Yesterday Catholic News Agency posted a piece by Kevin Jones and Ann Schneible entitled "No Scandal Here: How The 20 Couples Married By Pope Francis Were Legit". Right there in the title can be seen a hint of the problem. In all the reading I've done on this matter, I don't recall anyone casting doubt on the canonical legitimacy of what happened this past Sunday at St. Peter's Bascilica.
Possible sacrilege is another matter - one that is receiving too little attention. The Sacrament of Matrimony, being a sacrament of the living, must be received in a state of sanctifying grace. Else sacrilege will occur. All reports indicate that at least a few couples were "CURRENTLY cohabitating": not "WERE cohabitating" but "CURRENTLY".
Now bear in mind these couples were selected by the Vatican for this Sunday ceremony. Why were "CURRENTLY cohabitating" couples selected? I asked a number of questions in a post Friday that I won't rehash here; please read the post and "Leon's" comment. That comment is most telling in terms of marriage preparation in US parishes at least. In a post on Saturday, I tried to reply to Leon as well as rehearse the preparation for my own First Confession. I used those Baltimore Catechism questions to illustrate concerns as to whether those 20 couples were given ample time and teaching to avail themselves of that Sacrament, and to understand why fornication is mortally sinful.
Let's move back to the CNA article. John Grabowski, a theology professor at Catholic University of America, had this to say about the Holy Father's approach: "What he wants to do is simply put the Church’s focus on mercy, on an encounter with Christ as the heart of its life."
"Put the Church's focus on mercy"??!?! Odd! Since when has the Church not focused on mercy? No need to put focus on something if that focus is already there (and has been for two thousand years). I will now link to an excellent piece written by Msgr Charles Pope (ht LifeSiteNews) regarding the mortal sin of fornication, which would have been the sin of those cohabitating. One sentence is key, with this "focus on mercy". It is "Mercy is accessed only by repentance". It's toward the end of the article but the rest is very worthwhile. If we're really going to "focus on mercy" there must be focus on the Sacrament of Confession, for only therein is forgiveness for mortal sin.
As I said in one of the previous posts, I know priests who make plain in their bulletins that any couples seeking marriage in their churches while living together will be required to separate. Will the efforts of these good priests now be undermined by what happened Sunday? While I hope not, I think so.