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Pope stirs debate by inviting divorced woman to receive Communion

Pope Francis Delivers his Christmas Message

(CNN) — Pope Francis called an Argentine woman married to a divorced man and reportedly told her that she could receive the sacrament of Communion, according to the woman’s husband, in an apparent contradiction of Catholic law.

Julio Sabetta, from San Lorenzo in the Pope’s home country, said his wife, Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona, spoke with Francis on Monday.

Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona wrote to the pontiff in September to ask for clarification on the Communion issue, according to her husband, who said his divorced status had prevented her from receiving the sacrament.

“She spoke with the Pope, and he said she was absolved of all sins and she could go and get the Holy Communion because she was not doing anything wrong,” Sabetta told Channel 3 Rosario, a CNN affiliate.

A Vatican spokesman confirmed the telephone call but would not comment on the conversation’s content.

“It’s between the Pope and the woman,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.

Rosica said that any comments made by the Pope should not be construed as a change in church doctrine. “The magisterium of the church is not defined by personal phone calls.”

The Pope told Jacqueline Sabetta that the Vatican would be discussing its Communion restrictions, according to her husband.

Pope Francis and other top Vatican leaders have said the issue will be discussed at a gathering of bishops from around the world in October. The Pope was not pre-empting that debate, according to Rosica.

“To draw any conclusions about this particular situation, that the Pope may be setting an agenda, is incorrect,” he said. “The Pope is first and foremost an esteemed pastor, and dealing with a human situation is always complex.”

However, Pope Francis has signaled that some sort of change could be on the horizon.

“I think this is the moment for mercy,” the Pope said in July when asked about divorced and remarried Catholics.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reaffirmed church teaching in October that divorced and remarried Catholics may not receive Communion without an annulment.

Muller’s clarification came after some German bishops planned to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

The issue of divorced Catholics receiving Communion forms a complex and controversial area of church law.

According to the church’s catechism, “The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.”

Canon law further says, “If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.”

However, the church does allow divorced Catholics who obtain annulments or do not remarry to receive Communion.

Church leaders like Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a close confidant of Pope Francis’, have suggested that the church cannot change its laws but could streamline the annulment process, which can sometimes drag on for years.

Jacqueline Sabetta Lisbona told La Red AM910 in Buenos Aires that her husband, not she, has been divorced. But it makes little difference in church law.

Sabetta said he and his wife have been married for 19 years and have two children.

“I’m very happy, because I’m not the only one divorced. There are a lot of people who are divorced, and I hope that … that it happens for all divorced people and all those who want to get the Holy Communion,” Sabetta told Channel 3 Rosario.

CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Cindy Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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9 comments

  • Vasu Murti

    “According to the church’s catechism, ‘The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.’”

    “Canon law further says, ‘If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.’”

    Not just Jesus. The apostle Paul, whose epistles served as the basis for the entire Protestant Reformation, did not permit divorce, either.

    The apostle Paul taught his followers to bless their persecutors and not curse them (Romans 12:14), to care for their enemies by providing them with food and drink (12:20), and to pay their taxes and obey all earthly governments (13:1-7). He mentioned giving all his belongings to feed the hungry (I Corinthians 13:3), and taught giving to the person in need (Ephesians 4:23). He told his followers it was wrong to take their conflicts before non-Christian courts rather than before the saints. (I Corinthians 6:1)

    The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians Chapter 7:

    “It is good for a man not to touch a woman, but because of prevailing immoralities, let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband.

    “The husband must render to his wife the obligations that are due her, and similarly the wife to her husband…

    “Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a time to devote yourselves unhindered by prayer; and come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you on account of your lack of self-control.”

    (The apostle Paul’s words here suggest regulated or restricted sexual activity, even within marriage!)

    “I say this by way of concession, not as a regulation. I wish all were as I am (celibate), but each person has his own gift from God, the one in this direction, the other in that.

    “To the single and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain as I am (celibate); but if they cannot restrain their passions, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be consumed by passion.

    “To the married couples I command — not really I but the Lord — that the wife must not leave her husband; and in case she does separate, she must either stay single or make up with her husband. And the husband must not divorce his wife.

    “…if the unbeliever wants to separate, let there be separation…”

    (Jesus forbade divorce, except in the case of unfaithfulness. And here we see Paul forbidding divorce, except in the case of an unbeliever demanding separation!)

    “Regarding the unmarried I have no divine injunction, but as one who has received mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy, I give my opinion… it is good for a person to remain in his present situation.

    “Are you united to a wife? do not seek release. Are you unattached to a woman? Do not seek a wife. But in case you marry, you do not sin; nor does the unmarried woman sin if she marries…

    “The single person is concerned with the Lord’s affairs, how to please the Lord, but the married person is concerned with things of the world, how to please his wife; he has divided interests.

