Earlier this morning, I filed my copy for my regular column at First Things — a piece that explores the means by which divorced and remarried Catholics might be readmitted into full Eucharistic communion at Holy Mass.
The column doesn’t run until tomorrow, but it strikes me as being particularly timely thanks to this story by Andrea Tornielli:
“A new approach needs to be taken with respect to the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees.” Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri is the prelate the Pope nominated Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Born in 1940, the Tuscan prelate has four decades of experience as a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps and as of the end of September he has had the task of renewing the Synod institute that will meet twice – in 2014 and 2015 – to discuss the family, after a questionnaire or consultation containing 39 questions on family issues.
In the “Evangelii Gaudium” Francis does not explicitly mention the issue of the administration of sacraments to remarried divorcees. However, he does write that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” How should these words be read?
“We should pay attention to the phrase that follows immediately after this: These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.” The Pope presents these two elements together. This means he wants these issues to be examined with prudence and therefore with attention to the Church’s doctrine. But he also wants them to be examined with boldness, which for me means “without fear”, taking individual circumstances into account.”
So will something change?
“The magisterium is not rigid; it accompanies the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is subject to continuous study and applied according to each case. The Church needs to apply Church doctrine taking the circumstances of each specific case into account. This approach does not mean making general conclusions and rules for everyone. We need to consider each case separately. Then we can develop a new way of looking at the doctrine. At the end of the day, even in the case of marriages annulments, we deal with each case separately. This is what pastoral care is all about; it is not a set framework.”
Would it be right to deduce then that the issue of the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees is open?
“The fact it has been included in the Questionnaire means it is going to be looked at and the intention is to discuss the issue without any taboos, otherwise it would not have been mentioned. This seems obvious to me.”
Read the rest, here. And check out my First Things column, tomorrow morning. I’ll be curious to hear what you think.
Btw — since we are talking about my column — my collection of columns and essays from various online and print venues is now available on Kindle, with a forward by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. It should be available in print within the next week or so.
A great stocking stuffer? :-D