"Cardinals try to manage expectations on divorce", by John Allen

I thought this was a pretty interesting analysis from John Allen. What are your thoughts?


Cardinals try to manage expectations on divorce

By John. L. Allen February 21, 2014

ROME - Pope Francis’ maverick approach has aroused expectations of sweeping change in Catholicism, and nowhere is that ferment more palpable right now than on the question of whether believers who divorce and remarry without obtaining a church annulment should be allowed to receive communion and the other Catholic sacraments.

Francis seemed to signal openness to rethinking the current ban during remarks in an airborne press conference last July, leading some observers to conclude that change is only a matter of time.

Hopes are running so high that some of the pontiff’s closest advisors seem concerned he’s being set up for a fall. If the eventual decision is that such a shift on divorce is inconsistent with traditional Catholic teaching, they fret, exhilaration over the new pope could turn sour.

As a result, these prelates appear to be trying to dial down expectations, insisting that few Biblical teachings are clearer than Christ’s famous words “What God has joined, let no one separate,” and therefore allowing divorced Catholics to return to the sacraments en masse isn’t in the cards.

The latest senior Catholic official to make that case is Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Canada, who spoke today in an interview with the Globe. Collins is currently in Rome for two days of meetings of most of the world’s cardinals with Francis on issues related to marriage and the family.

Those meetings are a prelude to a ceremony on Saturday, called a consistory, in which Francis will create 19 new cardinals, including the church’s first-ever cardinal from the impoverished nation of Haiti.

“Obviously there’s a concern for people who are divorced and remarried, because it’s a very painful situation for them and for their children,” Collins said.

“But there’s also a very clear teaching,” the 67-year-old Collins said. “The indissolubility of marriage doesn’t go back to a code of canon law, or a pope, or a council. If there’s anything that’s pretty clear in the teaching of Christ, it’s this.”

Collins, who studied at Rome’s prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute, is considered a point of reference in English-speaking Catholicism with influence reaching beyond the borders of Canada.

This week’s session with cardinals represents a sort of trial run for a global gathering of Catholic bishops set by Pope Francis for next October, also devoted to marriage and the family. Collins seemed dubious that the bishops’ summit, called a “synod,” might recommend sweeping policy changes on divorce.

Asked if he believed allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments would be on the table, Collins said: “I don’t see how it could be…This is a very basic point about what we’re called to in marriage that comes from Our Lord himself.”

Collins follows Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who in his own recent Globe interview also cautioned against expecting the synod to propose overturning traditional Catholic discipline on access to the sacraments.

In that interview, O’Malley suggested that another approach might be to streamline the process of granting annulments, which is a declaration from a church court that a marriage never existed in the first place because one of the conditions for validity in church law wasn’t satisfied, such as free consent by both parties.

Collins agreed that reform in the annulment process, aimed at making it simpler and faster, could be something that emerges from the October synod.

“It’s the most obvious way of addressing this immediately, in a way that certainly can be done,” he said.

Good article, though the author makes his intent clear when he speaks of Pope Francis’ “maverick approach”. I don’t think Pope Francis is a maverick - it’s just that the media has gone out of its way to portray him thus.

And I think Cardinal Collins makes a great case. Now, if he could only convince Cardinal Kasper about that… :wink:

I agree. Pope Francis is not a maverick and the media does go out of the way to distort anything it can. This is true of issues of Faith in particular.

One think about refusing people a divorce or annulment that I do have trouble with are cases in which there is proven psychological and/or physical abuse. No one should have to live with that, and I don’t think they should have to stay with such a person to work out the problems. As marriage is conferred on spouses by their respective spouse, I think the one that is making the marriage null or invalid is the abuser.

When the safety and well being of a spouse and children is in question there should be to time wasted in getting those in danger to safety and freed from such a union. My experience has shown me that abusers seldom change, thus those who are their victims should be free to move on with their life.

As a point of reference, remember that John Allen was formerly with the National Catholic Reporter. The National Catholic Reporter that was denounced and condemned by two separate Ordinaries of the diocese where it is located. And has actually bragged about the distinction. (I share the links, because I wouldn’t want anybody to think that I’m making it up and then hit the ‘abuse button’ on this post)

Don’t get me wrong, John Allen has always been a stand-up guy and was about the only reporter worth reading over there (in my opinion). But, despite that, he is an “MSM” kind of person and always has been.

True. The issue isn’t whether an annulment or separation is permissible in such cases. The Church does permit this, and I know of cases in my own family where, e.g., one partner was alcoholic or delusional from Day One of the marriage, and the annulment was granted on those grounds.

The issue at stake here is that if a couple has separated without a decree of nullity, and one or the other decides to remarry civilly - thereby contracting an invalid (bigamous) marriage - they are not permitted to receive the Eucharist. In some of these cases, an annulment might help, but I’m not sure that’s the solution in all of them. (And lowering annulment to the level “Catholic divorce” won’t help either.)

Also - thanks to Mark O’Malley for the information regarding the National Catholic Reporter. I knew they had a “reputation”, but I didn’t know they bragged about it! :eek:

It’s true that the National Catholic Reporter has had a reputation as a newspaper of dissent almost from its beginning. John Allen, however, is pretty much known as a capable reporter who usually gets his facts right.

The problem of false expectations can be serious. I recall, shortly after Vatican II, many new priests and seminarians somehow got the idea, (based on nothing but fantasy, for the Council certainly never mentioned it,) that quite soon priests of the Roman Rite would be allowed to marry. It was really almost delusional, yet thousands believed it. There were huge numbers who petitioned the Vatican for a release of their vow of celibacy while remaining a priest. Of course it did not happen. There was never a chance that it would. Thousands left the priesthood as a result of such false expectations.

And the Church’s teachings on marriage are not the result of some Canon law committee. They come from the words of Christ.

Fr Z doesn’t call them the “Fishwrap” merely because of editorial disagreement.

Ah, now I understand! I thought it was because they were generally anti-traditional, or something like that. :smiley:

Allen’s agenda is clear in this passage:

“Hopes are running so high that some of the pontiff’s closest advisors seem concerned he’s being set up for a fall. If the eventual decision is that such a shift on divorce is inconsistent with traditional Catholic teaching, they fret, exhilaration over the new pope could turn sour.”

Notice that following the typical secular media approach, the issue is framed as merely a policy change by the pope, rather than there being anything doctrinal, scriptural or theological about it. Everything is seen through the lens of political process, rather than Catholic faith. The use of terms such as “the current ban” to refer to an ancient teaching of the Church is another indicator. And finally, Allen, like other liberals, senses that this will all come crashing to to ground when the Holy Father teaches exactly as his predecessors always have on this issue, or so-called gay marriage, or abortion, etc. At that point, the media’s fawning will end, just as it did for Paul VI and especially John Paul II, whom they they began to characterize as a “conservative,” ignoring his many apologies to various groups, his ecumenical overtures, his Assisi prayer day, trips to synogue and mosque, etc. No, they ignored that and painted him as just another anti-semitic pope. Poor Francis–this will come.


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