It’s clear that this was all intentional: That Francis wanted a big internal argument over marriage and communion, that he deliberately started this civil war.Fast-tracking annulments "does not formally reverse the church’s teaching about the nature of marriage and communion," as Douthat says; but as he also admits, it "weakens the credibility of Catholic doctrine, in both implication and effect." How can that be good? How can that be merciful?
The question that remains unanswered, though, is how the pope intends to finish it.
... Now, though, the pope has actually made a major move on marriage. He’s changing canon law governing annulments, making it much easier for divorced Catholics to have their first marriage declared invalid, null and void.
The changes do not merely streamline the existing annulment process, as many expected, by removing a mandatory review of each decision. They promise a fast-track option, to be implemented at the discretion of local bishops ....
This is a major liberalization of the church’s rules, probably the most significant of Francis’ pontificate to date....
What the new rules do not do, however, is explicitly change the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, in the way that admitting the remarried to communion absent an annulment would [so they do change the teaching, just not in quite the same way an explicit denial would? Then who even needs explicit doctrine when implicit reversal suggests we think it impractical?]. This may seem like theological hair-splitting [actually, very much so], but from the point of view of Catholic unity it’s crucial. [Then perhaps the obsession with Unity ... needs a bit of rethinking. What good is unity over faux-agreement to dead letters of the law? And if Unity requires identification with an always changing public face and wildly varied agendas, how is that any different from a cult?] [emphasis and comments in red from Guy Noir]
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
New York Times op-ed columnist, Ross Douthat writes (September 12, 2015):