The obscurity with which Pope Francis loves to speak and write on the most controversial questions is one of the constants of his magisterium, an obscurity that reached its summit in the response that he gave on November 15, 2015 to a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic, who was asking him if she too could receive communion at Mass:
But the doubts over his real thought are promptly dispelled by the personalities and interpreters closest to him, cardinals, bishops, theologians, Jesuits, journalists.
Here, in fact, is what was said a few days ago, with regard to intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants, by the pope’s favorite cardinal, the German Walter Kasper, in an interview broadcast on Italian state television:
A: Today we are no longer enemies, we are friends, we are brothers and sisters. We have begun this ecumenical way and we have taken many steps in the meantime. We have good hope that one day we will even reach full communion. Even now we already have a great deal of communion among us.
Q: A communion at the Eucharistic table as well?
A: Yes, shared communion in certain cases, I think so. If [two spouses, one Catholic and one Protestant] share the same Eucharistic faith – this is the presupposition – and if they are interiorly disposed, they can decide in their conscience to receive communion. And this is also the position, I think, of the current pope, because there is a process of coming together; and a couple, a family, cannot be divided in front of the altar.
These comments from Kasper can be heard from the 8:08 to 9:32 minute mark of the broadcast “Protestantesimo” of January 31, 2017, on Rai2.
Meanwhile there continue the unending efforts aimed at reiterating in the name of the pope that yes, in spite of the obscurities and doubts that it raises, the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” is “clear” in admitting the divorced and remarried to communion, even if they continue to live “more uxorio.”
To summarize, the first one Francis publicly assigned the task of interpreting his thought in this way was Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in the official presentation of “Amoris Laetitia” on April 8, 2016.
Then, on September 5, it was the pope himself who wrote to the bishops of the region of Buenos Aires a letter of approval for their permissive stance.
A few days later, on September 19, it was Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome, who laid down for his priests, at the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran, analogous instructions previously approved by his direct superior.
It was then “L’Osservatore Romano,” on January 14 of this year, that published with an evident impulse from on high the go-ahead to communion for the divorced and remarried given by the bishops of Malta.
On February 2, again “L’Osservatore Romano” gave extensive coverage to the even more “liberal” guidelines published by the bishops of Germany.
On February 10, once more the newspaper of the Holy See published the presentation made by Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, archbishop emeritus of Barcelona, of a book of his entitled “Cômo aplicar Amoris laetitia,” written in “thanksgiving” to the pope for how he “is bringing up to the present time the teaching of the Church.”
And most recently, on February 15, “L’Osservatore Romano” reproduced the praise bestowed by the theologian Maurizio Gronchi on a booklet by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio on the “innovations” of the eighth chapter of “Amoris Laetitia,” a booklet presented as agreeable to the pope if not in fact requested by him.
So much, until now, for the “pars construens,” which as can be noted has seen an acceleration in recent days in conjunction with “recent events” (a manifesto and a fake front page of “L’Osservatore Romano” in ironic denunciation of papal inconsistencies) that have led the nine cardinals of the council that assists Francis in governing the Church to manifest their “adherence and support” to him on January 13.
But in the communication of strategy of Francis there is also the “pars destruens,” meaning the persistent and disdainful refusal to respond to the doubts submitted to him by four cardinals on the obscure points of “Amoris Laetitia,” as well as the ostracism that has fallen on Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith and himself the bearer of interpretations distasteful to the pope simply because they are firm on the previous magisterium of the Church.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)