Pope Francis kissed a child in Seoul in August.
The sister-in-law who faithfully attends weekly Mass, but couldn’t celebrate a second marriage in a Catholic Church because she and her husband-to-be were previously divorced. The friend who was told he couldn’t join the Parish Council because he married a divorced woman and, by the way, shouldn’t be receiving Communion.
To Catholics, practicing and lapsed, those are familiar anecdotes. They are the stories of fellow Catholics who find that due to a decision to end their own marriage, and remarry, or to marry someone who is divorced, “they are excommunicated de facto,” as Pope Francis put it, with all the personal anguish that can entail.
It’s encouraging that Francis is adding divorce to the list of topics open to debate under his papacy. But just like other controversial matters of dogma, such as the church’s ban on artificial contraception and gay marriage, there’s a wide gulf between traditionalists and those who long for change.
Francis is trying to bridge that gulf. But it still feels like it’s going to take a miracle to convince those who oppose any softening of the idea that the sacrament of marriage is forever. To end it now requires spouses to apply for an annulment, and demonstrate their marriage was never valid in the eyes of the church.
In the past, annulment decisions were expensive, time-consuming, arbitrary, and seemed weighted towards the wealthy and connected. In a signal that he would like to change that, Francis recently told a group of church judges in Rome he would like “all marriage processes to be free of charge’’ and expressed concern for the length of time it takes to obtain an annulment.
That’s some progress. Yet annulment is still unappealing to many couples who want to dissolve an unhappy marriage but don’t care to share intimate details, as required by the church, or agree to the notion that the marriage never happened at all.
Today, those couples have only two choices: Stay in an unfulfilling marriage and remain a good Catholic in the eyes of the church; or end their marriage via divorce and lose connection with their church. How wonderful if Francis could change that. For Catholic families burdened by the church’s unfair annulment process, that would be revolutionary.
Source: Divorce - Google News