Keep door open to di­vorced who re­marry: pope


Pope Fran­cis de­clared on Wed­nes­day that di­vorced Catholics who re­marry, as well as their chil­dren, de­serve bet­ter treat­ment from the church, warn­ing pas­tors against treat­ing these cou­ples as if they were ex­com­mu­ni­cated. Catholic teach­ing con­sid­ers di­vorced Catholics who re­marry are liv­ing in sin and are not al­lowed to re­ceive Com­mu­nion, leav­ing many of these peo­ple feel­ing shunned by their church.

Fran­cis’ em­pha­sis on mercy in church lead­er­ship has raised hope among many such Catholics that he might lift the Com­mu­nion ban. Catholics who di­vorce af­ter a church mar­riage but don’t take up a new union, such as a sec­ond mar­riage, can re­ceive Com­mu­nion.

The Vat­i­can this fall is hold­ing a month-long fol­low-up meet­ing on fam­ily is­sues, af­ter a sim­i­lar gath­er­ing last year left di­vorced Catholics who re­marry hop­ing in vain that a quick end to the ban would have re­sulted from those dis­cus­sions.

In his latest re­marks on di­vorce, Fran­cis didn’t go that far. But he in­sisted on an at­ti­tude change in the church. “How do we take care of those who, fol­low­ing the ir­re­versible fail­ing of their fam­ily bond made a new union?” he said.

“Peo­ple who started a new union af­ter the de­feat of their sacra­men­tal mar­riage are not at all ex­com­mu­ni­cated, and they ab­so­lutely must not be treated that way,” Fran­cis told pil­grims and tourists at his first gen­eral au­di­ence af­ter a sum­mer break. “They al­ways be­long to the church.”

The pope ac­knowl­edged that church teach­ing con­sid­ers “tak­ing up a new union” af­ter di- vorce wrong.

“The church knows well that such a sit­u­a­tion con­tra­dicts the Chris­tian sacra­ment,” of mar­riage. Still, Fran­cis said, the church must al­ways “seek the well-be­ing and sal­va­tion of per­sons.”

Fran­cis won­dered how the church can in­sist that the chil­dren of these failed mar­riage be raised by their par­ents “with an ex­am­ple of con­vinced and prac­ticed faith, if we keep them (the par­ents) far from the com­mu­nity life (of the church) as if they were ex­com­mu­ni­cated?”

He ex­horted pas­tors “not to add ad­di­tional weight be­yond what the chil­dren in this sit­u­a­tion have to bear. Un­for­tu­nately the num­bers of these chil­dren and young peo­ple are truly great.”

In his pa­pacy, Fran­cis has fre­quently sug­gested see­ing sit­u­a­tions through the eyes of oth­ers.

“If we look at these new ties with the eyes of young chil­dren ... we see ever more the ur­gency to de­velop in our com­mu­nity true welcome to­ward peo­ple liv­ing in these sit­u­a­tions,” Fran­cis said.

Other than be­ing wid­owed, the only pos­si­ble way for Catholics who marry in the church to re­marry is re­ceiv­ing an an­nul­ment. That long, com­pli­cated process es­sen­tially in­volves ex­am­in­ing whether the mar­riage never ex­isted in the first place. Grounds for an­nul­ment in­clude re­fusal by a spouse to have chil­dren.

Pre­vi­ous pon­tiffs had com­plained that an­nul­ments in some places, no­tably in the United States, were be­ing granted too lib­er­ally.


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