MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE. THE GENERAL OF THE JESUITS: « JESUS TOO MUST BE REINTERPRETED«
Incredible but true. In the eighth chapter of « Amoris Laetitia,” the most heated and controversial, the one in which Pope Francis seems to “open up” to remarriage while the previous spouse is still alive, there is no citation at all of the words of Jesus on marriage and divorce, presented primarily in chapter 19 of the Gospel according to Matthew:
«Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”»
It is an astonishing omission. Also striking are two other moments of silence from Francis, on the same question.
The first took place on October 4, 2015. It was the Sunday of the beginning of the second and final session of the synod on the family. And on that very day, in all the Catholic churches of the Latin rite, at Mass, the Gospel passage read was from Mark (10:2-9), parallel to the one in Matthew 19:2-12.
At the Angelus, the pope avoided any reference to that passage of the Gospel, in spite of its extraordinary pertinence to the questions discussed at the synod.
And the same thing happened last February 12, with another similar passage from the Gospel of Matthew (5:11-12) read at Mass in all the churches. This time as well, at the Angelus, Francis avoided citing and commenting on it.
Why such adamant silence from the pope on words of Jesus that are so unequivocal?
One clue toward a response is in the interview that the new superior general of the Society of Jesus, the Venezuelan Arturo Sosa Abascal, very close to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has given to the Swiss vaticanista Giuseppe Rusconi for the blog Rossoporpora and for the « Giornale del Popolo » of Lugano.
Here are the passages most relevant to the case. Any commentary would be superfluous.
Q: Cardinal Gerhard L. Műller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, has said with regard to marriage that the words of Jesus are very clear and « no power in heaven and on earth, neither an angel nor the pope, neither a council nor a law of the bishops has the faculty to modify them. »
A: So then, there would have to be a lot of reflection on what Jesus really said. At that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words. What is known is that the words of Jesus must be contextualized, they are expressed in a language, in a specific setting, they are addressed to someone in particular.
Q: But if all the worlds of Jesus must be examined and brought back to their historical context, they do not have an absolute value.
A: Over the last century in the Church there has been a great blossoming of studies that seek to understand exactly what Jesus meant to say… That is not relativism, but attests that the word is relative, the Gospel is written by human beings, it is accepted by the Church which is made up of human persons… So it is true that no one can change the word of Jesus, but one must know what it was!
Q: Is it also possible to question the statement in Matthew 19:3-6: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”?
A: I go along with what Pope Francis says. One does not bring into doubt, one brings into discernment. . .
Q: But discernment is evaluation, it is choosing among different options. There is no longer an obligation to follow just one interpretation. . .
A: No, the obligation is still there, but to follow the result of discernment.
Q: However, the final decision is based on a judgment relative to different hypotheses. So it also takes into consideration the hypothesis that the phrase “let man not put asunder…” is not exactly as it appears. In short, it brings the word of Jesus into doubt.
A: Not the word of Jesus, but the word of Jesus as we have interpreted it. Discernment does not select among different hypotheses but listens to the Holy Spirit, who – as Jesus has promised – helps us to understand the signs of God’s presence in human history.
Q: But discern how?
A: Pope Francis does discernment following St. Ignatius, like the whole Society of Jesus: one has to seek and find, St. Ignatius said, the will of God. It is not a frivolous search. Discernment leads to a decision: one must not only evaluate, but decide.
Q: And who must decide?
A: The Church has always reiterated the priority of personal conscience.
Q: So if conscience, after discernment, tells me that I can receive communion even if the norm does not provide for it…
A: The Church has developed over the centuries, it is not a piece of reinforced concrete. It was born, it has learned, it has changed. This is why the ecumenical councils are held, to try to bring developments of doctrine into focus. Doctrine is a word that I don’t like very much, it brings with it the image of the hardness of stone. Instead the human reality is much more nuanced, it is never black or white, it is in continual development.
Q: I seem to understand that for you there is a priority for the practice of the discernment of doctrine.
A: Yes, but doctrine is part of discernment. True discernment cannot dispense with doctrine.
Q: But it can reach conclusions different from doctrine.
A: That is so, because doctrine does not replace discernment, nor does it the Holy Spirit.
Properly speaking, there are Catholic exegetes who give the words of Jesus on marriage and divorce an interpretation that admits repudiation and remarriage.
This is the case of the Camaldolese monk Guido Innocenzo Gargano, a famous biblicist and patrologist, professor at the pontifical universities Gregoriana and Urbaniana.
His exegesis was presented in its entirety by http://www.chiesa on January 16, 2015:
It is an exegesis that naturally cannot be shared and has in fact been contested at its core.
But it has the virtue of transparency and of “parresìa,” which instead are missing in those who change the words of Jesus without doing so openly and without giving a reason.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)