Cardinal Nichols fears mercy and doctrine clash looming

Britain’s most senior Catholic has said that the Church has forgotten the importance of mercy during the past few decades.

Ahead of next month’s synod on the family, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told a press conference that he grew up in a “Church that understood itself as a Church of sinners”.

“[But] I don’t think it’s been our strong suit in the last 30 years,” he said.

The cardinal said a major challenge is to create a “culture of mercy” in the Church, as called for by Pope Francis.

The cardinal insisted that the Church’s view that marriage is indissoluble would remain a “foundational rock” of its teaching, but said it could not ignore the “frailty of the human reality”.

Cardinal Nichols said the Church must not only recognise the fact that marriages break down, but also the “emergence and celebration of new relationships”.

“The Pope over and over again says we start from the wrong place if we start from an idealised form or vision of marriage,” he said.

“But we start from the reality of two people often who enter marriage with complex wounded histories, who have all sorts of personal dimensions to their lives.”

But Cardinal Nichols said that any move allowing Communion for divorced and remarried couples would require a “radical rethink” on either the indissolubility of marriage or teaching on the Eucharist.

“[S]o I go to this synod intent on listening to what people have to say,” he said.

Cardinal Nichols stressed that a culture of mercy does not dispense with the need for conversion and forgiveness.

The cardinal also said that any marriage which is “truly the place of the conscious, willing acceptance of God’s grace can no more be dissolved than the Eucharist can be returned to bread, because it is the work of God”.

Asked about priests telling unmarried, cohabiting couples they shouldn’t receive Communion, the cardinal made a distinction.

“When a person presents themselves for Holy Communion, the onus, the responsibility for doing so lies with that person,” the cardinal said.

“So as a matter of practice, priests do not refuse to give Holy Communion,” he said.

“Someone who’s entered a second civil marriage has already made a public statement.

“So, in a way, that does put them in a different situation, because they have made a statement on public record of where their life is,” he said.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , , ,