Much discussion is going on in many different places concerning Pope Francis’ official teachings concerning the correct Catholic understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage. The recent secular media reports seemed to indicate that there was ambivalence, even contention, among the Pope, the bishops, and the laity as they met at the historic Extraordinary Synod last month. In an effort to clarify and “set the record straight,” I offer the Pope’s own words concerning the Sacrament of Marriage spoken last month in Rome to the Schoenstatt Movement for their One-Hundredth Anniversary.
“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.
He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”
“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed. He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”
Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.
In his answers to questions regarding marriage, Pope Francis explained that contemporary society has “devalued” the sacrament by turning it into a social rite, removing the most essential element, which is union with God. “So many families are divided, so many marriages broken, (there is) such relativism in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said, noting that from a sociological and Christian point of view “there is a crisis in the family because it’s beat up from all sides and left very wounded!”
In our consideration of the Pope’s teachings on these very important and pertinent matters, it is significant that we Catholics do not attempt to box the Pope into a “media friendly” and culturally relative trap. The Pope is not trying to “tickle the ears” of non Catholics or non believers; he’s walking a very delicate narrow ground where Jesus Himself was often found during His days on this earth. For people who know the Gospel and the teachings of the Church—and we certainly like to think of ourselves in that area—we know that the teachings are SOLID, they are based on TRUTH, and the TRUTH is certain.
The Pope certainly has a way of keeping us a little off balance. He says things and does things that are different from St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI—different—not in opposition to.
In answer to questions regarding how he can be defined as “reckless,” the Roman Pontiff admitted that although he can be considered “a little reckless,” he still surrenders himself to prayer, saying that it helps him to place Jesus at the center, rather than himself.
“There is only one center: Jesus Christ – who rather [prefers to] looks at things from the periphery, no? Where he sees things more clearly,” the Pope observed, saying that when closed inside the small worlds of a parish, a community and even the Roman Curia, “then you do not grasp the truth.”
Many Catholics consider their membership in the Church only from the vantage point of their own parishes. The Pope is calling us to a bigger picture and to the bigger Church.
Pope Francis continues to teach the faith. Let us always remember that if we become too “comfortable” with the faith, we may have remade it in our own image and likeness. That reshaping is the temptation of the world—it is what we are upset about in what we heard from the media reports of the Synod. We don’t want the world to remake our faith in Jesus Christ. What we do want is to be ready to listen to the ways that Jesus Himself is speaking to us in and through the Church to make that faith an “uncomfortable” reality in this world that prepares us for bliss in the world to come!