|Confession on the road on the Walsingham Pilgrimage|
And here conscience can sometimes seem to conflict with doctrine, without affecting our membership of the Church. Vatican II spoke of the "hierarchy of truth" - allowing that differences of opinion on minor matters of doctrine could be given a 'living space' within the Church. Here we must remember that Pope Francis studied in Germany, and often quotes the German Jesuit, Karl Rahner. ...
Recently Cardinal Müller rightly shocked many people when he dismissed the possibility of Holy Communion for the divorced and re-married as "not something that can be appealed to God's Mercy". Quite honestly, if the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, of which he is Prefect, sees its roles as setting limites to God's Mercy, then it is not fit for purpose. Contrast this with the discussion Pope Francis had on 13th June with the bishops who were de-briefing him about the last Synod of Bishops. Speaking to The Universe, one of those bishops, and himself one of the eight 'super-cardinals', Oswald Gracias of Bombay, recalled how Francis agreed with the bishops that the whole question of young people living together when not married is a big question for the Church - a pastoral question, like that of the divorced and re-married which the Pope is thinking about - not saying 'this is a closed matter'.
Nothing is closed to God's mercy. Pope Francis keeps harking back to this.
This is what Cardinal Gracias actually said. The emboldened words are those of an interviewer.
Pope Francis also said at that 13 June meeting that the whole question of marriage, young people living together not married and so on is a big question for the Church. He said he’s going to ask his 8 cardinal advisors in October how best to approach this whole question: whether in a synod, or in some other way. Is this an issue that you recognize as a hot topic?
It came up in the last synod also. Bishops spoke about it in the group discussion, and we spoke about it informally in the (coffee) breaks also. This is a pastoral question that we must address. I know it’s worrying many bishops.
I take it you are referring to the question of the divorced and re-married?
Yes, the question of the divorced and re-married, and how it is to be handled. And what is the pastoral care here? It is definitely an issue in certain countries today, more than in India, where it is not so much yet although there are already cases in India too.
I’m happy that the Pope is thinking about it, that he is not saying ‘this is a closed matter’. I was pleasantly surprised when he mentioned that. It’s a pastoral problem which we cannot push aside. There are human lives involved, the spirituality of these people is involved, their faith, their faith life is involved, their ecclesial life. So the question is: How do we handle this? How would Our Lord handle it?
|Confession on the road on the Chartres Pilgirmage|
On gets the impression from Mgr Loftus that these issues are somehow up in the air, but it is obvious (at least to me) that the Cardinal is just talking about pastoral resonses to the questions. Yes, they are serious pastoral problems for the Church, no one denies that. But the Church is not about to change her teaching, and nor is anyone going to say officially that a faulty conscience on the matter somehow makes sins objectively ok. That idea doesn't even make sense.
This is the same tired old nonsense we have heard so much in the last half-century: that if you pepper your remarks enough with phrases like 'God's Mercy', 'pastoral problem', and 'conscience and personal responsibility', you can make issues of sin and sacramental validity just go away. They don't. They stay there, partially obscured by the verbage but losing none of their power to wreck your life, here and hereafter, if you crash into them.
The ultimate pastoral response to sin is absolution. If Loftus' words have any affect, by surrounding the issues with confusion and the suggestion that the Church is about to change the rules, it will be to keep sinners away from absolution. That is a terrible thing to do.