Apr 28, 2016
Now that the dust stirred by publication of Pope Francis's new document on marriage has started to settle, it's time for assessments that avoid the overwrought tone of some early responses. Here, then, some preliminary thoughts.
Shortly after the document was released, I got a phone call from a reporter in Rome who wanted to know what I thought. Answering that question, I said something like this: "Up to now we've been accustomed to seeing the Church as a teacher. Now we're seeing it as a facilitator."
Thinking about that later, it occurred to me that the idea I was expressing was summed up years earlier in the title of Pope St. John XXIII's famous social encyclical Mater et Magistra-mother and teacher. The idea is that the Church performs both a maternal, comforting, consoling role and also a role as an authoritative teacher.
In discussing a pastoral approach to divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriages haven't been annulled, Pope Francis stresses the maternal, with pastors as facilitators of a discernment process meant to reintegrate these people in the community of faith. But that doesn't mean the document is without a teaching component. Indeed, its very writing and issuance were teaching acts. In this instance, Francis simply concentrates on the pastoral side. There can be no reasonable objection to that.