Issue of remarried Catholics is about more than mercy

Dear Editor, It seems from both the pronouncements of Pope Francis and the submissions made to him and the bishops’ synod on defending traditional marriage and family, that there is a real sense that a new dispensation of mercy is on the agenda of this pontificate.

Clerical celibacy might be described as the low-hanging fruit in this new process of aggiornamento and, indeed, there are no doctrinal issues at play here. However, for many commentators, a change of attitude here opens the way for a whole lot of other changes which certainly do have doctrinal implications.

The admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to full communion may seem like an exercise in mercy and an extension of the principle of inclusion, but it is not so simple. The arguments for change cite deserving examples, such as the woman whose marriage was ended by a cruel and faithless husband. Is she not entitled to happiness with a future spouse who shares her understanding of marriage as a life-long commitment?

It is always possible to imagine marginal, hypothetical cases such as this that might just fall short of meeting annulment criteria.

The reality of course is that it is much more likely that the person who wants to re-enter full communion in the Church is the faithless husband himself.

We need to ask how mercy, let alone justice, is served where a woman who was abandoned by her husband, who has remained single, devoting her life to children, sees her Church re-admit to full communion her former husband and his new family?

One may ask is she not expected to forgive, as Christ taught, knowing that no one is beyond the reach of his mercy? Yes, would be the answer if it were not for the fact that there is no turning back of any sort involved here. Rather the contrary with the Church tacitly endorsing an adulterous union.

The question the proponents of change need to answer is: how does the passing of time legitimise something that was plainly wrong when it was committed?


Yours etc.,

Margaret Hickey,


Co. Cork.