• John Thavis

Pope says church must accompany those in failed marriages, not condemn them

Updated: Apr 16

Here’s Pope Francis today on what the church should do when a marital relationship falls apart:


“When this love fails – because many times it does fail – we need to feel the pain of this failure and accompany those who have experienced this failure in their love. Not condemn them! Walk with them! And not treat their situation with casuistry.”


I think the pope is using the term “casuistry” here to refer to a legalistic, rule-based approach. In any case, his message was clear: the church’s approach should be merciful and understanding.


The comment is especially interesting as an internal debate heats up among Vatican officials and others in the hierarchy over the correct pastoral response to Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly without an annulment.


Earlier this week, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated his view that pastoral policies must be in line with doctrine, specifically the doctrine on the permanence of marriage.


The Synod of Bishops on the Family is expected to take up the issue in October.


The pope made the remarks at his morning Mass. Vatican Radio now has its English version up here.


Related: In his address to cardinals a week ago, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that while the church cannot change its teaching on the permanence of marriage, it could “tolerate that which is impossible to accept,” i.e., a second union. He suggested a penitential path that would accompany divorced Catholics back into full communion with the church — in effect, he said, “a pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency and indulgence.” The Catholic News Service report on his talk is here.

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