- The case for mercy
The leading proponent of relaxing the ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics tells Christopher Lamb that the Church too often appears rule-bound
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In interviews on the eve of his departure for the Austrian bishops’ ad limina visit in Rome, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said he was certain that under Pope Francis the Church would find new ways of incorporating remarried divorcees in the life of the Church.
“This Pope speaks so much about mercy, that I’m sure that a new way of coping with failure will be found,” Cardinal Schönborn said.
“One thing is clear: the Church must pay far greater attention to those whose marriages fail and must reach out to them. No one must get the feeling that their life in the Catholic community has come to an end because their marriage has failed,” the cardinal said.
Ninety-five per cent of Austrians who had filled in the Vatican questionnaire on the family were in favour of allowing remarried divorcees to receive the sacraments, Cardinal Schönborn said, adding that the Austrian bishops would be handing over the questionnaire results in Rome.
The Church must adopt a more rational, down-to-earth approach as far as the reality of life was concerned, the cardinal warned.
“We in the Church tacitly live with the fact that the majority of young people, including those who have close ties to the Church, quite naturally live together.
“The simple fact is that the environment has changed,” he said. This was “in no way” a call to change canon law on his part, he underlined, but he wanted to show how difficult it was to bring the ideal family model into line with reality.
After the Austrian bishops’ two-hour audience with Pope Francis on Monday Schönborn said in a live interview on the main Austrian TV news that the meeting “was a truly great lesson on how to live the Gospel today”.
The Pope had spoken of his observations of marriage in Latin America and underlined that it was the Church’s duty to accompany people on their way through life.
“People are on the way. They live together, have children, some then get married in a register office and later perhaps in church. The important thing is to accompany them on their way,” Schönborn explained.