When Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013, he became the first man from the Americas to assume the role as head of the Catholic Church. Taking the name of Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up his family’s riches and dedicated his life to the service of the poor, Cardinal Bergoglio quickly garnered global attention for his compassion and—to many—refreshing approach to the issues that face modern society. As one might expect, Pope Francis has stirred up a great deal of debate within the Catholic Church; while some may say change is overdue, others are rather wary. Such has been the case with the pope’s recent discussions on divorce and remarriage, and how remarried Catholics should be treated in their local churches.
Divorce, Annulment, and Remarriage
The Catholic Church has long maintained that when a couple enters into a valid marriage, that marriage is forever, end of discussion. Divorce, for all intents and purpose, does not exist as far as the Church is concerned. As a civil process, divorce breaks the legal bond between the couple, but the Church holds that the spouses are still married to one another. Remarriage, therefore—while legal under state laws—is, in essence, adultery, and meant that a remarried Catholic was not permitted to receive communion. The only exception was if the original marriage was annulled—again, by the church, not the state—on the basis that marriage was not valid.
More Accepting Approach
Over the last few months, Pope Francis has been pushing acceptance of Catholics, wherever they may be on their spiritual journey, including those who have gotten remarried. In his apostolic exhortation called On Love in the Family, the pope wrote, “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth.” While Pope Francis did not go so far as to definitively change the Church’s stance, he did urge a more compassionate and lenient approach and tasked parish priests with bringing their own communities together.
The pope’s message of acceptance has, overall, been met with widespread optimism, both from Catholics and the general public. Some, however, are concerned about his ambiguity. Without taking a strong stand one way or the other, they believe, Catholics are left without a guide, which can lead to splintering and less cohesion with the Church. Others—who are worried about the departure from long-standing tradition—see the exhortation as “personal reflection of the pope,” and not as an authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.
If you are a Catholic considering a divorce or remarriage, your pastor or a spiritual adviser can help you with your religious concerns. On the legal side, it is important to also seek assistance from an experienced Kane County divorce attorney. Our compassionate team understands that there are countless factors that can affect the divorce process, including personal, philosophical, and religious beliefs. To discuss your case in a free consultation, call Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., today at 630-377-7770.