If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’re aware that the Catholic church currently has a bit of a crisis on its hands. For centuries, the church taught that members who divorced and remarried without having their first marriage annulled, were living in an open state of adultery and were barred from receiving communion. That wasn’t a big problem seventy-five-years ago when relatively few people divorced, but these days fifty-percent of Catholic marriages end in divorce just like secular society. Many remarried Catholics who were barred from communion dropped out rather than face the humiliation of being treated like second-class citizens in a church where receiving communion is of paramount importance.
Pope Francis and some other prelates of the church recognized the debilitating effect the doctrine of no communion for remarrieds was having on church membership and cleverly reinterpreted the doctrine in last year’s “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical. A footnote in chapter eight of the document “seemed” to grant pastor priests the ability to judge whether divorced and remarried individuals are able to receive communion on a case-by-case basis.
Lines were quickly drawn. Traditionalists insisted the doctrine of no communion for remarrieds was taught by all previous popes as infallible dogma and could never be reinterpreted while liberals celebrated the new teaching. Four conservative cardinals petitioned the pope for a clarification on “Amoris Laetitia” with five “dubia” or questions of concern but no answer has been forthcoming from Francis. The cardinals asked for clarification a second time and, once again, no reply.
One of the “dubia” cardinals, Joachim Meisner, died on July 5th. Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, sent a message that was read at Meisner’s funeral mass, which stated that he honored his deceased friend’s ability to “live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.” See the article below.
This thinly-veiled statement from Benedict XVI is sweet music to the ears of traditionalists, who see Francis’s relaxation of the doctrine of no communion for remarrieds as heresy. Schism is a very real possibility as a result of this controversy. Stay tuned.
For evangelicals, Catholic teaching is unbiblical on so many counts, most importantly, regarding justification. Bible Christians proclaim the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone while Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit. While I’m obviously not personally affected by political squabbles within Catholicism, it’s very interesting to me to see how a teaching that was always held to be unchangeable by previous infallible popes has been pragmatically sidestepped by the current pope. Catholics who boast about the infallible leadership of their church’s magisterium in all matters of faith and morals are having a difficult time trying to honestly explain this current controversy.
Pope Benedict XVI says Church is ‘on the verge of capsizing’