One of the 114 chapters of the Quran is named divorce; it is number 65.
Pope Francis Pushes Church to be More Open to the Divorced
By Elizabeth Dias @elizabethjdias
‘The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’
In his first major teaching on family issues, Pope Francis advances the power of local bishops to include divorced and remarried Catholics in church life, perhaps even letting them celebrate the Eucharist, while largely sidestepping hot-button social issues like gay marriage and married clergy.
The drama around this document—titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love”—has been building for more than two years, ever since Pope Francis first announced he would call Catholic bishops together to examine modern family crises around the world.
The document is Pope Francis’ official response to the two major meetings of bishops he hosted at the Vatican to discuss marriage and family issues—the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014 and Synod of the Bishops in 2015.
Per Vatican custom, Pope Francis considered the bishops’ insights from these events, added his own, and wrote a formal teaching to guide the church on the issues. The result is this 270-page formal letter, called an apostolic exhortation, addressed to bishops, priests, married couples, and lay people about “love in the family.”
The letter is more about pastoral method than doctrine about the marriage itself. Pope Francis seeks to encourage families with practical guidance amid the myriad of challenges they face around the world, including unemployment, migration, poverty, gambling, alcoholism, polygamy and societal pressures that ignore the longstanding Catholic teaching of marriage. The document notes that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent is considered “strange and almost scandalous” for another, and he wants local bishops to seek local solutions.
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion,” Pope Francis says. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud on the street.’”
This openness can at times seem to give vague answers. Pope Francis says that divorced and remarried people are “not excommunicated” and should not feel “discriminated against”—he stops short of directly saying they are welcome to take the bread and wine at Eucharist, but then adds in a footnote: “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’”
On Wednesday, two days before the letter’s release, he met with a support group for divorced and remarried couples. In September, he made it easier for couples to obtain an annulment, which is not a divorce but a finding by Catholic officials that a marriage between a man and a woman was not a real marriage—a necessary step to return to celebrating Eucharist in the church now.