At Question of Faith on Monday evening, we talked about Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Amoris Laetitia’ (the “Joy of Love”). He writes about divine and human love, the essence of this and eternal life. He speaks sadly of people who feel themselves alienated from the Church but who would love to belong again and he writes especially of those living in the happiness of a second marriage after the failure of the first. How can we welcome them back to full communion within the Church, he asks.
A good question. The Church welcomes everyone in the name of Christ. Murders, warmongers, war criminals (names easily available), men and women guilty of horrendous crimes, are all welcomed if they want to start life again with God and may receive the sacraments once more. Do you agree? Should such evil people be shown mercy or be damned outside the Church forever?
Should we welcome people who have remarried outside the Church? Or, as the Church insists, should we forgive everyone and welcome them back – except those people living happily in a second marriage? The law of the Church, that marriage is an unbreakable bond, is more important than Pope Francis’ appeal to God’s loving mercy, say the Pope’s opponents.
We talked about the laws of the Church governing marriage. None of those laws are in the Gospel. They have been framed by men (aah!) of the Church and have been decreed, modified and changed down the centuries.
We talked about annulments (could you explain those?), free and full consent, arranged and forced marriages, unfaithfulness. We wondered how a marriage promise broken by an unfaithful or cruel partner can still bind the other. The couple marry each other, they are the sacrament, they make the promises, the bond. If one breaks the bond, makes a mockery of it, how can one be held to a bond that for the other no longer exists?
We heard sad family stories of loveless marriages and I was able to give them examples of how Church law can be evaded, interpreted, ignored, changed. Church and all law is framed by clever men, but cleverer people can interpret the law to their advantage and the advantage of their clients. The laws of the Church are in constant need of revision, like all law.
We appreciated Pope Francis’ wanting to bring God’s loving mercy to a healing second marriage. Compassion was our mood, as it is his. But his critics tell us that he is being false to the Gospel. Is he? The ideal, law, mercy, reconciliation . . .
God guide and bless us,
(11th August 2019)