General Audience with Pope FrancisPope Francis continues to amaze, by repeatedly marching to his own drummer. The latest example of this came during his most recent audience. As Religion News Service reports, he instructed priests to welcome remarried Catholics (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday (Aug. 5) issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a monthlong summer break.

The pope’s words were greeted with what was described as thunderous applause [cached].

The article points out that Catholicism has, traditionally, taken a hard line against remarriage:

Current teaching says such Catholics cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.

A debate over this has been brewing in the halls of the Vatican since Francis took office, and it appears his comments are of his effort to press the matter. He also pointed out the hypocrisy — not to mention dysfunctionality — of the Church’s current approach:

How can the church “tell these parents to do everything to raise their children as Christians, giving them an example of a firm and practiced faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the community, as if they were excommunicated?”

I can attest that it’s not uncommon for people born into, and married within, the Catholic Church to be alienated from it, and therefore become ex-Catholics, because of this particular issue. It’s literally driving people right out their doors … making it a really stupid way to operate. And, from the “thunderous applause” of the people in his audience, it sounds as though a lot of lay Catholics agree.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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