US bishop would rather give divorced Communion than politicians

An American bishop says the current Church practice of denying Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is unacceptable.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said the challenge for the Church is to maintain and proclaim Jesus’ teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, while providing spiritual care for those who fall short of the ideal.

Referencing Jesus’ upholding his disciple’s picking and eating corn on the Sabbath, contrary to Mosaic law (Mark 2:23-28), Bishop Tobin said this is the starting point for his thinking.

While not denying the validity of the law, Jesus placed it in a “pastoral context,” exempting its enforcement due to the human needs of the moment, Bishop Tobin wrote in his diocesan newspaper.

“Could we not take a similar approach to marriage law today? Could we not say, by way of analogy, that “matrimony is made for man, not man for matrimony’?”

Bishop Tobin said he understood arguments for the status quo.

But he often agonises over the many divorced Catholics who have “dropped-out” of the Church, as well as those who attend Mass every Sunday, sometimes for years, “without receiving the consolation and joy of the Holy Eucharist”.

“And I know that I would much rather give Holy Communion to these long-suffering souls than to pseudo-Catholic politicians who parade up the aisle every Sunday for Holy Communion and then return to their legislative chambers to defy the teachings of the Church by championing same-sex marriage and abortion,” he added.

As a start, Bishop Tobin proposed a simplified annulment process, handled at diocesan level with the oversight of the local bishop, as happens for dispensations for marriages.

He suggested relying on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion.

“And don’t we already offer Holy Communion to other individuals whose relationship with the Church is impaired, such as Orthodox Christians?” he asked.

Bishop Tobin cautioned that any “pastoral approaches” should be adopted by the Universal Church and not attempted at the level of national, diocesan or parish churches.

Meanwhile, in England, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that “the importance of mercy as the path to reconciliation and forgiveness in human relationships and in relationships with the Church will be, I believe, an important and recurring theme in the reflections of the Extraordinary Synod”.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , , ,