Dear Parishioners and Guests,
Recently Pope Francis was asked what people should do in preparation for his visit to the USA. His answer was simple: Pray for me! A request we should all respond to. He has a great challenge ahead of him as he comes to our country.
Pope Francis readily admits that our world is broken. His writings and his talks speak of the horror of war, the poverty of so many, the struggles within the church, and the scars on mother earth. You would think that he would be weighed down in sorrow. But the opposite is true. He is a joyful person and insists that the joy of the Gospel is the necessary and available antidote to the ills of the world. How simple and profound! He tells us that believers in the Gospel have a special gift to give to all our brothers and sisters. Together we can lift up one another and become a peaceful, healing human community.
I want to share with you a few comments about some of the recent statements he has made regarding marriage and the sacredness of life.
You probably have heard that the Pope has declared a special Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning in December. During this year, the Holy Father has said that priests throughout the world are able to forgive the sin of abortion.
This is not something new for us. I am pleased to tell you that in our diocese – and many dioceses in our country – the Bishops have given us that ability for decades. Ever since I was a young priest, within the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), I have been able to offer the peace and forgiveness of Christ for those involved in abortion. This sacramental event is a wonderful moment of peace and forgiveness.
The Pope has also simplified the process for obtaining an annulment for a marriage that has ended in divorce. One of the stories that has been around is that an annulment is a very expensive process costing thousands of dollars.
In our diocese, there is a fee of less than $500 that helps pay for the administrative costs involved in this process. Pastors have the ability to waive that fee whenever it is a hardship for a person seeking an annulment. I have been able to offer that waiver when needed.
One of the misunderstandings that people have to work through when they seek an annulment is that, if they get an annulment, it means that there was no marriage and that the children of that relationship are considered illegitimate.
There is nothing farther from the truth. Obviously there was a wedding and a marriage and children may have resulted. That fact remains. The annulment process rather looks at the deeper sacramental level of the relationship that has failed and asks whether, because of circumstances, there was something basic missing from the beginning of the relationship.
A few weeks ago in the homily, I spoke of the four basic components of a sacramental marriage: permanence, faithfulness, intimacy and fruitfulness. If one of these are missing, the essence of what makes a marriage a sacrament is absent. That is what the process is all about. By examining a failed marriage, the Church helps people to find healing and peace. Is it hard? Yes! A person is looking back at a difficult part of their life. Is it worth pursuing? Yes! The result allows a person to move forward with their lives and, if they find another partner, to enter into a new sacramental marriage that has all four of the components that make up sacramental marriage.
I look forward to the Pope’s visit. May it be a healing and joy-filled faith event for all residents of our country.
Fr. Paul Demuth