All week, I’ve been reading that Pope Francis plans to marry 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica this weekend–and that some of them are cohabiting (oh my!)–and some even (horrors!) have children.
Good gracious! There is an undercurrent of insinuation, that once again Francis is breaking the rules of the Church, striking a new chord, changing the “business as usual” approach of his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II.
Here, just look at the breathless expectancy in this lede from the Associated Press (emphasis mine):
Pope Francis is making good on his insistence that the Catholic Church welcome all faithful — not just those who obey church teaching perfectly. He’ll marry 20 couples this weekend, including some who already live together and those with children, technically a sin in the eyes of the church.
The Telegraph‘s headline reports that Pope Francis will marry couples ‘living in sin.’
* * * * *But here’s the question I have for those of you who think this is new stuff: Have you ever met someone who obeyed church teaching perfectly?
Well, I haven’t. If the Catholic Church welcomed only perfect people to the Table of the Lord, its pews would be empty.
There is an old adage that the Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. Back in September 2013, in an interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civita Cattolica, Pope Francis said,
“I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”
That a couple who have not been following the Church’s teachings regarding sexuality would choose to marry, to regularize their relationship, is a very good thing.
There is nothing new in this: that the Church stands ready to receive them, to welcome them as part of our family… and then to provide the encouragement and the grace to go and sin no more.