Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Holy Father on Divorced and Remarried

The Holy Father receives a Malaysian girl during the meeting 

The Holy Father was in Milan at the start of this month for the 7th World Meeting of families.  During an evening of witness he spent time answering questions. You can read the questions and answers here but I thought his pastoral care whilst still upholding the teaching of the Church when answering a question about those who are divorced and remarried.was of particular note. Good as well that he gives some practical advice.

 So often we seem to cave in to the prevailing secular attitude when faced with difficult situations.  We seem to feel we can't "demand" what appears so out of step with the prevailing culture without seeming harsh and unforgiving - and yes, the unforgivable one - old-fashioned.  I do know just what the difficulties are, as my own family background suffered in this very this way.  Here is the relevant question and answer.

MANOEL ANGELO: Some of these remarried couples would like to be reconciled with the Church, but when they see that they are refused the sacraments they are greatly discouraged. They feel excluded, marked by a judgement against which no appeal is possible. These sufferings cause deep hurt to those involved. Their wounds also afflict the world and they become our wounds, the wounds of the whole human race. Holy Father we know that the Church cares deeply about these situations and these people. What can we say to them and what signs of hope can we offer them?

THE HOLY FATHER: Dear friends, thank you for your very important work as family psychotherapists. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering people. Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people - as you have said - the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment.


Anonymous said...

As a divorced man faithful to his vows, I find this position mocks my whole life.

I am not going to defend how I feel.

What is required of me, for heaven, is to take up the cross that is mine. With it I must join with Christ my own agony, however he choses it to His best use. I
am striving see this injustice as a blessing, through
the insult it is.

I hope this horror, shortens my stay in purgatory and helps others similarly, according to His Holy Will.


Lynda said...

If a person has been divorced against his will and is faithful to his marriage vows there is no sin in the first place, never mind an intention to continue sinning, and he continues to receive the Sacraments as he's always done.

Fr Simon Henry said...

For the previous two commentators, the Holy Father was referring to those whose find themselves in the position of entering a second marriage. Canon Law is quite clear that there are circumstances where divorce happens after separation and no blame attends.
Canon 2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.