It will be more of the same: the need for better marriage preparation in the Church, husbands and wives need to pray more, people need to pray for families more, children are precious, some people suffer but Christ is there for them, and the Church has to find a way to reach out to people who are suffering because of their marriages.
Progressive Catholics will be disappointed because nothing will be definitively said about divorced and remarried Catholics without annulments being allowed to receive communion. Conservative Catholics will not like the fact that the words “mercy” and “compassion” will be generously thrown about because it waters down Church teachings. And let’s not even begin to mention the silence over single parents or same sex couples.
I, for one, am sick of this nonsense. I’ll put it more crassly: One way or another the Church needs to s**t or get off the pot! The Church needs to decide if it indeed is the hospital for sinners as Pope Francis has described or sets its ideal as being a “smaller, purer Church” in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict.
I am sick of this nonsense because there are real people out there beyond the walls of the Vatican who are living in the real world in a culture that desecrates the dignity of human relationships. There are people who in have made mistakes, missteps, and committed sins they regret and are trying to set themselves on the right path. They are searching and reaching for faith and instead are having obstacles thrown in their faces.
Each day there are many who encounter God’s word or see his compassion through the works of mercy performed by Christians in soup kitchens, food pantries, and hospices. People who are broken and hopeless see a light of hope and think, even with a brief glimmer that there might be something to all of this. But when they reach out their hand it is often returned with a slap on the wrist.
We tell Catholics that they are not to approach the Communion table unless they have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But in the Sacrament of Reconciliation absolution cannot be given unless a person indicates desire to change their ways. So, a man or a woman who is divorced and remarries outside the Church cannot obtain absolution unless they promise not to engage in sex or even physically separate. It makes no difference if the person has committed to the new marriage and realizes the mistakes of the first. Their word, their oath, their desire for holiness in the condition their lives are in is just not good enough.
But a 16 year old boy can tell the priest that he is sorry that he masturbated and promises never to do it again, and that can be forgiven. Having been 16 I know how long that promise will probably last!
I am sick of this nonsense because people forget disciplines (practices) do not change the doctrine (beliefs). Disciplines have changed time and again in Church history without compromising the doctrine. At one time sacramental penance was only administered once in a lifetime but the power to absolve sins was not lessen. At one time in Church history second marriages for widows and widowers were discouraged. Up until the 17th century men of mixed race unions were not allowed to receive Holy Orders. When they were allowed the validity of the ordination did not change. The reality of real presence in Eucharist does not change whether receiving communion is done once a year or daily, on your knees or standing, on the tongue or in the hand. God’s presence will not diminish one bit if the table is truly made available to more.
This past Sunday at Mass our opening hymn was Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome.” The title begs the question – Is that Really True? Perhaps more fittingly was our closing hymn of “Faith of Our Fathers.” In this song we sing we will be true to the faith until death.
True to faith, not discipline.