A prominent Irish bishop has defended Pope Francis against some critics within the Church who accuse the Pontiff of causing confusion.
In a series of questions sent to the Pope in September, publicly released last month, four cardinals asked the Pope to clarify what they described as “grave disorientation and great confusion” caused by parts of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
The Pontiff did not respond to the questions, termed dubia or ‘doubts’, which asked whether Amoris Laetitia allows Catholics who have remarried following divorces to receive Communion even if living as man and wife, and whether St John Paul’s teachings regarding absolute moral norms, the objective nature of sin, mitigating circumstances and conscience were still binding.
“The most important thing Pope Francis is saying is that you can’t be anybody else’s conscience,” Elphin’s Bishop Kevin Doran told The Irish Catholic.
“Francis is not saying that there is no good and evil,” he explained. “The Pope can – and does – say very clearly what the Church teaches, and so must every priest, both in and out of the confessional. But not even the Pope, judging from ‘outside’, can say ‘this person is in a state of mortal sin’.”
While couples in second unions could appear to observers to be living together without being married, he said, “In the eyes of God you could have an extremely courageous couple who are seeking, within the context of that relationship, to live in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the Church”.
Individuals within second unions could, in certain circumstances, similarly strive to live by Christ’s teaching, he said, adding, “In the final analysis we can only be responsible for our own personal decisions – we can’t be responsible for other people’s.”
Cautioning against taking snippets of the Pope’s writings or speeches out of context, Dr Doran said “There seem to be an enormous number of people who are selectively reading little bits of what Pope Francis has written, or worse again, they’re reading little bits of what other people have written about what Pope Francis has written, and the thing about it is that he’s very clear about the meaning of marriage.
“People need to take seriously what Pope Francis is saying in the round,” he said.