Beliefs Culture Institutions

Pope: Marital separation can be ‘morally necessary’ to protect kids

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-DIVORCE, originally transmitted on June 24, 2015.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-DIVORCE, originally transmitted on June 24, 2015.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-DIVORCE, originally transmitted on June 24, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis said Wednesday (June 24) that there are times when it is “morally necessary” for couples to separate, as part of the pontiff’s broader reflection on how to protect children from quarreling parents.

Speaking to crowds in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said that in some cases “separation is inevitable” and “can even become morally necessary” at times.

The pontiff was clear in specifying the extreme cases in which he saw family breakdown as justifiable: “when it comes to saving the weaker spouse, or young children, from more serious injuries caused by intimidation and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by lack of involvement and indifference.”

His comments came as part of a wide reflection on conflicts within families — “the most ugly thing!” — during which he focused on the lifelong damage wrought on children whose parents fight.

“When the father and mother harm each other, children’s souls suffer greatly, feeling a sense of desperation. And they are wounds that leave a lifelong mark,” the pope said.

Francis warned parents that showering their children with gifts to apologize for their quarreling would not solve their problems and risked further harming the family. “The more one looks to compensate with presents and candy, the more the sense of injury is lost — more painful and deeply — to the soul,” he said.

The pope called on Catholics to recognize families suffering from internal strife and offer support: “We find many families in irregular situations around us. And this poses many questions: How can we help them? How can we accompany them? How can we accompany them so the children do not become hostages to their father or mother?”

The questions posed by the pontiff come as part of the Catholic Church’s broader reflection on the modern-day family, with heated debate over how the Vatican should respond, to divorcees and gay couples in particular.

The Holy See on Tuesday released a lengthy document on the family, collating Catholics’ views on the topic after a high-profile meeting of leading church officials last fall.

Although the paper touches upon the possibility of opening Communion to divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the church, the issue will likely be the subject of further heated debate at the next such meeting — known as a synod — in October.

The working document firmly rejects welcoming gay couples into the church, suggesting there will be little change in the Vatican’s position on same-sex unions.

LM/MG END SCAMMELL

About the author

Rosie Scammell

Rosie Scammell is a British journalist with extensive experience reporting for leading international news organizations. She has been based in Italy since 2012 and covers the Vatican for RNS.

10 Comments

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  • A person using the name Jerry has regularly been posting rude, insulting, and sexist comments on RNS articles. Most of his comments are being removed and/or have been cited as abusive. If you see more of his comments here in the same vein, I encourage you to click the report abuse link. I doubt that Jerry has the fortitude to make a real apology or to change his ways.

  • The vatican acknowledges domestic abuse happens!!

    They are a bit late to that party. Thanks for nothing. The church’s arbitrary notions of marriage and its dissolution have been enabling abuse and violence for many many generations.

  • Again, another ignorant and baseless attack by that inmate, Larry. Yet we must patronize him so he doesn’t go completely batsh*t…

  • JR, I think a fair comparison of your post and Larry’s clearly points to you being the more crazy and attacking one. By several miles.

  • Terry, Larry has a one sided view of these things, and that is from a secular perspective. Marriages traverse many rough roads, but those struggles oftentimes bring couples closer. Others flee when the going gets tough. The Christian position is to sacrifice as much as can be withstood before separation, as the separation does more damage to the children, than staying together. How many children who have been brought up in broken families, see their own families break up, as they have not understood sacrifice, and on and on it goes. “Through sickness and in health, through good times and in bad…” Those words are supposed to mean something.

  • Your position is to make generalized pronouncements of the state of all marriages without a hint of insight. All to support a categorical and arbitrary rule concerning marriage.

    What kind of arrogance, ignorance and delusions of omniscience does it take to say in all situations staying married is a good thing.

    It’s exactly this sort of nonsense which enables abuse within a household. How many spouses and children do you turn a blind eye to because you think their marriage is more important than the abuse they endure? All because you are too lazy and arrogant to ever consider anything beyond a blanket arbitrary rule divorced of context.

    Some marriages deserve to fail. Some must for the sake of its members. Stop promoting abuse.

  • Two things: First, the Pope is not saying anything new. What he said here has long been in the Catechism. Second, separation is not divorce. There is no such thing as divorce among Christians. A Christian marriage can only be dissolved by death, and if anyone pretends to divorce and take a new spouse while the first still lives, the same commits adultery in full view of the public. Such a sinner is not to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper unless he or she first renounces the sham marriage and either separates from the paramour or promises to live as brother and sister. If, however, the lawful spouse has since died, the two are free to marry, though they must still confess their previous adultery and be married in Christ, else they will stand guilty of fornication. The bed undefiled in marriage is honorable above all, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

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