Pope Francis made some cogent and correct observations, which help explain many of the problems facing society today. It may be uncomfortable for people to hear, but they should ponder his words and see if they ring true for their own situation.
Pope Francis said Thursday that many sacramental marriages today are not valid, because couples do not enter into them with a proper understanding of permanence and commitment.
While he initially said in unscripted comments that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null,” he later approved a revision of these remarks.
When the Vatican released its official transcript of the encounter the following day, they had changed the comment to say that “a portion of our sacramental marriages are null.”
In the Vatican blog “Il sismografo,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that this change is a revision approved by the Pope himself.
A layman asked about the “crisis of marriage” and how Catholics can help educate youth in love, help them learn about sacramental marriage, and help them overcome “their resistance, delusions and fears.”
The Pope answered from his own experience.
“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.
“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”
Pope Francis said that marriage preparation is a problem, and that marital problems are also linked to social situations surrounding weddings.
He recounted his encounter with a man engaged to be married who was looking for a church that would complement his fiancée’s dress and would not be far from a restaurant.
“It’s social issue, and how do we change this? I don’t know,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis attributed the marriage crisis to people who “don’t know what the sacrament is” and don’t know “the beauty of the sacrament.”
“They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” the Pope said.
“Marriage is the most difficult area of pastoral work,” he said.
Pope Francis is correct, and not just for members of the Catholic church. It seems that many people today cannot make a commitment they will stick to, and they not take on commitments with an understanding and seriousness that should be expected from people with integrity. Marriage, and especially marriage that also anticipates bring children into the world, should be entered into with the full anticipation and determination that it will be for a lifetime, in sickness and health, in poverty and wealth, as the saying goes. A marriage performed while sky diving or in a drunken stupor in Las Vegas cannot reflect the solemnity and the dedication that such a commitment should include. The Pope is right, but it is hard to see how the casual culture of today can be turned around.
On the other hand, the Pope also restated his Liberation Theology beliefs in suggesting that Europe must be more generous and understanding towards Muslim immigrants coming from the Middle East and Africa. And he suggested that this immigration will be a boon to the declining demographics of Western European populations, without addressing the jihadist influence of Islam that is destined to dilute and overwhelm the Christian culture. And he seems to be confused in suggesting that Muslims, Christians and other religious populations all worship the same god. If God is all things to all people, there really is no belief at all, but that is certainly very modern and progressive sounding. However, it is very odd coming from the proclaimed “vicar of Christ,” and one wonders how much of the traditional Catholic theology Pope Francis truly subscribes to.
Nevertheless, in this area, which is as much sociology as theology, the full commitment to marriage and family is of great value to society, the families, and to individuals, and it is terrific that Pope Francis has encouraged the world with recommendation. The question is if anyone is listening and will follow the recommendations of the Pope.