by Ralph Coelho
Pope Francis has captivated many common Catholics but caused much dismay among the teachers and preachers. The former wait eagerly for their daily dose of the reality and simplicity of God's will in his various utterances the latter are dismayed by apparently of-the-cuff remarks and openings to relativistic morality that undermines the absolute morality that prohibits artificial contraception, divorce and adultery. His remark "Who am I to judge" to a query of the his attitude to the LGBT community scandalised many priests and bishops who believed that as Defender of the Faith he should condemn them out of hand. Others believe that he is asking that we think in more detail and check if it is sinful behaviour being condemned or a class of people. In the letter case it is causing scandal and is condemnable as a possibility of leading others into sin. Jesus particularly condemned those whose words or behaviour were a "stumbling block to the simple ones".
Pope Francis is not a Pope in the mould of the previous Popes just as he is not in the same mould of most human persons. It is natural for humans to enter into the persona, the culture of the rank to which they are raised and in behaviour to fit in with peers. Even to openly aspire for a higher rank. Francis set a precedent by appearing before the faithful across the world in the simple cassock in which he was elected. Later he went back to the hostel where he stayed with other attendees at the Consistory and did not live in the Papal apartments. However, he did receive visiting dignitaries at the Papal apartments assigning them their due dignity.
Pope Francis went much further in eliminating ceremonial in his public lands life. He kissed babies and embraced sick persons when he passed through crowds, he called up people on the telephone and his homilies at mass were as down to earth as any parish priest could be. They demonstrated his view of New Evangelisation whose need was enunciated by Paul VI. He gave simple but non-traditional interpretations of the Bible in his homilies, encouraging reader and students of the Bible to make an effort to discern what God was saying to them in their state of life.
When he spoke about the householder who rented out his vineyard he went beyond the traditional rebuke to the people of Israel. Instead he speaks about God continuing to love, of wanting to show his mercy in new wine. I think it equally applies to anyone who is placed in a role of supervising others and he exploits them instead of improving their lot. Particularly parents in regard to the upbringing of their children When he spoke about the Good Samaritan he asked about the role of the innkeeper. John XXIII allowed his Bishops to throw out the agenda prepared by his Curia for Vatican II and prepare their agenda appropriate to their situations.
In regard to divorced and remarried couples I believe he is asking us to show mercy to the couple who understand the enormity of their offence against the community and are now torn between acceptance of their penance (to separate) and damage to the state of the children they have received as gifts. Allow them to live as brother and sister and do not assume they continue to commit the act of adultery. We do acknowledge that the marriage must be consummated!
They may be asked to receive communion at a distant church to avoid scandal. This may be interpreted as casuistry by theologians who are rigorous; this would leave little scope for mercy that is the sinners last hope. I would however agree the possibility of a person being misled to commit sin driven by strong emotions in anticipation of God's mercy. I was taught that this was the sin of PRESUMPTION, a sin that did not figure amongst the capital sins. This could easily happen in the current climate of the individual's right to absolute freedom in sexual expression that denies any form of sexual relationship behaviour is a personal choice.
Some critics refer to Veritatis Splendor. I believe they should read the Theology of the Body that preceded it by many years and developed a Christian anthropology and clarified the meaning of unity, spousal fidelity and chastity in marriage. The Nuptial Meaning of the Body is related to experience of Adam and Eve and the gift of self.