Too many couples do not understand marriage is for life, pope says

| Cindy Wooden | June 17, 2016 | 2 Comments
Pope Francis blesses a woman as he meets the disabled during the opening of the Diocese of Rome's annual pastoral conference at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome June 16. CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

Pope Francis blesses a woman as he meets the disabled during the opening of the Diocese of Rome’s annual pastoral conference at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome June 16. CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

Because most people today do not understand that sacramental marriage really is a bond that binds them to each other for life, many marriages today can be considered invalid, Pope Francis said.

Raising a point he has raised before, and one also raised by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis insisted June 16 that the validity of a marriage implies that a couple understands that sacramental marriage is a bond that truly binds them to another for their entire lives.

“We are living in a culture of the provisional,” he told participants in the Diocese of Rome’s annual pastoral conference.

Answering questions after giving a prepared talk, Pope Francis told the story of a bishop who said a university graduate came to him saying he wanted to be a priest, but only for 10 years.

The idea of commitments being temporary “occurs everywhere, even in priestly and religious life. The provisional. And for this reason a large majority of sacramental marriages are null. They say ‘yes, for my whole life,’ but they do not know what they are saying because they have a different culture,” he said.

The Vatican press office, publishing a transcript the next day, adjusted the pope’s words to read, “A part of our sacramental marriages are null because they (the spouses) say, ‘Yes, for my whole life,’ but they do not know what they are saying because they have a different culture.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said transcripts of the pope’s off-the-cuff remarks always are reviewed for precision and clarity prior to publication. “When dealing with particularly important topics, the revised text always is given to the pope himself. That happened in this case, therefore the published text was approved expressly by the pope.”

Attitudes toward marriage are influenced strongly by social expectations, the pope said, telling the story of a young man who told the pope he and his fiancee had not celebrated their wedding yet because they were looking for a church with decor that would go well with her dress. “These are people’s concerns,” the pope said. “How can we change this? I don’t know.”

Pope Francis told participants that when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he banned “shotgun weddings” from Catholic parishes because the strong social pressure to marry placed on a couple expecting a baby could mean they were not fully free to pledge themselves to each other for life through the sacrament.

It was important, he said, that the couples were not abandoned, but were assisted by the church. Many of them, he said, “after two or three years would marry. I would watch them enter the church — dad, mom and the child holding their hands. They knew well what they were doing.”

“The crisis of marriage is because people do not know what the sacrament is, the beauty of the sacrament; they do not know that it is indissoluble, that it is for one’s entire life,” he said. “It’s difficult.”

Meeting in July 2005 with priests in northern Italy, Pope Benedict also raised the question of the validity of marriages that, while performed in church, bound together two baptized Catholics who had little understanding of the faith, the meaning of the sacraments and the indissolubility of marriage.

Asked about Communion for a divorced and civilly remarried person, Pope Benedict had responded, “I would say that a particularly painful situation is that of those who were married in the church, but were not really believers and did so just for tradition, and then finding themselves in a new, nonvalid marriage, convert, find the faith and feel excluded from the sacrament.”

Pope Benedict said that when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he asked several bishops’ conferences and experts to study the problem, which in effect was “a sacrament celebrated without faith.”

He said he had thought that the church marriage could be considered invalid because the faith of the couple celebrating the sacrament was lacking. “But from the discussions we had, I understood that the problem was very difficult” and that further study was necessary.

According to the Code of Canon Law, “For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.”

In a formal speech in 2015 to the Roman Rota, a marriage tribunal, Pope Francis said: “The judge, in pondering the validity of the consent expressed, must take into account the context of values and of faith — their presence or absence — in which the intent to marry was formed. In fact, ignorance of the contents of the faith could lead to what the code (of canon law) calls an error conditioning the will. This eventuality is not to be considered rare as in the past, precisely because worldly thinking often prevails over the magisterium of the church.”

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  • Charles C.

    Do you want to scare a Catholic? For the more common type of Modernist Catholic, typically found in places like Minneapolis, San Francisco, and the like, you can try announcing that all of the networks will be replaying the television programs of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen around the clock. If that doesn’t work, you can try banning altar girls, or saying that the Social Justice Warriors are getting a bit carried away, and should return to Christian virtues instead of Progressive ones.

    If you want to scare a traditional Catholic, that’s much easier, it’s happening all the time. Announce the possibility of Deaconesses, acceptance of homosexual activities, Lutheran ministers giving homilies (I saw it happen at the Basilica), and on and on.

    But if you want to scare a Catholic who cares about the Church, all you have to do is say “In unprepared remarks, His Holiness Pope Francis said today . . .”

    I am in no position to judge his heart, his degree of sanctity, his intentions, or any of the essential internal characteristics and attitudes which form his relationship with God. I do know that he is far my superior in kindness, holiness and love for God.

    But for the sake of the Church you love, Holy Father, stop it, stop it now. You are known throughout the world for the love you show to people, especially the poor and suffering. You are coming to be known for ill-considered statements which throw doubt and confusion into the minds of the faithful. Even theologians and priests write lengthy articles trying to discover your meaning, only to have to throw the analysis away when a day or two later the Press Office files a “What he meant to say was . . .” report.

    Had the Pope said “most” of the faithful’s marriages are null, it would have been easier to accept that he meant “some.” But he said “great majority.” And even in taking those words back, they weren’t taken back. It has been changed to “a part.” But “a great majority” is a part, the biggest part, but still a part. So with the opportunity to correct the impression that the great majority of Catholic marriages are null, he has left that impression intact.

    I guess that solves the divorce and remarriage problem; your marriage is null, the Pope said so.

    And the Pope believes that Catholic marriages are null because “The crisis of marriage is because people do not know what the sacrament
    is, the beauty of the sacrament; they do not know that it is
    indissoluble, that it is for one’s entire life,”

    Okay priests, apparently you’re not explaining marriage to people who come to you for preparation to receive the sacraments. It seems you’re not telling people that marriage is indissoluble in the eyes of the Church. At least, that’s how the Pope’s words make it look.

    Look, there’s nothing wrong with Love, I like Love. But I really don’t like confusion when the times demand clarity, or obfuscation when direct honesty is needed. If the Pope needs to rely on teleprompters, that’s fine with me. An about-to-be former president has the same problem, and he isn’t beaten up over it.

    Maybe (an ideal solution?) Pope Benedict XVI could write the speeches and Pope Francis could deliver them?

  • therain

    So he’s actually following Catholic teachings now?