Unlikely the pope has reversed course

March 22, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – There has been recent reporting suggesting that Pope Francis indicated that he does not support communion for the divorced and remarried. The blog Eponymous Flower in a post entitled “Has Pope Francis Finally Addressed the “Dubia”? — “No to Communion for Remarried Divorced and Abortion Politicians” references an interview with Chilean bishops in the newspaper El Mercurio. The newspaper in its reporting on the recent ad limina visits of the Chilean bishops to Rome suggested Francis said “no to the Communion for remarried divorced persons and for politicians who pronounce for abortion.” The blog also quotes a Chilean columnist on the issue. A definite must read.

A translation of the El Mercurio interview with the Chilean bishops with regard to their visit with the Pope may be found here. The google translated article, for me at least, did not make it clear that the Pope’s comments were unambiguous. The article says:

“Communion to the divorced? With the same decision, the Pontiff denied that his goal with the synod he called upon the family was to authorize the communion of the divorced.”

The paraphrase of the Pope does not preclude the possibility he wished for communion for the adulterers to be allowed in certain cases, even if he did not call the synods to expressly authorize it. It is this papal ambiguity that is so maddening, as it has allowed contradictory interpretations of the “certain cases”-found in Amoris Laetitia 305 (n. 351)- to be used either to allow or disallow communion for public adulterers. That said, on the question of communion for politicians who enable abortion, the Pope seemed to have been quite clear- at least according to the El Mercurio (emphasis added):

“Abortion is a well-known issue for Francis. Being Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was very hard on President Mauricio Macri when he regulated “non-punishable abortions” as governor, and stopped a “medical guide” that Cristina Kirchner tried to spread. So he now also raised the Chilean bishops and spoke, other sources add, especially Catholic politicians who vote in favor of the laws that legalize it. “He insisted that they can not communion and that they must help them not to continue committing sin. The Pope is much stronger than he seems.”

If this is truly the Pope’s view (i.e., to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians), it might be very bad news for Cardinal Wuerl and many other American cardinals and bishops (as well as liberal lay Catholics) who wish to de-emphasize abortion as a moral and political issue in favor of social and environmental causes.

Now, if the El Mercurio reporting were to truly mean the Pope explicitly ruled out communion for public adulterers, this would-of course- be fantastic news. This would clearly suggest a change in the Pope’s private opinion which was indicated in the leaked letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires as well as by his seeming wink and nod to the Maltese and German guidelines in allowing their publication in the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s own newspaper. All this would be a positive sign of a possible de-escalation  of the growing crisis in the Church- if the Chilean reporting were accurate.

However, the Pope met with the Chilean bishops a month ago- on February 20 and 23. Since that meeting, according to reports, it appears the Pope met privately with Cardinal Marx and received news of the German guidelines- which permit communion for adulterers- with “joy.” Such a ‘joyous’ response to the German guidelines is inconsistent with the supposition that the Pope, in speaking with the Chilean bishops, spoke against communion for public adulterers in an absolute and unequivocal sense. In addition, a recent tweet from Vatican journalist Edward Pentin indicated well informed sources say the “correction” is still on, giving cause to believe the 4 cardinals of Dubia fame did not receive an encouraging response when they privately met (and corrected) the Pope. Consequently, it is not probable that anything the Pope said to the Chilean bishops amounted to a reversal of his apparent position-suggested by his continued silence and inaction-on the question of communion for adulterers. That said, pray that the pope will speak with the voice of Peter and put an end to the growing confusion and division.


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