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Confusion swirls around Pope's phone message on divorce and Communion

Catholic World News - April 24, 2014

Reports that Pope Francis had advised a woman that she should receive Communion, despite a divorce and remarriage, have caused a flurry of corrections and clarifications, including a cautionary note from the Vatican press office.

The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis did indeed place a telephone call to Jaquelina Lisbona, an Argentine woman who had written to ask him questions about her marital situation and her ability to receive Communion. But the Vatican statement emphasized that reports about that conversation “cannot be confirmed as reliable.”

Lisbona—who had initially expressed dismay about the international attention given to the story—told an Argentine radio station that she is not divorced. However her husband, Julio Sabetta, is divorced and remarried. Because their marriage is not recognized by the Church, Lisbona said, her pastor had told her that she is barred from the sacraments.

It was Sabetta, the woman’s husband, who originally broke the story by reporting on his Facebook page that the Pope had told his wife “that she should go to confession and start taking Communion at a different parish.” In his 2nd-hand account of the conversation, Sabetta claimed that the Pope had assured his wife that “a divorced person who goes to Communion is not doing anything wrong.” (In fact, the Church allows divorced Catholics to receive Communion, provided that they do not attempt a 2nd marriage.)

The Vatican press office indicated that it would not comment on the Pope’s telephone call, emphasizing that any such conversations would “not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities.” The Vatican statement added that “consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.”

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Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: spledant7672 - Apr. 25, 2014 3:50 PM ET USA

    Thanks for this. As usual, you guys cut through the confusion to bring clarity to the news.

  • Posted by: rpp - Apr. 25, 2014 1:48 PM ET USA

    I really love Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Posted by: feedback - Apr. 25, 2014 11:18 AM ET USA

    It looks like too many are too easily manipulated by media. In Catholic matters I'd rather trust Pope Francis than the "news" reports.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 25, 2014 7:11 AM ET USA

    We learned very early in this pope's tenure that the press is not to be trusted to record truth.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 24, 2014 9:44 PM ET USA

    This is bothersome in so many ways (again). It's been a year between foot-washings and we have seen the pope turn things upside down, disregarding what has been before. In this case, "... start taking Communion at a different parish" seems to indicate that "she" should go parish shopping to have her way. In all seriousness (and no one likes to say it), is it possible that the years are affecting the pope?

  • Posted by: lak321 - Apr. 24, 2014 9:17 PM ET USA

    I think the Vatican press office did all they could, as Phil Lawler points out in his analysis. The Pope cannot divulge the lady's Private details. The Vatican press said Church teachings are not changing. Beyond that, we dont need to indulge our curiosity.

  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Apr. 24, 2014 5:06 PM ET USA

    Nothing the Pope is quoted as saying contradicts Church teaching; it also does NOT apply to the lady's case. A divorcee MAY receive Communion. Only if she is remarried may she not. Any priest denying Communion or Confession to someone divorced but not remarried is aptly described by the Pope. Whether the lady deliberately misled the Pope about her case or he simply misunderstood it, I don't know. Still, to repeat, NOTHING the Pope is quoted as saying contradicts Church teaching.

  • Posted by: loumiamo7154 - Apr. 24, 2014 10:42 AM ET USA

    The Pope is going to have to explain what he said in this phone call, because it deals directly with the faith. Had the call been devoted to private matters, like the horrors of soccer, the Pope could refuse comment. But anytime he speaks of the faith, it is a matter for the entire Church, even if it occurrred in private. It's amazing that the Vatican thinks it can sweep this under the rug.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Apr. 24, 2014 9:02 AM ET USA

    There appear to be potentially enormous problems with these informal occurrences, whether off the cuff remarks or personal phone conversations. The credibility of the Church and of the papacy are treasures that must be valued and must be valued in constant vigilance always. Perhaps in this case the claims are inaccurate, nonetheless it seems clear that there is a lesson in this. The office transcends the person. The popes and prelates are martyrs, witnesses to enduring truths, selflessly.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Apr. 24, 2014 9:01 AM ET USA

    This story represents perfectly a reoccurring habit of Vatican Press Office's convoluted clarifications - why cannot they just simply say that the Pope DID NOT make such a statement, or deny such phone call, or ... say YES, he said exactly what was reported. No wonder that the confusion reigns ...

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