"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Monday, 16 January 2017


Pope Francis is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, elected on 13 March 2013. In his over 40 years as a Catholic priest, he has drawn "high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany."[2] He is seen as someone who personally straddles the divide between the liberals and conservatives in the Catholic Church.[2] Francis has supported the social justice ethos of Latin American Catholicism, including a robust defense of the poor.[2] At the same time, he has generally tended to accent growth in personal holiness over efforts for structural reform.[2] He is seen as "unwaveringly orthodox" on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception.[2]


In 2008, Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, delivered the following catechesis at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec:[3]
The Christian, when looking at the Church, sees her as holy, spotless and without blemish, as [he would] Mary, bride and Mother. The Christian sees the Church as the Body of Christ, as the vessel that guards with absolute integrity the deposit of faith, as the faithful Spouse who communicates without addition or subtraction all that Christ entrusted. In the Sacraments the Church communicates to us the fullness of life the Lord came to bring us. Although as sons we sometimes/often break our Covenant with the Lord at an individual level, the Church is the place where that Covenant – which we are given for ever in Baptism – remains intact and we might recover it with the [Sacrament of] Reconciliation....The Church as a fully “sanctified” reality and capable of receiving and of communicating – without error or defect, from its own poverty and even with its own sins –the full sanctity of God, is not a “complement” or an “institutional addition” to Jesus Christ, but a full participation of his Incarnation, of His Life, of His Passion, death and Resurrection. Without these “new wineskins” that are the Church and Mary – a concrete universality sin parallel, whose relation is paradigmatic of all else – the coming of the eternal Word into the world and assuming flesh, the Word in our ears and His life in our history, could not be received adequately....As the Church always defends its integrity – as always there have been and are those who take evil advantage of the strength of an institution (which is pathetic for how reductive it is to use something so beneficent as eternal life for the pleasures of transitory life), world has the impression the Church always defends its power and it is not so. In defending its purity, its indefectibility, its sanctity as the bride, the Church is defending the “place” through which the gift of the life of God passes on to the world and the gift of the life of the world to God.

[Identifying the Church with the Blessed Virgin, Pope Francis is using  Orthodox theology in which Mary, Mother of God, is personally what the church is collectively: it identifies the Church with Mary in her relationship to Christ, just as it identifies the Church with Christ in his relationship with the Father..  Mary is virgin and mother, (truths about her relationship with Christ), just as the Church is virgin and mother in its relationship with Christ and in its relationship with us: the Church and Mary are one. This is based on another truth, that the unity of the Church reflects the unity of the Blessed Trinity.  Just as one Person of the Trinity embraces each  the other Two in perfect unity, so each human person, to the extent that he loves Christ, embraces others in the same love, until he loves the whole creation, just as Christ loves the whole creation.  This love becomes a reflection of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It becomes ecclesial love, because it holds the Church together as instrument of the Holy Spirit.  Just as St Benedict saw the whole of created reality in a ray of light because he loved all created reality in Christ, and by loving in Christ, he participated in the very love of the Father by which the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Tri-une God loves the whole of creation.  Hence, we are all embraced in love by Mary, the Mother of God, according to her vocation as mother and virgin, as we are by all the angels and saints according to their vocations, as we reach out to love our fellow Christians in reciprocal love and to all human beings whether they love us or not, in a love that is destined to love the whole of creation.  That is the unity of the Church in Christ that our love makes visible to the world and which our lack of love obscures. - Fr David]
After his election to the Papacy, he noted that scripture "should be inserted within the current of the great tradition which, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Magisterium, recognized the canonical writings as the Word addressed by God to His people who have never ceased to meditate and discover its inexhaustible riches. The Second Vatican Council has reiterated this with great clarity in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum: 'For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgement of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.'"[4] Citing the Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, Pope Francis said: "The interpretation of the Holy Scriptures cannot be only an individual scientific effort, but must always confront itself with, be inserted within and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church…. The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the Community of believers…to nourish the faith …respect for this profound nature of Scripture conditions the very validity and effectiveness of biblical hermeneutics."[4]
He said the Church must, therefore, not make any doctrinal compromises because "faith cannot be negotiated."[5] Pope Francis asks, when the going gets tough "are we courageous like Peter or a bit lukewarm?"[5] "Throughout history, the people of God have always been tempted to chop a piece off faith."[5] More or less everyone is tempted "not to be too rigid."[5] "But when we start to cut down on faith, to negotiate faith, selling it to the highest bidder – he emphasised – we take the path of apostasy, we begin to lack faith, lack faith in the Lord."[5]
As an example of this "courageous testimony" of the faith, Francis lamented not only the material poverty of the early 21st century but also its "spiritual poverty," meaning a rejection of God and objective standards of morality.[6] Francis referenced Pope Benedict XVI's famous critique of a post-modern "dictatorship of relativism":[6]
There is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism," which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.And that brings me to a second reason for my name: Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
John L. Allen noted in response that the speech "offered a clear reminder ... that [Pope Francis] may have a different style than Benedict XVI, but on substance, he's cut from much the same cloth.... References to universal human nature are often shorthand in Vatican discourse for defense of traditional teaching on matters such as sexuality, marriage and the family."[7]
The Aparecida Document, produced by an editorial committee chaired by Cardinal Bergoglio (later Pope Francis), reiterates this point:
Undoubtedly, [the family] is currently suffering a degree of adversity caused by secularism and by ethical relativism, by movements of population internally and externally, by poverty, by social instability and by civil legislation opposed to marriage which, by supporting contraception and abortion, is threatening the future of peoples.

