Pope Francis on Divorce and Remarriage

Hi everyone,

At World Youth Day, Pope Francis gave an interview where he hinted at that he liked the Orthodox Church’s teaching allowing divorce and remarriage. Is it possible that the Catholic Church could allow divorce and remarriage? Is that a changeable teaching? I like Pope Francis but this statement makes me feel nervous that there is a sea change coming-

On giving the Sacraments to remarried divorcees
“This is an ongoing issue. I think this is the time to show mercy. Times have changed and the Church faces many problems, partly because of the negative testimonies of certain priests. Clericalism has caused a lot of wounds and these wounds need to be healed with mercy. The Church is a mother and in the Church we need to be merciful towards everyone. We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us, we need to go out and search for them. I think the time for mercy has come as John Paul II predicted by introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy. Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. Here I must add that the orthodox follow the theology of economics and allow second marriages. When the commission of eight cardinals meets at the beginning of October we will discuss how to proceed. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage. My predecessor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino always used to say: “I consider half of today’s marriages to be invalid because people get married without realising it means forever. They do it out of social convenience, etc…” The issue of invalidity needs to be looked into as well.”


Thx for posting this. I think it´s something he might look into and would bring hordes of people closer to the church. The late Quarracino, on the other hand, was usually pretty severe in his homilies. He once proposed to build an artifical island in the Rio de la Plata in order to have gay people living in it and not in the city.

They aren’t changeable teachings. The sacramental understanding of marriage is that they are indissoluble except in certain narrow circumstances. “Remarried” couples are living in objective adultery and cannot be eligible for the sacraments until they repent and separate. No Pope can change either of these realities.

I don’t understand how you get the idea that the Pope wants to change teaching. He said that the Orthodox allow divorce and another marriage. So do we. Anyone who is divorced and receives an anullment can remarry.

You can’t receive both an annulment and a divorce. It’s a contradiction in terms. An annulment declares that there never was a marriage: a divorce declares a recognized marriage to be dissolved (“let what God has joined together, no man put asunder”). If a marriage was annulled it does not exist, and unmarried people can not divorce. If the marriage ended in divorce, the marriage still does exist (and always will, if it ever did: if it’s annulled, a statement is made that marriage never did), and is objectively sinful to remarry.

If you think of civil divorce and ecclesiastical marriages and annulments, it makes sense, though.

Last I knew, the Church actually requires someone applying for an annulment to get a civil divorce first.

I edited my post to reflect that understanding after recognizing it, in an exceptionally slow manner.

I do not see how the Church could ever allow divorced (not annulled) and “remarried” people to receive Holy Communion. Marriage is ALWAYS public in nature and “divorce” is ALWAYS public in nature. Therefore I do not understand how this could ever not satisfy the requirements of denial of Communion to Catholics persisting in grave, public sin.

If anyone would like to put forth a well-reasoned argument, go for it.

Actually, you MUST get a divorce before you can apply for an annulment.

I don’t see in what the Pope said a hint that he will change the Church’s doctrine on divorce, or even that divorced and remarried people could receive communion without an annulment. He said we need to reach out to them and offer them healing, not wait until they come to us. That’s been a consistent message of his papacy so far, for Catholics to come out of our shells and evangelize.

Besides, saying that we need to reach out to sinners and have compassion and mercy on people doesn’t mean that now what they’re doing is not sinful, or that they can continue to sin. Rather it means treating them like the sons and daughters of God that they are. Mercy doesn’t mean ignoring the sin or pretending it doesn’t exist, but showing the way out to forgiveness and healing! That’s the mercy God has for us. And that’s the mercy Francis seems to be talking about. He says we need to go out and search for the wounded. That neither requires nor implies a doctrinal change.

A better pastoral approach is needed today, who can deny that? I know of several divorced people who feel ostracized from their faith, even those who haven’t been remarried. We really do need a ministry for these people, they are hurting. We do need to reach out and evangelize and catechize them, and help them heal. That seems to me what Francis was talking about. He didn’t say he thought they should receive communion, or that divorce and remarriage was ok. (At least I didn’t see that, I could have missed it) He said we needed to show them mercy, which as I said earlier, does not mean whitewashing or denying their sin, but helping them out of it.

