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BY Jimmy Akin
According to press accounts, Pope Francis phoned a divorced and remarried woman in Argentina and told her that it’s okay for her to receive Communion and that the subject as a whole is being discussed at the Vatican.
What are we to make of this?
The Holy See press office has now issued a statement, as follows (with emphasis added):
STATEMENT OF THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE
Vatican City, 24 April 2014 (VIS) – This morning the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., issued the following statement:
“Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships. Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope's public activities, no information is to be expected from the Holy See Press Office. That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is a source of misunderstanding and confusion. Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences”.
More from Ed Peters HERE.
It now appears that there has been some misreporting in the press.
Among other things, it appears that the woman in question was not divorced, but her civil law husband was, instead.
This still results in an invalid marriage, since she married him civilly
The Holy See has apparently confirmed that the phone call took place, but has thus far refused to go into details about the conversation, stating that it was private.
This leaves us with only the descriptions of the event by the woman and her husband, which are unverifiable.
1) Where can we get the facts on this?
There are several sources, among them:
* This piece in English by Damian Thompson.
* This piece in Italian from La Stampa, which Thompson used.
* This Facebook post in Spanish, which apparently touched off the story.
2) What allegedly happened in this situation?
According to the press accounts, an Argentine woman named Jaqui Lisbona wrote Pope Francis expressing her concern about not being able to receive Communion due to being civilly remarried following a divorce.
Her current marriage has lasted 19 years and resulted in two children.
Pope Francis then called her, told her that the subject was under study at the Vatican, and that it was okay for her to receive Communion.
Her husband, Julio Sabetta, then went on Facebook and announced the news that they’d had a phone call from the pope.
He did not mention the matters of divorce, remarriage, or Communion his post, he merely expressed how moving the experience of talking with the pope was, and in which he thanked God for the blessing.
The subjects of divorce, remarriage, and Communion apparently arose when local press contacted Mr. Sabetta and asked what the topic of conversation was.
3) Is this story true?
Who can say?
If I wanted, I could post on Facebook that I got a call from the pope, and then, when contacted by the press, I could say anything I like.
I could say that the pope told me that I could consecrate the Eucharist even though I’m not a priest, or that, over the phone, he secretly ordained me a bishop, or that the George Noory crowd is correct and the Vatican is in contact with extraterrestrials.
We already know that there are a lot of false rumors about Pope Francis and things he has said and done (that happens with every pope).
With no offense meant to Mr. Sabetta, there are multiple elements that the public has no way to verify: whether such a phone call took place, what the pope said, and whether the pope was correctly understood and represented by Mrs. Lisbona, Mr. Sabetta, and the chain of reporters conveying the story to us.
4) What should our attitude toward this be?
Unless further information is forthcoming from a reliable source (i.e., Pope Francis or someone from the Vatican acting on his instructions), the incident must remain uncertain on every front.
We do know that the question of divorce and remarriage will be discussed at the upcoming Synod of Bishops, however, there are reasons to think that no fundamental change in the Church’s discipline is likely to be forthcoming.
Regardless of what may or may not have happened in the case of Mrs. Lisbona, it provides no basis for other divorced and civilly remarried people to disregard the Church’s practice—which is founded on clear biblical principles in the teaching of Jesus Christ himself.
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