 Encountering Jesus and rejecting worldliness

In both his first homily as pope and in his first address to the cardinals, Francis talked about walking in the presence of Jesus Christ and stressed the church's mission to announce him. In the audience with the cardinals, he emphasized the concept of "encounter with Jesus":
Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.[8]
In his homily, he stressed that "if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord." He went on to teach that "When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil... when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly".[9]

The theme of rejecting "spiritual worldliness" has been described as a leitmotif of his teachings even before he became pope.[10] Understanding this worldliness as "putting oneself at the center", he said that it is the "greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church".[11]

In addressing "spiritual worldliness" Pope Francis has said that it is "according to Henri De Lubac, the worst evil into which the Church can fall."[12] This is a reference to a passage from De Lubac's book The Splendor of the Church:[12]

The-Church-as-Mother is never at the end of her labor to deliver us to the life of the Spirit, and the greatest danger we are to the Church, the most subversive temptation, the one that is ever and insiduously reborn when all the rest are overcome, and even strengthened by those victories, is what Abbot Vonier called the temptation to "worldliness of the mind ... the practical relinquishing of other-worldliness, so that moral and even spiritual standards should be based, not on the glory of the Lord, but on what is the profit of man; an entirely anthropocentric outlook would be exactly what we mean by worldliness. Even if men were filled with every spiritual perfection, but if such perfections were not referred to God (suppose this hypothesis to be possible) it would be unredeemed worldliness."If this worldliness of the spirit were to invade the Church and set to work to corrupt her by attacking her very principle, it would be something infinitely more disastrous than any worldliness of the purely moral order.

 Morality as response to God's mercy

Francis preached on his first visit to a parish that "this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy."[13] His motto, Miserando atque eligendo, is about Jesus' mercy towards sinners. The phrase is taken from a homily of St. Bede, who commented that Jesus "saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: 'Follow me'" (italics added to refer to English translation of the Latin motto).[14]
The motto is a reference to the moment he changed his life when he was 17 years old and found his vocation to the priesthood. He started a day of student celebrations by going to confession. "A strange thing happened to me ... It was a surprise, the astonishment of an encounter ... This is the religious experience: the astonishment of encountering someone who was waiting for you ... God is the one who seeks us first."[15]
As cardinal he viewed morality in the context of an encounter with Christ that is "triggered by mercy": "the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin." And thus, he says, a new morality—a correspondence to mercy—is born. He views this morality as a "revolution": it is "not a titanic effort of the will", but "simply a response" to a "surprising, unforeseeable, and 'unjust' mercy". Morality is "not a 'never falling down' but an 'always getting up again.'"[16]

The Gospel reading for the Sunday he was scheduled to give his first public address as pope was on Jesus' forgiveness of the adulteress woman. This allowed him to discuss ideas such as: God never wearies of forgiving us; hearing the word mercy, this word changes everything; mercy is beautiful; never tire in asking for forgiveness.[17]

Creative transformation in evangelization

Another theme Pope Francis emphasized in his first address to the cardinals is the new evangelization. He talked about "the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise."[8]

It is a theme he has repeated in other occasions, specifically in his biography, where he spoke about "transforming pastoral modes" and "revising the internal life of the church so as to go out to the faithful people of God," with "great creativity." He observed that church cannot be passively waiting for clientele among people who are no longer evangelized and who "will not get near structures and old forms that do not respond to their expectations and sensibilities." He asked for pastoral conversion from a church that regulates the faith to a church that transmits and facilitates the faith:[15][18]

