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An Appointment that Francis Should Withdraw

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Aug 28, 2014

At his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis lamented divisions in Catholic parishes, so often caused by gossip and other sins of the tongue. He also explained that the unity of the Church has its origins in the unity and communion of the Trinity itself.

But last December he appointed Bishop Nunzio Galantino as General Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference. Which of these things is not like the others?

I’m sure there are plenty of divisions in the Church caused by the kind of pettiness and vanity that create cliques and express themselves in endless gossip. But in my experience over the past forty years, by far the greatest divisions within the Church have been created by bishops and priests who have failed to explain and defend Catholic doctrine. By their verbal contradictions, their administrative policies, and their failure to staff teaching positions with those who think with the Church, such clergy have created the deepest divisions of all.

And now we have this loose cannon, Bishop Nunzio Galantino. In May he raised eyebrows by expressing the hope that Church leaders would “listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.” He also noted, somewhat gratuitously, that he cannot identify “with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary”. Such remarks seem almost deliberately calculated to push the buttons of those who are most deeply committed to Catholic faith and life.

Still worse, this week Bishop Galantino crossed a fairly clear line when he made this comment in anticipation of the Fall Synod on the Family:

Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice. The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination.

This is stunning. Discrimination based on prejudice is always wrong, but discrimination is a good thing whenever it is just. Should the Church not discriminate in the administration of the sacraments between those who profess the Catholic faith and those who do not? Or between those who have rejected the sacramental system and those who accept it? Or between those who have made a public commitment (e.g., invalid marriage after divorce or same-sex marriage) which signals a permanent refusal—rather than a temporary and regretted failure—to accept the Church’s moral law?

Should the Church love so little that she encourages people to eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, so as to be “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27)?

Note that such persons are not barred from communion based on prejudice. They are, in fact, free to receive communion once they confess their sin and receive absolution. But every absolution requires an ecclesiastical judgment of a firm purpose of amendment—a purpose which by its very nature does not exist if the “irregular matrimonial situation” remains unchanged. The same rules apply to all Catholics, and for all grave sins.

Now, do not Churchmen who misrepresent, deny or complain about Catholic teaching foment division? Should the members of the Church be unconcerned about these remarks? Should they not rather give voice to their concern? Once again, more disunity has been caused in the Body of Christ by exactly this sort of episcopal failure than by any other single factor in my lifetime.

Bishop Galantino has only a temporary appointment as Secretary General, which is a blessing. The Italian Episcopal Conference is transitioning to electing its own leaders as other conferences do. But Pope Francis ought to take responsibility for his mistake and correct it. Otherwise, divisive discussion will be justified, which is the last thing the Pope could possibly want.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: ZIP5DO@aol.com - Aug. 29, 2014 7:12 PM ET USA

    This bishop has more than crossed a line. He should be publicly reprimanded and relieved. I will believe it when I see it. This is why their is so much division. Leaders who are worse than the devil as they are the wolves in sheep's clothing.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 29, 2014 8:14 AM ET USA

    The upcoming synod is an event at which- if preliminary remarks mean anything at all- some prelates will be active and hopeful for change. This is not the first prelate considered "hand-picked" or otherwise close to the Holy Father who has come out with disturbing statements. In recent weeks Pope St. Pius X has been memorialized as the centenary of his death approached. Despite the personalities and styles of each pontiff the integrity of the Faith must always be defended with love for souls.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Aug. 28, 2014 8:51 PM ET USA

    Can the Pope alone be responsible for this appointment? I am sure he is advised on such matters. Now what he should do is sack his advisers and this mistake who wears a miter.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Aug. 28, 2014 4:13 PM ET USA

    Thank you. This disaster with a miter cannot be told to leave the scene fast enough. Whatever could the pope have been thinking about when he appointed HIM?

  • Posted by: the.dymeks9646 - Aug. 28, 2014 3:59 PM ET USA

    I think the Pope means well. All the raised eyebrows in my parish and I guess you can call it gossip, pertains to exactly what you pointed out - dismay at the lack of discussion and understanding of our own catechism to the point of ignoring it. The silver lining in all this though is that I get to forgive them for their trespasses.

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