Is Pope Francis Changing Catholic Doctrine?

PopeFrancisIn response to questions that have obvious answers, many have used the rhetorical quip, “Is the Pope Catholic?” as an answer. However, the more we hear from the current Pope, the less this quip has meaning.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis wrote a 264 page paper entitled, “The Joy of Love.” In it, he addressed several “hot button” issues, one of which was how to treat people who have divorced and remarried.

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, a person who divorces and remarries without an annulment granted by the Catholic church, is guilty of living in adultery. (For what the Bible teaches, see Matthew 19:9).

Furthermore, since adultery is a “mortal sin” (a classification of sin within Roman Catholicism that brings about the death of the soul), he is ineligible for the “sacrament of Holy Communion.”

However, Pope Francis’ recent document calls for a far-reaching change in the way the Roman Catholic Church responds to those who are guilty of the mortal sin of adultery.  Concerning those who have been divorced and remarried (without an annulment from the church) Francis wrote:

“the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible…Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practised in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted” (Amoris Laetitia, p.229).

So in spite of the fact that Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that those who are divorced and remarried (without an annulment) are guilty of the mortal sin of adultery, Pope Francis has affirmed there is a place for their participation in the church, and that the current liturgical and institutional framework that prevents their participation can be surmounted.

But wait, he wasn’t done. The change he was proposing is much broader than just with respect to marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  He also stated:

“No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves” (Amoris Laetitia, p. 226).

No one can be condemned forever? Consider the words of the one Pope Francis claims to represent, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment…” (Matthew 25:46). I don’t know how else to interpret this statement than to understand Pope Francis as saying that all men will eventually be reconciled to God — Universalism, and that isn’t very “Roman Catholic.”

I am hopeful that as people grow weary of being tossed to and fro by the waves of fallibility, inconsistency, and contraction of human doctrines, they will decide to drop their anchor in God’s unchanging and infallible word!

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