Pope: Church must improve marriage prep, strengthen families

Pope: Church must improve marriage prep, strengthen families

Pope Francis married 20 couples in St. Peter's Basilica on Sept. 14, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater/CNA.
Pope Francis married 20 couples in St. Peter's Basilica on Sept. 14, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater/CNA.

.- Pope Francis in his latest interview reflected on October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, dismissing fears of doctrinal “collapse” while considering difficult topics like marriage preparation and the treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics.

“The prevailing feeling was a brotherly one, trying to find a way to tackle the family´s pastoral issues. The family is so beaten up, young people don´t get married,” he said in the second part of his interview with the Argentine daily “La Nacion,” published on Sunday.

He also noted difficulties in marriage preparation for young people.

“When they finally come to get married, having already moved in together, we think it´s enough to offer them three talks to get them ready for marriage. But it´s not enough because the great majority are unaware of the meaning of a lifetime commitment.”

Citing Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said each spouse’s faith at the time of marriage is something to take into account and the Church should give this an “in depth” consideration to “analyze how we can help.”

Pope Francis said many engaged couples focus too much on getting married as “just a social event.”

“The religious element doesn´t surface in the least. So how can the Church step in and help? If they are not ready, do we slam the door in their face? It is no minor issue.”

The Pope also touched on some of the controversies related to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, such as an interim report that included a synod father’s discussion of the “positive aspects” of unmarried couples living together and homosexual couples.

Pope Francis said this was “just that, the opinion of a synodal father,” and the interim report was “merely a first draft meant to record it all.”

“Nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod, it did not cross our minds,” the Pope said. “What we did talk about was of how a family with a homosexual child, whether a son or a daughter, goes about educating that child, how the family bears up, how to help that family to deal with that somewhat unusual situation.”

He said that the relationship of homosexual persons to their families is a reality clergy deal with “all the time in the confessional.”

“We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter,” he said.

Pope Francis also stressed the need for debate, saying that each bishop at the synod “must be free to speak up without having to keep anything to himself, though nobody needs to know that he said this or the other.”

There were “different bishops who had different approaches, but we will all move on together,” he explained.

Pope Francis responded to fears of a doctrinal “collapse” by saying: “some people are always afraid because they don´t read things properly, or they read some news in a newspaper, an article, and they don´t read what the synod decided, what was published.”

He encouraged people to focus on the post-synodal relation and his own post-synodal address.

The Pope said he is not afraid to follow “the road of the synod.”

“I am not afraid because it is the road that God has asked us to follow,” he said.

“I pointed out that we had not addressed any part of the doctrine of the Church concerning marriage,” he continued.

At the same time, he said the synod is concerned for those who have divorced and civilly remarried.

“What door can we allow them to open? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to Communion? Communion alone is no solution.”

He said the solution is “integration” of these Catholics.

While these Catholics have not been excommunicated, the Pope lamented that sometimes it seems that they “have been excommunicated in fact.”

He noted that Catholics who have divorced and remarried cannot serve as godparents to children, cannot be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and cannot teach Sunday school.

“Thus, let us open the doors a bit more,” Pope Francis said. “Why can’t they be godfathers and godmothers?”

To concerns about what kind of witness a divorced and remarried godparent will give a godchild, the Pope said such a person can give the testimony of saying “my dear, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me, I want to follow God, I was not defeated by sin, I want to move on.”

“Anything more Christian than that?” the Pope asked.

He also pondered how “political crooks” and “corrupt people” can be chosen to be a godparent.

“They are properly wedded by the Church, would we accept them? What kind of testimony will they give to their godson? A testimony of corruption? Things need to change, our standards need to change.”

Pope Francis also discussed the controversial Feb. 20 address of Cardinal Walter Kasper, in which the cardinal advocated a change to Catholic teaching that Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly should not receive Holy Communion.

The Pope said that four of the five chapters of this address “are a jewel.” The fifth chapter concerns the treatment of divorced Catholics who have remarried.

“Kasper´s hypothesis is not his own. Let´s look into that. What happened? Some theologians feared such assumptions and that is keeping our heads down,” Pope Francis said.

He said that Cardinal Kasper “made the first move” and some people “panicked” and “went as far as to say: Communion, never. Only spiritual Communion.”

“And tell me, don´t we need the grace of God to receive spiritual communion?” Pope Francis said.

The Pope said that spiritual communion “obtained the fewest votes” in the synod relatio “because nobody was in agreement.”

The first part of the Pope’s interview focused on reform of the Roman Curia. He said a difference of opinion is “normal” and said it is “a good sign” that there is open resistance and not “stealthy mumbling.”

He also discussed his health, his future travels and his birthday plans, as well as the reassignment of American Cardinal Raymond Burke to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
 

Tags: Marriage, Family, Synod, Pope Francis