Pope Francis said Thursday that many sacramental marriages are not valid religiously because couples often do not enter them with the understanding of permanence and commitment, reported Reuters
, and the comment set off a firestorm among conservative Catholics.
The pope made the comments during a question and answer session in Rome while he was addressing the Diocese of Rome's pastoral congress, according to the Catholic News Agency
"We live in a culture of the provisional," Pope Francis said when he was asked about "crisis marriages" and how to teach youth about overcoming their "their resistance, delusions, and fears."
"I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said 'I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.' It's the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life. It's provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say 'yes, for the rest of my life,' but they don't know what they are saying because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don't know."
New York Times
columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic writer, called the pope's comments "an extraordinary, irresponsible and ridiculous claim," according to Reuters. First Things Catholic magazine editor Matthew Schmitz told Reuters that Pope Francis words were "wrong and irresponsible."
U.S. canon lawyer Edward Peters told Reuters that the comments could spur Catholics in difficult marriages to quit trying instead of working through their problems.
"But beyond the arresting scope of the claim that nullity is rampant, there is the debilitating effect that such a view can and doubtless will have on couples in difficult marriage situations," Peters wrote in his blog
that was posted Friday.
"After all, if 'the great majority' of Christian marriages are, as alleged by Francis, already null, then couples struggling in difficult marriages and looking for the bread of spiritual and sacramental encouragement may instead be offered stones of despair — 'your marriage is most likely null, so give up now and save everyone a lot of time and trouble.'"
It's hardly the first time conservatives have clashed with Pope Francis, said The Associated Press
in December. Conservatives have challenged the Pope's efforts to create a more decentralized church, loosening the Vatican's marriage annulment process, and his comments on the environment, noted The AP.
The AP noted the The Remnant, a traditionalist U.S. newspaper, last year called on the pope to resign if he did not change course, charging that he was "causing grave harm to the church."
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