Yet another "papal presser" has taken place aboard the plane coming back from his visit to the island of Lesbos. From CNA:
"Pope Francis on April 16 gave a 25-minute press conference for reporters during his return flight to Rome from Lesbos...
"Frank Rocca (Wall Street Journal): Thanks, Holy Father. I see that the questions on immigration that I had thought to ask you have been asked and answered by you very well. If you permit me, I’d like to ask you another question about an event of recent days, which was your apostolic exhortation. As you well know, there has been much discussion about on one of the many, I know that we’ve focused on this a lot…there has been much discussion after the publication. Some sustain that nothing has changed with respect to the discipline that regulates access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, that the Law, the pastoral praxis and obviously the doctrine remain the same. Others sustain that much has changed and that there are new openings and possibilities. For a Catholic who wants to know: are there new, concrete possibilities that didn’t exist before the publication of the exhortation or not?
"Pope Francis: I can say yes, many. But it would be an answer that is too small. I recommend that you read the presentation of Cardinal Schonborn, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will find an answer.
"Jean-Marie Guenois (Le Figaro): I had the same question, but it’s a complementary question because you wrote this famous ‘Amoris Laetitia’ on the problems of the divorced and remarried (footnote 351). Why put something so important in a little note? Did you foresee the opposition or did you mean to say that this point isn’t that important?
"Pope Francis: One of the recent popes, speaking of the Council, said that there were two councils: the Second Vatican Council in the Basilica of St. Peter, and the other, the council of the media. When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was communion for the divorced and remarried, and, since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and then made me sad. Because, thinking of those media who said, this, this and that, do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry? Don’t you realize that the fall of the birth rate in Europe is to cry about? Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work (available) means that a mother has to get two jobs and the children grow up alone? These are the big problems. I don’t remember the footnote, but for sure if it’s something general in a footnote it’s because I spoke about it, I think, in 'Evangelii Gaudium.'"
Here are some thoughts I've had on this, and it might seem a bit random, as it's more a stream of consciousness kind of thing, pieced together from thoughts I've put in some comboxes on other articles...
So I don’t know much at all about Cardinal Schonborn; I may have heard his name in passing once. HERE is a transcript of his comments at this presentation. From what I’ve gleaned, he doesn’t seem to be advocating for any change in doctrine. I found this article from CNA on the presentation where the Cardinal said the following:
Pope Francis’ discussion of accompaniment for the divorced-and-remarried focused on a discernment made in conjunction with one’s pastor, and Cardinal Schönborn affirmed that “there is a danger, of course,” of couples not being led properly in such discernment.
“But, this danger exists always, since the beginning of the Church, because shepherds can lead or mislead,” he reflected. “They can be too harsh, or too compromising. But this is the art he is speaking about: the art of accompanying people. That’s the proper capacity for a Good Shepherd.”
So it looks like the Cardinal recognizes what many have all been saying; that certain priests (and perhaps even deacons and bishops) will take the Holy Father’s words out of context and will try to get around established doctrine. Some shepherds are going to mislead the flock, unfortunately.
But then there’s some other statements by the Cardinal where I wish he would’ve been more clear, and I’m not sure if these comments come from the presentation that the Holy Father was speaking of. It appears they may come from a day after that presentation, but I’m not quite sure after reading the article:
“[The cardinal] also reiterated the document’s position that not all is black and white and that Holy Communion for remarried divorcees is one of these. “It’s a difficult discernment,” he said.
“We all know many priests”, he said, who admit remarried divorcees to Holy Communion “without discussing or asking, and that’s a fact.” He added that it is “difficult to handle for the bishop,” and said he was “very happy” that the Pope in the document takes up the controversial approach he has adopted in Vienna.
“This involves what he called “five attentions” made to remarried divorcees: a series of five questions the priest must ask to see how merciful and correctly they have behaved before, it can be inferred, they are able to receive Holy Communion. They include how they treat the children of their first marriages, how they treated their abandoned spouse, and how they dealt with unresolved hatred. With this approach, the sacraments “come into another light,” he said. “It’s about the way of conversion.”
But it IS all black and white, right? I read “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”, and it’s obvious that this is a doctrine that cannot be changed. I’m not doubting the Cardinal’s fidelity to Church teaching, as I’ve seen nothing suggesting the contrary thus far (again, I know not much about him), but what other light is he specifically talking about? In what way is it not a “black and white issue” that those validly married to another person while living with another should not present themselves for Holy Communion?
I will take the Cardinals words at face value nonetheless and trust him when he says that doctrine has not been changed. I just wish there was a bit more clarity on all this from our shepherds…
But then, I found out I wasn't the only one who felt that there was a lack of clarity. A parish priest I was talking with on Facebook said the following: "What in the heck am I supposed to do with this as a parish priest? What is a situation in which a person in a non-celibate irregular union can be admitted to communion?"
If he as a pastor of souls can't make heads or tails out of this, what are the laity supposed to do? This is a rhetorical question, of course, and as a young, 20-something husband and father living in a culture and work environment where most have no qualms about sleeping around and cheating and divorcing their wives... it's just disheartening that we can't get any clarity on this.
Like this priest said, if there are new possibilities... then what are they? Cardinal Schonborn's presentation does not answer the question. It's really just a mish-mash of thoughts. Men of my generation really need prayers. It's been hard enough defending the sanctity of marriage as it is; I feel like it hasn't been made much easier in the past couple weeks.
Now, it doesn't look like he's explicitly giving a green light for Communion to those divorced and civilly remarried... but this is the lack of clarity I was talking about. He says no Church teaching has changed, and that this Exhortation isn't a break from St. John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio, but then talks about the sacraments coming "into another light". I don't understand what he's talking about.
|Portrait of John Paul II- Zbigniew Kotyłło|
Here's a link to another article where Cardinal Schonborn defends Familiaris Consortio, but I'm not clear on when this press conference took place, either before or after the presentation Pope Francis was referring to.
One Catholic apologist I talked to on Facebook had a nice summation that I would like to repost:
"The clear (and full answer) is this: (1) Under no circumstances can Communion be given to those remarried individuals who lack either an annulment or continence in their present union; (2) nevertheless, there are avenues to restore those whose marriages are in an irregular status.
"Amoris Laetitia says 2 pretty plainly, and it says 1 in a very indirect sort of way that you have to decipher. For example, it talks about the importance of "not giving scandal" and says that priests can not just "make exceptions." That's saying #1, but it's not saying #1 in as direct away as it says #2."Church teaching will never change, but that doesn't mean some won't try and twist things around to suit their own devious motives. As faithful Catholics all we can do right now is pray and trust in the Holy Spirit.