Pope Francis’s three-year-old papacy, marred by controversy from the beginning, has hit a new low.
After Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to succeed
Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, he quickly justified his reputation as an
unconventional character who put himself on both sides of an argument
with vaguely worded pronouncements.
From his “Who am I to judge?” statement on gay people
that seemed to offer a hint at a change in church teaching, to his
fumbles on contraception, to his recent claim that Donald Trump is not
Christian, his off-the-cuff remarks cause headlines across the globe,
often followed by some sort of “clarification” from the Holy See Press
His papacy has been a litany of confusing statements
for the faithful on the most sensitive and delicate topics. While clear
on political topics dear to his heart, but where Catholics can
legitimately hold differing opinions, such as immigration, economics and
climate change, on matters of doctrine, Francis muddied the waters to
an extent that many well-meaning Catholics feel they no longer know
where the Church stands on issues of faith.
Most recently, in his latest off-the-cuff ramble
on Thursday, he was asked about marriage. He said:
“It’s provisional, and because of this the great
majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes,
for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying.
Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will,
but they don’t know.”
To say that the “great majority” of Catholic
marriages are null, or invalid, is a statement that is neither true,
wise, nor fair. The Vatican has since toned down his remarks in the
written transcript to say “a part of our sacramental marriages are
null,” in apparent recognition of the damage Francis’s statement might
For a “pope of the people” he certainly doesn’t give
Catholics much credit. For a Catholic marriage to be valid all that is
needed is the freedom to marry, consent from both parties, and the
intention to marry for life and be open to children. That’s it.
Over the years, some clerics have used an
interpretation of canon law to suggest “emotional immaturity” can be a
reason for not understanding the responsibilities of marriage, and
therefore as invalid and open to annulment. But marriage is not hard to
understand, and the Catholic rite of marriage, as well as the
preparation couples go through beforehand, makes clear what marriage
For Pope Francis to say the great majority of
marriages are null implies that the great majority of Catholic are
ignorant fools who cannot understand the responsibilities of a bedrock
of society that has existed for thousands of years.
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