    “The unmarried woman or the virgin is interested in the Lord’s affairs, that she may be dedicated to Him in body and spirit; but the married woman is concerned with things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

    “I mention this for your own good, not to throw a rope around you but to promote proper behavior and undisturbed devotion to the Lord.”

    Paul repeatedly attacked sexual immorality.

    “This is God’s will—your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality, that each of you learn how to take his own wife in purity and honor, not in lustful passion like the gentiles who have no knowledge of God.” (I Thessalonians 4:3-5)

    Paul told his followers not to associate with sexually immoral people (I Corinthians 5:9-12, 6:15,18). He condemned homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27) and incest (I Corinthians 5:1).

    “Make no mistake,” warned Paul, “no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10 [NEB])

    Paul condemned wickedness, immorality, depravity, greed, murder, quarreling, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, insolence, pride (Romans 1:29-30), drunkenness, carousing, debauchery, jealousy (Romans 13:13), sensuality, magic arts, animosities, bad temper, selfishness, dissensions, envy (Galatians 5:19-21; greediness (Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), foul speech, anger, clamor, abusive language, malice (Ephesians 4:29-32), dishonesty (Colossians 3:13), materialism (I Timothy 6:6-11), conceit, avarice, boasting and treachery. (II Timothy 3:2-4)

    Paul told the gentiles to train themselves for godliness, to practice self-control and lead upright, godly lives (Galatians 5:23; I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:11-12). He instructed them to ALWAYS pray constantly. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

    Paul praised love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, fidelity and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). He told his followers to conduct themselves with humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2), to speak to one another in psalms and hymns; to sing heartily and make music to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)

    Paul wrote further that women should cover their heads while worshiping, and that long hair on males is dishonorable. (I Corinthians 11:5-14)

    According to Paul, Christian women are to dress modestly and prudently, and are not to be adorned with braided hair, gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (I Timothy 2:9)

    The late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland (1933 – 2007), author of God’s Covenant with Animals (it’s available through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA) says Paul was very strict with himself:

    “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (I Corinthians 9:27)

    Regina Hyland said this verse indicates it’s possible for one to lose one’s salvation: a serious point of contention among born again Christians!

    • Richard

      I would challenge that the Epistles of Paul, which the Catholic Church selected to be included in the Bible and declared the Word of God in the 300s, “served as the basis for the entire Protestant Reformation.” Paul’s Epistles fully support the teaching of the Catholic Church. In any case, a second hand account of what was said during a confession is hardly newsworthy. If you are a Catholic absolved of all mortal sins you can receive Holy Communion.

  • MizViv

    I’d love to see the statistics on the frequency with which the Church denies annulments. From the outside it sometimes seems that if you’ve gotten a divorce, you must not have had a “real” marriage and therefore you can get an annulment, so basically they are rubber-stamping the divorce. Is this the case?

    • Gene

      go to usccb.org/laity/marriage/separated.shtml i think it is about 1/3 of the applications are granted annuled

  • pastorcynthia

    I don’t get. It’s ok for this religion to sexually offend childen, and violate their innocence, and mess them up for the rest of their life, but it is not ok for a divorced woman to take communion. Which of the two are better? Neither. Sexually Immorality is worse than divorced woman taking communion. Both are sin, but one is iniquity, because divorces are not a consistant thing in a person life, but sexually immoral is. Be cause it is done many times before it manifests.
    Now the pope is making a nother pope holy. God will never honor that man no matter who says a sexually imoral man is still holy. Holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. What is their definition of Holiness? Surely it is not the same as the Holiness of God.

    • Richard

      The Church follows the words of Jesus regarding taking communion. When the president is awarding a medal of honor, the president is not making the man a hero. Likewise the Pope does not make anyone holy, he is acknowledging a person’s holiness.

    • Jane cormier

      No one said,that I know ,it is ok for priest or any one else to molest children. If anyone in the church, did say such and harmful action was ok,he is going against the teaching of our Lord and savior Jesus and the Catholic Church teaching

  • Jane cormier

    I am sorry to say, our Pope Frances , can not absolve a sin that is ongoing ,in my live or anyone else. Jesus did not die on the cross for us to remain in our disordered behavior, called sin. Jesus died to give us conversion. Conversion means to be changes in our hearts and mind by the gift of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit Who lives within us, and Is our teacher From within. That is the mercy Jesus died and rose to freely give us. Letting one remain in their sin, in darkness, by saying that what God has declared in his word to be harmful to us (sin) . Now
    Is declared to be ok. That is not mercy,that is the voice of a wolf in sheeps clothing. I can not believe our Holy Father said what the women reported. Jane cormier

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