And no, to answer your question, it’s not possible to change the doctrine itself, since this teaching comes from Christ. (See Mark 10 and Matthew 19)

Precisely. It’s a huge “debate” (I cannot stand the term) here in Germany. The Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (ZdK, Central Committee of German Catholics), a lay organisation in favour of so-called “reform” (get rid of celibacy, women priests, etc.) is pushing this. I just don’t see why people don’t understand the Church’s teaching.

The Orthodox view of re-marriage is simply that, although the sacrament of matrimony is for life, out of mercy and as a concession to human weakness the partner who did not wound the bond (ie the victim of another partner’s adultery) should be given another marriage. As Jesus said with Moses, it was out of the people’s “hardness of heart” that he allowed divorce, not because it was good or right in itself (it objectively isn’t).

“Mercy triumphs over judgement” and I might add legalism.

The second marriage in orthodoxy is usually a sombre service, not joyous, to remind the couple that they are only marrying again because of human sin and divine mercy, not because it is “perfectly ok” to do so.

Now, whatever one might think about the soundness of this Eastern practice, it does make Orthodoxy look - as a whole - more concerned for human weakness and more compassionate than us. Whether one likes it or not, that is how it makes us look. Victims of abusive partners feel wronged, as if the church has no compassion for them, when their “partner” might be off with some other gal living it up and they are in misery, consigned to life-long loneliness.

Given that the Orthodox churches have valid sacraments, liturgies, saints and so forth; I highly doubt that the Holy Spirit would have permitted these churches to continue with this practice if it was illicit.

It isn’t the way we do things in the Latin tradition, however, perhaps we should start being truly “universal” and quite thinking that “Latin = the right way”. The way the Catholic Church has approached the issue is through some very liberal interpretations of annulments. I have seen some that are truly concessions to human weakness rather than founded in legalistic fact. People might not like to admit it, but through our often very liberal annulment process, we almost already have a Latin equivalent to the Orthodox “oikonomia”.

Just sayin’ :rolleyes:

The Orthodox understanding is very different from the Catholic teaching.


“What God has brought together, let no man put asunder”

does not mean that God can’t put it asunder. God is free to do what he wants, for whatever purposes he wants.

Of course, the Church determining if that were indeed the case is another story.

I thought the whole marriage thing was interesting and has been overlooked. There really has to be an acknowledgement that divorce might be necessary in certain situations. Physically abusive or emotionally controlling relationships for instance? A situation where a man abandons his wife for the younger model? I think that compassion and mercy in such situations are necessary.

But that is already provided for. You can always have a marriage annulled, as well. The Church recognises that in certain situations a civil divorce may be necessary. That does, however, say nothing about the validity of the marriage.

I don’t have a well-reasoned argument. But this is the closest I can come up with:

A public sin that seems to be over-looked are pro-abortion politicians who are still allowed communion even though they stand firm in their promotion of making sure women have access to kill their unborn child.

Married persons who divorce and then re-marry are in a similar situation, except instead of their public sin being promoting and making sure women have access to killing their unborn child, their public sin is living with someone who is not their spouse. It appears that living with someone who isn’t your spouse is the bigger public sin in the eyes of the Church…or at least that is the perception.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Malpractice of Canon Law is not an argument for abolishing the punishment for some other sin.

It is my understanding that even in the two cases mentioned… An abusive spouse or spouse divorcing for a younger model, an annulment isn’t 100% guaranteed. So an abused woman who meets a nice man and would like to remarry could still be shunned as a harlot by the Church in the Church.

But then, if the annulment isn’t “guaranteed”, viz. that the marriage could have been valid, then “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” is applicable and the marriage indissoluble! That cannot be changed, no matter how “merciful” one wants to be. And no, she wouldn’t be “shunned as a harlot”…

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