With one quick Tuesday statement, the Vatican shot down any ideas among Catholic Church members of remarrying then partaking of Communion absent an annulment — a fire-starter of a pronouncement from a papacy that's been roundly criticized in conservative circles for going soft on gay marriage, abortion and contraception.
The chief doctrine official for the Vatican, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, said in a written statement that Church doctrine does not allow for any divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion unless they first obtain a papal ruling that annuls their first marriage, CBS News reported.
The problem with that doctrine is that is sometimes takes courts at the Vatican years to sift through all the annulment requests. The German diocese of Freiburg set some guidelines to help Catholics bypass the rule, to the Vatican's chagrin.
Archbishop Mueller issued the clarification to put an end to the loophole debate, the Associated Press reported. At the same time, he may have opened another can of criticisms by those who see the Church as watering down other core messages, but not the remarriage issue.
In September, Pope Francis said in a published interview that the Church should not simply focus on abortion, gay marriage and birth control because it will "fall like a house of cards" if it did not embrace other issues.
Some saw those comments as a sign of the Church's softening on key principles, especially since Pope Francis' predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, frequently harped on those three issues. But the pope said he only meant the Church should "talk about them in context" and not "all the time."
The pope also recently ignited talk about those with more conservative beliefs, when he suggested that hard-right mentalities — including fundamentalist Christianity — were signs of mental "illnesses."
Iranian.com quoted his saying on Radio Vatican: "In ideologies there is not Jesus, in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. … And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith – he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought. … The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?"
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