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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne has insisted that the Pope’s position on communion for remarried divorcees is firmly against allowing it, despite the fact that German-speaking bishops are at odds on the question and those advocating reform have claimed the support of Pope Francis.
“When I last visited Pope Francis recently I was able to speak to him very openly about all and sundry. I drew his attention to the fact that some of what he had said in interviews and short addresses had left certain questions open to debate which really needed explaining further for those not in the know,” Cardinal Meisner said.
“The Pope opened his eyes wide and asked me to give him an example. I pointed to his remark about remarried divorcees on the plane back from Rio. [when the Pope had said, “I believe this is the time of mercy.”]
“Whereupon the Pope said quite simply: ‘Divorcees can go to communion – remarried divorcees cannot.’
“And then he spoke of mercy,” Cardinal Meisner continued. “I told him that in our country [Germany] mercy is always interpreted as a stand-in for all sorts of human errors. Whereupon the Pope very forcefully insisted that he was a Son of the Church and had not said anything that the Church did not teach. ‘Mercy must be identical with the truth otherwise it did not deserve to be called mercy,’ he emphasised. ‘And by the way’, he specifically underlined, ‘if theological questions remain open, then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is there to clarify and formulate such matters in detail.’ The CDF takes first place in the curial order and the CDF Prefect cannot be declared a private person just because he was once a member of a bishops’ conference,” Cardinal Meisner said.