Catholic World News

Avoid 'rigorism' on divorce and remarriage, Pope advises family conference

June 16, 2016

Pope Francis tore into priests who refuse to baptize the children of unwed mothers during a June 16 meeting with participants in a Rome conference on the family.

It is "pastoral cruelty" to refuse baptism, the Pope told the group, which was gathered at the basilica of St. John Lateran. 

In answer to a question about the message of his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, the Pope said that the Church should avoid "rigorism" in responding to the pastoral needs of Catholics in irregular marital unions. "The Gospel chooses another way," he said: "welcoming, accompanying, integrating, discerning, without putting our noses in the moral life of other people."

The Pontiff said that the two sessions of the Synod on the Family were intended to help "putting a face to the issues," so that Church leaders would understand the danger of "turning faith into an ideology through nicely landscaped system which ignore grace."

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that the Pope referred to priests who deny baptism as "animals." According to the official Vatican transcript, the Holy Father actually said that these priests treat the children (or, perhaps, the unwed mothers) like "animals." 

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  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 17, 2016 6:59 AM ET USA

    I would like to see the original Italian of the entire section where he called priests "animals" if they refused. Now they should not refuse if the parent(s) are catechized and accept the responsibility to educate the child in the Catholic faith, but calling them "animals" would be at least insensitive and dehumanizing of the ignorant priests.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jun. 17, 2016 5:49 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately, Pope Francis is presenting as increasingly unhinged. These statements "rigorism" are like those of a Rogerian psychotherapist. His trending cannot turn out well.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jun. 17, 2016 2:51 AM ET USA

    Granting that it's uncharitable to refuse to baptize a child because of the circumstances of his birth, the rest of the Pope's reported remarks are disturbing. The rules he appears to disdain are there for our good, to guide our lives toward God. They've been part of Catholic living for ages, but Francis seems to be saying, "Never mind. We can always bend the rules so you don't have to give that part of your life fully to God."

  • Posted by: Travelling - Jun. 17, 2016 2:51 AM ET USA

    This seems very harsh on the priests, who have a duty to ensure that the child receiving baptism is going to be brought up in the faith, he does have a responsibility to discern the family situation if the child and to try to rectify that if there are serious lapses in living the faith.

  • Posted by: David K - Jun. 16, 2016 11:30 PM ET USA

    I have little patience with priests withholding baptism in the circumstances the Pope describes. But I have never heard of or seen such a case. Has anyone else here? And "rigorist" priests are individualist hedonists? I literally have no idea what that means.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jun. 16, 2016 8:47 PM ET USA

    Animals? Another way? But it's not the Gospel way. Our Lord forgave the woman caught in adultery but told her to sin no more. Irregular union has become a euphemism for an objective adulterous union. Following divine law on the indissolubility of marriage is not about "putting the nose" into someone's moral life. Sounds like the Pope has placed himself in the camp of situation ethics. He is BOUND by divine law and the truth. Following this does not make you an animal/or nose in the air.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Jun. 16, 2016 7:58 PM ET USA

    Me thinks the pontiff has created a straw man here. I am unaware of priests who refuse to baptize the babies of unwed mothers if the mothers are parish members intending to raise their children as Catholics.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 16, 2016 7:36 PM ET USA

    I'm kind of wondering who is he to judge that they are animals? We don't have enough information to know if the unwed mothers agreed to raise their children Catholic or not. Unless I am suddenly ignorant, the role of parents and sponsors of infants is to assure the Church that they will be raised Catholic if baptized in the faith. Baptism, like the other sacraments, is not magic. Disposition matters. Faith matters. The promise matters. The priest is not only justified, but bound to be nosey.