e can see encouragement to become a Catholic.

    • Maybe. It isn’t clear. And that’s why the need for all these clarifications.

      Is there an impression of a bargain sale on cheap grace? Or not?

      • Andy

        Pavel – please see my response to myself for my response to you – thanks

  • Andy

    I try to take a charitable view of what any Poole says, just as I try with everyone. I think Pope Francis thinks as a pastor always, then thinks as a human being and then pope. Pope Benedict seemed to think as a theologian first, then seemed to see the human element and then as Pope. He did not change doctrine or dogma, he seemed to invite this person to “meet and talk” with the Lord and move forward.
    Pastors seem always to look at the person and then the rules. I recall reading of a Cardinal who was on the marriage tribunal and a great stickler for rules- but fir each case he encountered he found a human response, and not merely a rule driven response. I view Pope Francis in this vein.

    • disqus acting up.

    • I don’t really know what the Holy Father had in mind, nor can anyone be expected to know that. That’s why it’s so important to speak clearly about important matters like this one.

  • Stu

    “My very strong suspicion is that, privately, bishops and priests do like Benedict did with Br. Roger on a fairly regular basis. ”

    And that is indeed their call. But it’s one thing when Father Smotz down the street does it and another when the Vicar of Christ does it. The latter comes across as precedent.

    Sometime I think Papa tries to legislate “mercy” and being “pastoral” when in reality those types of judgment calls should be handled at the lower levels.

  • iamlucky13

    “I think Francis is struggling with this.”

    There is no think on this one. Pope Francis stated outright that he was not the best qualified person to fully answer the question that prompted this discussion. For all the goodness of his emphasis on the works of mercy, he knows he’s not a theologian.

    “I basically just say, “God, it was *you* who gave some to be bishops,
    not me. So I’m gonna trust that you will guide them and I’m not gonna
    worry about it.”

    Trusting God to give us bishops who won’t let the gates of hell prevail is not the same as trusting the bishops to always do the right thing. If we recognize the bishops doing something wrong, we should speak up, as you often have with regards to the sex abuse scandals. Likewise, encourage them when they do something right which is difficult, such as speaking up publicly and plainly against abortion, euthanasia, adultery, violence, etc. They’re human, too, and I think many of them appear more lukewarm than they really are out of fear of offending us.

    The way Pope Francis answered the question seems to have generated a lot more confusion than clarity, and it’s important that people (respectfully) say, “But father, now I’m more confused than before you answered.” He needs to know how well his leadership is working. In fact, Pope Francis has publicly asked for this kind of feedback.