He said that the heart of the mission is summarized in this: "if one remains in the Lord one goes out of oneself... Fidelity is always a change, a blossoming, a growth." Key to evangelization is the role of the laity who should avoid the "problem" of being clericalized as their "baptism alone should suffice".[19]

Bergoglio has linked an unwillingness to evangelize with the problems of the Church. "When the church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick".[20] "The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism."[20]
In Buenos Aires, he called on his priests to evangelize in this way:[21][22]
Our sociologists of religion tell us that the influence of a parish has a radius of six hundred meters. In Buenos Aires there are about two thousand meters between one parish and the next. So I then told the priests: «If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage... These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!... Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.
Criticising overemphasis on sexual morality

In a book-length interview by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti, entitled "El Jesuita," Bergoglio while a cardinal criticised those who reduce the faith to its precepts on sexual morality. He criticizes those homilies "which should be kerygmatic but end up speaking about everything that has a connection with sex. This can be done, this cannot be done. This is wrong, this is not. And so we end up forgetting the treasure of Jesus alive, the treasure of the Holy Spirit present in our hearts, the treasure of a project of Christian life that has many implications that go much further than mere sexual questions. We overlook a very rich catechesis, with the mysteries of the faith, the creed, and we end up concentrating on whether or not to participate in a demonstration against a draft law in favor of the use of condoms."[18] As an example, Bergoglio related a story of a young Priest giving preparing girls for their first communion (generally girls around the age of eight):[23]
What a wonderful opportunity to speak of the beauty of Jesus! But no: before Communion he recalled the conditions to receive: a fasting time, being in God's grace and ... not using birth control! The young girls were all dressed in white and he reproached them about contraception. That is the distortion that sometimes arrives. That's what I mean when I speak of the reduction of the beauty of kerygma to sexual morality.
He does not, however, argue that the Church's sexual precepts can or should be changed. Rather he emphasizes that moral catechesis is not the heart of evangelization:[18]
"I am sincerely convinced that, at the present time, the fundamental choice that the Church must make is not that of diminishing or taking away precepts, of making this or that easier, but of going into the street in search of the people, of knowing persons by name. And not only because going to proclaim the Gospel is its mission, but because if it does not do so it harms itself. It is obvious that if one goes into the street it can also happen that one has an accident, but I prefer a thousand times over an accident-ridden Church to a sick Church."
"After the encounter with Jesus Christ is the reflection, which is the work of catechesis."[24] This involves "reflection on God, Christ and the Church, from which can then be deduced the [Church's moral] principles, religious moral behaviors that are not in contradiction with the human, but give greater fullness."[24]

There is much more to this excellent wikipedia article on Pope Francis' theology, and I recommend it.  The numbers in brackets refer to the footnotes in the article.


In order to understand Pope Francis, it is necessary to understand his theology of Tradition which follows in the footsteps of  St Vincent of Lerins:

Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.
(4) What then will the Catholic Christian do, if a small part of the Church has cut itself off from the communion of the universal Faith? The answer is sure. He will prefer the healthiness of the whole body to the morbid and corrupt limb. But what if some novel contagion try to infect the whole Church, and not merely a tiny part of it? Then he will take care to cleave to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any deceit of novelty. What if in antiquity itself two or three men, or it may be a city, or even a whole province be detected in error? Then he will take the greatest care to prefer the decrees of the ancient General Councils, if there are such, to the irresponsible ignorance of a few men. But what if some error arises regarding which nothing of this sort is to be found? Then he must do his best to compare the opinions of the Fathers and inquire their meaning, provided always that, though they belonged to diverse times and places, they yet continued in the faith and communion of the one Catholic Church; and let them be teachers approved and outstanding. And whatever he shall find to have been held, approved and taught, not by one or two only but by all equally and with one consent, openly, frequently, and persistently, let him take this as to be held by him without the slightest hesitation.
The Vincentian Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins

From Chapter 4 of The Commonitory (aka The Commitorium), AD 434

Eduardo Echeverria in "First Things" sums up some of Francis' ideas:

What does this mean for how Pope Francis understands theology and tradition? A few comments here must suffice.
First, the communion of the Church is the agent of Tradition, that is, of the transmission of revelation, of the normative sources (“origins”) of the faith.
 Secondly, this transmission is about the reality itself of, for example, the sacrament of the Eucharist rather than merely the meaning and judgement about the Eucharist expressed in propositions. Of course the gift of the reality of the Eucharist is inseparable from its intelligible mediation in intellectual propositions as well as fitting language about this reality.

