In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives sins, which are really removed; yet there remains the negative imprint that sins have left in our behavior and in our thoughts.
The Mercy of God, however, is even stronger than this! It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father, who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches pardoned sinners and frees them from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling them to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.Did Pope Francis intend for these powerfully reassuring words to apply to divorced Catholics? To divorced people who wish to become Catholic?
I believe he did. As the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia, his recent Apostolic Exhortation, "No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!"
As Pope Francis pointed out in Amoris Laetitia, the Synod Fathers have reached a general consensus with regard to people living in irregular situations, which he quoted:
In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God's plan for them.This was possible, Pope Francis added "by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Of utmost importance to divorced Catholics, Pope Francis wrote that divorced and remarried Catholics "need to be fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal." Indeed, Pope Francis emphasized:
Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel. This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important.Tragically, these powerful and holy words, written by Pope Francis during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, have been explicitly rejected by many Catholic priests and bishops.
How ironic. The Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal--this catastrophic episode in the life of the American Church--is a stain on the Bride of Christ that may never be wiped away. Certainly, the priests and bishops who participated in this scandal or who covered it up are in urgent need of mercy.
And yet so many of our priests and bishops offer no mercy whatsoever to divorced Catholics, even in this, the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
|Msgr. Richard Mouton, Lafayette Diocese|
Pope Francis. Amoris Laetitia--The Joy of Love. (2016)