Saturday, October 24, 2015

The dissolution of Rome

A sympathetic lament that still draws blood:

Two quick issues:

i) One reason Catholics don't take the divorce policy seriously is the annulment policy. Indeed, Francis just fast-tracked the annulment process. Unsurprisingly, many Catholics think the official position is a distinction without a difference.

ii) Seems to me Francis is just attempting to formalize informal policy. Make official what's been going on at ground level for many years. Surely the average priest routinely gives communion to parishioners he knows are divorced. It would be a big news story of a priest refused communion. 

The average priest isn't going to take a bullet for the Vatican on this issue. For one thing, the Vatican doesn't have his back. He will be the fall guy. Look at how the Vatican deserted the Archbishop of San Francisco when he tried to hold the line on a related issue. 

Moreover, in big city parishes, with the priest shortage, I doubt most priests even know many of their communicants well enough to say who's divorced or not. 

Some quotes from the article:

As I write I do not know what the final synod report will say. One of the drafters described it as being more questions than answers. “The questions will be clear,” said Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai at a press briefing Thursday. “The answers will not be so clear.” So, after a two-year rollercoaster ride toward this synod, the Church may be left embracing more questions than answers, which is to say issues that have been considered closed for 2,000 years will likely remain open questions in Catholic life for the foreseeable future. Absent a strong intervention from Pope Francis to affirm the Catholic teachings, the result is likely to be a profound dislocation in the authority structures of the Catholic Church. We know that many synod fathers made powerful arguments in favor of the unbroken, distinctive Catholic teaching on marriage, drawn straight from the words of Christ and affirmed by Saint Paul. We now also know, thanks to the modern world, of the many bishops and cardinals who really wish to give Communion to people living in second marriages while their first spouse still lives. We cannot un-know what was on display... 
We know from polls and from parish life that many, many ordinary churchgoing Catholics do not support many Catholic teachings. Dissent is not shocking; it has been normalized. A study from the Austin Institute found that on Mass at any given Sunday in the U.S., 40 percent of those in the pews describe themselves as “traditional Catholics,” 40 percent say they are “moderate Catholics,” and the remainder are “liberal” or “other” Catholics. There has been, in America at least, a massive collapse in the transmission belt of basic Catholic teachings, and not only about sex. We now know, as a result of the frankness Pope Francis encouraged for this synod, that a substantial chunk of Catholic bishops do not believe in indissolubility. Not really, except as some kind of ethereal ideal divorced from the “mess of reality.” 
This brings the idea that a variety of views on these issues are acceptable within the Catholic identity to a new level, which is to say, it makes the Catholic Church as an authoritative community challenging to believe in a new way. I’ve begun to suspect that this may be part of Pope Francis’s point. I am not sure the Holy Father understands what it will mean to so many of us to have kicked out from under us the last vestiges of that sense that we had the unbroken authority of Rome at our backs. 
Could it be that Pope Francis’s time in the streets of Argentina has given him Protestant envy and a hunger for a new model of Catholic engagement that unleashes the laity, the promise of Vatican II?

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