By Michael Swan
TORONTO (CNS) — Cardinal Marc
Ouellet, whose writings were once strongly identified with resistance to any
change to the ban on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics,
has given a ringing endorsement to “Amoris Laetitia,” the apostolic
exhortation by Pope Francis that sums up two synods on the family.
“In all honesty, I think
that controversies around ‘Amoris Laetitia’ are understandable,” Cardinal Ouellet,
head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, told about 2,000 Knights of
Columbus gathered in Toronto for their annual convention.
But Cardinal Oullet said rather
than demand clarifications, his audience should reread the 250-page document
with its 400 footnotes.
“It is a document worth
reading and re-reading slowly,” he said. “Especially Chapter 4 on
As the 2015 Synod of Bishops on
the family approached, Cardinal Ouellet re-published and updated his 2007 book,
“Mystery and Sacrament of Love: A Theology of Marriage and the Family for
the New Evangelization.” The book was a frequent touchstone for those
arguing against any change in church discipline, which regards divorced and
remarried Catholics who did not receive an annulment as living in sin with
their current spouses.
But in his Aug. 2 speech to the
Knights of Columbus, Cardinal Ouellet emphasized that Pope Francis had not
touched Catholic teaching regarding divorce and the indissolubility of marriage.
“What is proposed is a new
pastoral approach,” said the cardinal, in charge of vetting and appointing
bishops around the world. “More patient and respectful, more dialogical.”
opened the way for remarried Catholics and their pastors to engage in “a
responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which
would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all
cases,’ the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be
This idea of discernment before
applying a blanket rule, and the possibility that different bishops in
different parts of the world may come to different conclusions, has moved an
anonymous group of 45 theologians to write a letter to the College of Cardinals
demanding they “respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals”
they perceive in “Amoris Laetitia.”
Cardinal Ouellet’s response was
to raise the possibility that such a process of pastoral discernment might be
good for everybody, not just the divorced and remarried.
“I am confident this
process of discernment will bear fruit for all Christian families,” he
In a speech full of praise for
Pope Francis’ humility and life of prayer, Cardinal Ouellet said he was
grateful for “Amoris Laetitia.” He also praised the pope’s Jesuit
practice of twice daily examinations of conscience and his outreach to the poor
and marginal — especially to prisoners.
“The Holy Father is aware
of his own wounds, mistakes and sins,” said Cardinal Ouellet. “He
approaches those in need who are in jail not from on high, demanding respect,
but asking for forgiveness.”
Pope Francis’ life of prayer
brings him closer to the Holy Spirit, the cardinal said.
“Our own Pope Francis is
also unpredictable, like the Holy Spirit,” he added.
Cardinal Ouellet urged the
Knights of Columbus to engage in dialogue that is “delicate and
respectful, cognizant of our own mistakes.” He also praised the Knights for
their record of service and charity.
“This aspect of charity is
emphasized by the Apostles and Pope Francis,” he said. “Our Holy
Father shows us that charity goes beyond being for people. We must also be with
people, which also will transform us.”
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is associate editor of The Catholic Register, Toronto-based Canadian Catholic
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