Monday, September 8, 2014
Communion for the remarried: Francis has a yes "in picture"
Sandro Magister Chiesa September 8, 2014 ROME, September 8, 2014 – The latest to call for a radical change in the Church's practice and doctrine on marriage is the Belgian bishop of Antwerp, Johan Jozef Bonny. He did so in early September with a thirty-page memorandum in multiple languages, which he also sent to Pope Francis. Because the presumed support of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is inevitably part of the arguments of the cardinals, bishops, and theologians who are calling for the change, which would mean granting Eucharistic communion to the divorced and remarried: a key argument of the synod of bishops on the family set to have its first session in Rome this October. Pope Francis has never said explicitly what his position is in the dispute - to which he intentionally gave free rein - between the proponents and opponents of the change. When, for example, he defended in strong words the encyclical of Paul VI "Humanae Vitae," he disappointed the innovators, who see that very encyclical as an emblem of the disastrous detachment of the magisterium of the Church from the spirit of the times and the practice of the faithful themselves. But on the contrary there are are increasingly numerous testimonies on how Bergoglio, as an archbishop, encouraged his priests to give communion to the cohabiting and remarried. He himself, as pope, spoke by telephone last April with a civilly divorced and remarried woman of Buenos Aires and advised her to “go receive communion in another parish if her pastor did not give it to her.” This according to the woman's account, which has not been refuted. In any case, there is evidence for the idea that Pope Francis leans more to the side of the innovators in the appreciation that he has repeatedly expressed for Cardinal Walter Kasper, foremost among supporters of the change, whom he charged with introducing the discussion on the theme of the family at the consistory of cardinals last February. The charge given to Kasper was itself enough to mark a turning point. In the early 1990's the German cardinal, who at the time was the bishop of Rottenberg, together with bishop of Mainz Karl Lehmann and of Freiburg Oskar Saier was the protagonist of a memorable clash with the then-prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Joseph Ratzinger, precisely on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried. The clash ended with a victory for Ratzinger, who had the full support of John Paul II. And for a couple of decades Kasper didn't say any more on the topic. But since Bergoglio has been pope, the 81-year-old cardinal has gone back to the front lines to present his ideas, this time with the manifest support of the successor of Peter. Bishop Bonny, before being assigned to the Belgian diocese of Antwerp in 2009, had been a close collaborator of Kasper at the pontifical council for Christian unity, headed by the cardinal. And in the memorandum with which he is now calling for change not only in the practice but also in the doctrine of the Church on marriage, citations of Pope Francis abound. All interpreted in favor of the change. This brings up the question: up to what point is it plausible to assign Francis to the camp of the innovators, on the question of communion for the remarried? And if this convergence exists, is it just superficial or of substance? This question is answered by a theologian who has already spoken out on this website to illustrate the innovations of method in the most representative document of pope Bergoglio, "Evangelii Gaudium": Paul-Anthony McGavin of Australia (in the photo), age 70, a priest of the archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn and an ecclesiastical assistant at the University of Canberra. McGavin leans toward a change and does not conceal his agreement with Kasper's positions. But this is not what he has written about. He instead dedicates his essay to demonstrating the affinity between the proposals of innovation and the “methodology” of Francis, intolerant of any "closed system," whether pastoral or doctrinal. According to McGavin, Ratzinger also had an equally “open” methodology. And in the initial part of his essay he amply develops this affinity between the two most recent popes. To the point that the reader is induced to think that Francis is preparing to realize what Benedict XVI had also been predisposed to do. But it is on the reigning pope that expectations are focused. Because in the end, after the two synods, it will be he who decides the path to take, on marriage in general and on communion for the remarried in particular. A path of pastoral innovation, if not also doctrinal, that - according to McGavin's arguments - Francis already has in mind.