Pope Francis Calls for Softer Stance towards Divorced Catholics

For those practicing Catholicism, divorce can be difficult. According to the Church, marriage is an unbreakable bond, and in the eyes of God, those who divorce without receiving an annulment and then remarry are living in sin. Additionally, Catholics who divorced and remarried through a civil ceremony are not eligible to receive communion, leaving many divorced and remarried Catholics across the world feeling rejected by the Church. Catholics who do divorce and remarry commonly seek out another Christian denomination instead.

A recently released and highly anticipated document from Pope Francis, titled “Amoris Laetitia” or “On Love in the Family”, however, indicates that the Church’s view on divorce and remarriage is likely shifting in the near future. Francis called for more compassion from the Church for those who are “imperfect” Catholics, such as those remarried without a Church approved annulment.

“No One Can Be Condemned Forever”

Francis, a progressive pope, has made headlines over the past few years for his work on making the Church more accepting. He has already requested that the annulment process be simplified and more accessible to Catholics, and his new statement is another step towards acceptance for divorced parishioners. The statement did not focus solely on divorce, although acceptance of divorced and remarried Catholics was the most highly anticipated portion of 260-page document. Current Catholic teaching says that those who divorce and remarry are ineligible to receive communion and living in a state of adulterous sin unless they abstain from sex with their new spouse, as technically their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of God and the Church.

Annulment is the only Church approved method to divorce and remarry. To receive the religious ruling, a couple’s marriage must be proven invalid due to certain marital prerequisites being missing, such as free will or psychological maturity. Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that 4.5 million Catholics in the United States alone are currently divorced and remarried without receiving an annulment. One devoted Catholic who divorced and remarried, and now is an advocate for divorced Catholics in need of support, says that only 15 percent of parishes provide any type of support for divorced parishioners. Fortunately, they may now have a shot at being accepted again into the Church.

An Internal Forum

While Pope Francis did not detail exactly how the process of allowing remarried Catholics to receive communion would work, progressives in the church have proposed using an “internal forum” of a bishop or priest working with a divorced individual to decide on a case-by-case basis if they can be re-integrated. Francis’s statement, while up for interpretation, seems to be leaning in this direction, as he said that while he could “not provide a new set of general rules” that would be applicable in every case, “responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases,” is needed.

The Pope, as with many of the Church’s progressives, holds the stance that the Church needs to work towards accepting flawed individuals rather than strictly upholding Church rules and policies. Francis said the Church should include those living in an “imperfect manner,” such as couples who are married civilly or cohabitating, in addition to the remarried. For now, the future remains uncertain, but those Catholics who are remarried may have a brighter future to look forward to.

Divorce Attorneys in Illinois Can Help

Those in need of a divorce should seek the help of a qualified DuPage county divorce attorney. Divorce can be complicated, but the team at Abear Law Offices can help simplify the process. Having a skilled attorney is essential to getting you and your family through the divorce process as smoothly as possible, and the attorneys at Abear Law have years of experience handling a variety of divorce related cases. We offer both litigated and non-litigated solutions, so call us today to learn more. Call (630) 904-3033 schedule a consultation with us.