Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bergoglio and Montini

In an earlier post I noted a similarity between the current Pope and Pope Paul VI. Soon the Holy Father, Pope Francis will decide whether or not to approve communion for the divorced and remarried. The Pope’s decision will come at the end of 2015 or at the beginning of 2016, under pressure of a public opinion that at that point is likely to be almost exclusively expecting a yes.

As I discussed in my book, this is much the same as the pressure for change in the licentious decade of the 1960's, when Paul VI had to decide on the legitimacy of contraceptives, with many theologians, bishops, and cardinals in favor. As is now legendary, in 1968 Paul VI decided against in his encyclical, Humanae vitae, an encyclical that suffered bitter contestation on the part of whole episcopates, and disobedience from countless among the faithful. Always the Pope to do the unforeseen, he will take Paul VI’s encyclical as his frame of reference, as stated in a March 5 interview with Corriere della Sera:

"Everything depends on how 'Humanae Vitae' is interpreted. Paul VI himself, in the end, urged confessors to be very merciful and pay attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to take a stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural restraint, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do."

From Pope Francis one can truly expect anything, so that even that on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried he may in the end make a decision "against the majority": a decision reconfirming as intact the doctrine on indissoluble marriage, although tempered by the mercy of pastors of souls in the face of concrete situations.