Pope Francis has called for a Church that is less strict and more compassionate toward `imperfect’ Catholics. He said on Friday in Vatican City that marriages should last until death and abortion is not permitted. “Marriage is a sacrament and cannot be dissolved till death do us part. “Only after the death of one partner is the other allowed to remarry, while divorce is not possible in the Church, a Church court can annul a marriage under certain circumstances,’’ he said.
These were some of the content of a 260-page treatise called “Amoris Laetitia,” (The Joy of Love), one of the most eagerly awaited pronouncements of his pontificate, where Francis quoted Martin Luther King, Argentine Poet Jorge Luis Borges and even the 1987 Danish cult film Babette’s Feast, to make his case for a more merciful and loving Church.
In the run-up to the publication of the 261-page document, Pope Francis dropped hints about his desire for the church to be less intimidating toward sinners. Francis said gays should be respected but firmly restated the Church’s position that there were “absolutely no grounds’’ to equate gay unions to heterosexual marriage.
He said the keenest anticipation centred on what he would say about the full reintegration into the Church of Catholics who divorce and remarry in civil ceremonies. Pope said under the current Church teaching, such members could not receive communion unless they abstain from sex with their new partner.
He stressed that this reason was because their first marriage was still valid in the eyes of the Church and they were seen to be living in an adulterous state of sin. Pope stressed that the only way such Catholics could remarry was if they receive an annulment, a religious ruling that their first marriage never existed because of the lack of certain prerequisites such as psychological maturity or free will. “No one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel. “Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried but of everyone in whatever situation they find themselves,’’ he said.
Pope Francis said progressives have proposed the use of an “internal forum’’ in which a priest or bishop work with a Catholic who had divorced and remarried to decide jointly, privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she could be fully reintegrated and receive communion.
He seemed to embrace this view, saying he could “not provide a new set of general rules applicable to all cases’’, but he called for “responsible, personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases’’. “If he’s not opening the door, he is at least showing you where the key under the mat is. Pope said he understood those conservatives who “prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion’’.
He warned that the Church should be more attentive to the good that could be found “in the midst of human weakness’’. “The Church turns with love to those who participate in her life in an imperfect manner, including in this category those Catholics who are cohabiting, married civilly or are divorced and remarried,’’ he said.
In other sections, Francis said young people had to be better prepared for a lifelong commitment, praised the “erotic dimension’’ of love within marriage. He said the Church needed a “healthy dose of self-criticism’’ for in the past preaching that procreation was the “almost exclusive’’ reason for marriage.
Pope said the Catholic church rejects abortion in principle. He, however, said abortion was allowed for medical interventions to protect the mother’s life which might lead to the death of the unborn child as a “side effect’’. The document, formally known as an Apostolic Exhortation, followed two gatherings of Catholic bishops, or synods, that discussed family issued in 2014 and 2015.