Thirdly, the content of Tradition includes the Church. As Dei Verbum puts it:
The Church in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. This tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities [of salvation history] and the words which have been handed down.
I continue from Eduardo Echeverria in First Things:

In the thought of Pope Francis the Christian life has two dimensions, Tradition and Encounter with Christ.  When they are authentic they are inseparable: a true participation in the life of the Church inevitably brings about an encounter with Christ; and an encounter with Christ, however individualistically interpreted, however even anti-Catholic the context in which such an encounter may happen, inevitably brings the convert into a relationship with the Catholic Church and into participating in the Tradition of the Church.  As Alexei Khomiakov wrote, 

"We know that when any one of us falls he falls alone; but no one is saved alone. He who is saved is saved in the Church, as a member of her, and in unity with all her other members. If any one believes, he is in the communion of faith; if he loves, he is in the communion of love; if he prays, he is in the communion of prayer." 

 This is true of anyone who has been embraced by Christ and who responds, however imperfectly; and Christ is the Good Shepherd who is willing to leave the ninety-nine sheep to look for the sheep that is lost, wherever he may be found. As we have already seen, the Church's essential mission is to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life No one is more insistent than Pope Francis that we must break down any barriers, look in every corner, even those that are normally forgotten and use all our ingenuity to discover new ways of contacting people in order to present them with the Good News of God's Mercy in Christ.  If we come across a barrier - it doesn't matter what kind - then we must do all we can to remove it.

Thus, Tradition, which is handed down from apostolic preaching and includes the experience in Christ down the ages and across the world, is full of ancient wisdom and ever-new encounters.  

Hence a continual effort is necessary, Pope Francis believes, to reconcile the language expressing the eternal truths with the language and circumstances of the constantly new encounters.  It involves “seeking ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness.”  It involves re-telling the ancient truth of the Gospel in such a way as it sheds light on the new encounter.

Pope Francis, as an enthusiast for Vatican II, is a ressourcement theologian and looks to Tradition to find solutions to modern problems.  In the words of Charles Peguy, he is seeking a revolution by going back and digging deep to look for insights among the sources of grace in the Tradition of the Church:
a [true] revolution is a call from a less perfect tradition to a more perfect tradition, a call from a shallower tradition to a deeper tradition, a backing up of tradition, an overtaking of depth, an investigation into deeper sources; in the literal sense of the word, a “re-source.” 
Pope Francis is striving to so interpret Tradition that it will enlighten and not get in the way of our understanding the personal encounters with Christ that inseparably belong to Tradition.  Marcellino d'Ambrosio puts it succinctly:
It is important to note that the ressourcement advocated by these thinkers was not ultimately a work of scholarship but rather a work of religious revitalization. Indeed, in their writings the word “source” only secondarily refers to a historical document; the primary meaning they assign to the term is a fountain-head of dynamic spiritual life which never runs dry.{32} The events and words of Scripture, the rites of the liturgy, the creeds and decrees of the councils, the teaching of the Fathers, Doctors, and great spiritual masters , all of these organs of tradition are, for them, sources inasmuch as they are channels of the one, incomparable Source that is the Mystery of Christ. The ultimate goal of the renewal is not, then, a more accurate historical understanding of Christian origins, but rather, in Congar’s words, “a recentering in the person of Christ and in his paschal mystery.”
Pope Francis has this to say:

Whenever we make the effort to return to the sources [of faith] and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new.
To illustrate this let us imagine a typical new encounter in our time, living as we do in a secular world.  A young girl is brought up in a Catholic family, but by the time she is twenty she has adopted a basically secularist and consumerist attitude to life.  She may be quite moral and decent, but God plays little or no part in her life.  She falls in love with a young man and they marry in the Catholic Church to please her parents who always hope that she will return to the practice of her faith.  It is a happy marriage at first; but, little by little, they move apart and, finally, divorce. Both marry again and, as is often the case, these marriages stick.  They have children by their second marriages and the girl and her new man are very happy.  However, it comes to the time for her two kids to receive first communion.  Moreover, as she attends the preparatory talks for parents, her childhood faith returns with force, and she wants to receive communion with her children.   But she is divorced and has married her second husband in a registry office.

Let us call her parish priest Father Burke.   To him it is a clear case: her first marriage was valid and so, objectively, she is living in adultery.  She cannot receive communion until she and her new "husband" separate or decide to live "as brother and sister".

How does a priest who follows in the footsteps of the pope tackle this problem?  Let us call him Father Francis.  She is living through a moment of grace.  For the first time as an adult her relationship with Christ has become important and real.   How does this new fact of a lived relationship with Christ become "Good News" to her in her new situation, and how is it related to the constant teaching of the Church that Christian marriage is for life?

Father Burke and Father Francis agree wholeheartedly that Christian marriage is a life-long union between a man and a woman and that, while the marriage exists, neither spouse can marry again.

   In spite of Father Burke's understanding of the situation, neither he nor the other priest are calling into question the Church's teaching. However, Father Burke has an essentially legal view of marriage and believes that a change in the law means a change in the teaching, so he doesn't recognise the orthodoxy of Father Francis. On the other hand, Father Francis accepts the same teaching but puts it in a wider context and believes that other factors need to be taken into account before a conclusion is reached.

When Christ meets someone in a personal encounter, he is not holding out a rule book: he is offering mercy and is seeking a relationship with the person, a relationship that is salvation.  Just when this woman is in the process of being offered a relationship with Christ she is presented with Canon Law and is told that, in order to go to communion, she must give up her marital relationship with her husband and place the existence of her family in jeopardy.

Father Francis will seek help from Tradition.  He will know that the source of all the Church's powers is the liturgy celebrated by the local churches (Sacrosanctum Concilium 1, 10), especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.  He will know that, although as a reality, the Mystery of Christ is identical in all times and places, its formulation in words and ceremony differs according to the language, culture and history of each place.  However, he will also know that, in so far as the celebration of the liturgy is a genuine participation in the Mystery of Christ, the formulation and ideas elicited by life in Christ will be fruit of the synergy (harmony in action) between the church and the Holy Spirit.  Thus true Tradition is manifold with a diversity that manifests a unity of faith and a common sharing in the same Mystery of Christ.  This is the context for understanding the Vincentian Canon quoted above.

Father Francis will follow the example of the liturgists after Vatican II who wished to obey the wishes of the council fathers to introduce the epiclesis into the Roman Liturgy, and did so by borrowing texts and ideas from non-Roman traditions.  Remembering the adage, "Where the Eucharist is, there is the Church," he will hunt far and wide for something he can use, even from those apostolic churches which history has separated from us but which continue to have a living tradition based on participation in the Eucharist.  He will find the solution in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, in the distinction between "akribia" and "economia" which allows him to keep the law intact (akribia) while allowing Christ to by-pass the law (economia) to bring the woman and her family into a relationship with him.

When, in Vatican II, we gave up the "perfect society" paradigm as the main key to understanding the Church, and substituted the "Church as communion", we were enabled to recognise man-made societies of Christians like Methodists and Baptists are authentic Christian communities of grace even though they lack some basic requirements for being proper churches. There is a direct parallel between our understanding of the Church and of the family.  If we recognise the Church as a legal society held together by papal jurisdiction is a view that is neither deep enough nor wide enough, so, inevitably, seeing Christian marriage as primarily a legal contract underwitten by God shares the same limitations.   In Orthodox theology, marriage as a legal contract belongs to its secular reality, not to marriage as a sacrament.  Marriage becomes a sacrament when the human relationship is taken up by the Church into an eternal relationship that reflects the life of the Holy Trinity.   Once Christian marriage is seen in terms of communion and relationships, then the relationship between the partners, as well as with their children, in an invalid marriage can be recognised as having a certain Christian reality as well as a human reality which makes it worth preserving in spite of its illegality.

 The family in our example is bringing up its children in the faith, which implies the presence of the Holy Spirit.  If the woman has met Father Francis rather than Father Burke, she will be living an integral Catholic life, going to communion with her children, and nurturing her relationship with the Lord.  Perhaps one day, with the agreement of her partner, they will live as "brother and sister" because the teaching of the Church remains, but it will be in a way that doesn't threaten the stability of the present relationship.  It will be a response to God's mercy, a desire to please God who has done so much for her, rather than an imposition of God's law in the face of all that is good in the second "marriage".

Of course, Father Burke won't understand the situation because hhe believes the definition of marriage in Canon Law says all that is necessary and Father Francis has changed the rules and hence changed the teaching.   The newspapers won't understand the situation because they are they have their own liberal agenda and believe that Father Francis wants to permit divorce, and it isn't about divorce but about the Good News.

The New Evangelisation is dealing with lapsed Christians, people who possess the hardness of heart characteristic of those who have not yet encountered Christ but with all the legal consequences of being Christians.   It is meeting up with all kinds of legal complications and barriers, as well as cultural obstacles.  Another characteristic is that it is primarily concerned with the Good News and that nothing is more important than this, no obstacle too big or too complicated that it cannot be overcome.  Nothing will be allowed to hinder a relationship with Christ nor to obscure the sheer gratuity of God's grace.

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