He's already known for his worldly wisdom, his promotion of Churchmen with heretical opinions, his avoidance of mail from Cardinals who have fallen out of favour with him, insulting traditional Catholics, clergy and seminarians, creating havoc with Christian doctrine when at 35,000 feet, an enduring cordial relationship with an atheistic journalist who hates the Church, as well as for trashing the legacy of his predecessor who is wheeled out in public glare every now and then to add legitimacy to his pontificate. That's right, reader, the one, the only (apart from Benedict) Pope...
Enjoy Pope Francis's wise and wonderful words to those struggling with issues in their life, the stuff of life, death and everything in between. Feel free to send in your own personal problems that touch on life, marriage, relationships and morality in general. And remember, whatever the issue is, however colourful it is Francis will reply...just not in 'black or white'.
'Dear Pope Francis,I'm a Catholic man of 43, married for four years to a beautiful wife. Together we have four children and have done our best to live the Catholic Faith. For our married life I have been very happy, until recently, when I feel like the 'oomph' has gone out of our love life.
I know that the Catholic Church has always taken sexual morality very seriously but I get the feeling that you are different and open to new ideas and so I seek your advice. I've gleaned this from your many public statements which seem to dismiss the concerns of stuffy Cardinals about matters of sexual morality.
Anyway, there's a woman at work who always takes her coffee break at the same time as I do and she's very beautiful. I get a funny feeling of warmth when I'm with her. I haven't experienced it in a while. I don't know what it is, but there's this real 'connection' I get with her. We share similar interests and I feel that she understands where I'm coming from more than my wife. I've read articles online - though not necessarily on Catholic sites about how having an affair can actually benefit your marriage.
A lot of my friends seem to have affairs, often hooking up with strangers they've met on dating apps and they seem to just carry on, accept it and act as if nothing abnormal has happened. They still carry on with their marriages, apart from one I know who got caught after his wife became suspicious. They're divorced now and I think he is thinking of marrying the new woman. The question I would like to ask you is this: Should I really stick with my wife and remain completely faithful to her - a more difficult choice, I know, or not be so hung up on old values that seem to be going out of fashion nowadays like the need for monogamy and fidelity to one spouse until death?
I greet you cordially in the Lord.
Let us move forward, always forward, never looking back at the past. I always say a Church or a marriage that does not move forward is dead, like something in a museum. We are not a museum! Or a mausoleum!
First, thank you for sharing your story with me. I congratulate you on your marriage to your wife. Four children - how beautiful. It is not five or six children, so I don't have to tell you to exercise responsible parenthood and not veer off into a mindset that could create a warren of rabbits.
I find it very fruitful and I feel in my heart that you are thinking of building a culture of encounter with the woman at work who takes coffee breaks at the same time as you. We must never be afraid of encounter. Or dialogue. Fear of dialogue is not from the Lord, nor a fear of encounter. I say again: Do not fear a culture of encounter. I say: Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Allow me to say it again: Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Unless you are dealing with certain Cardinals with a rigid world view. Rigid priests and Cardinals scare me, you know. They bite! I always tell seminarians: don't be rigid! Little monsters! They go in to the seminary with enchanting thoughts of improving the world but are always at risk of imposing their psychological disturbances on others.
Work is the place where we learn fraternity: Brotherhood, sisterhood. In my heart I feel a great love when I hear this word: fraternity. We care for our common home in a spirit of fraternal sharing. Now we return to dialogue and sharing. Proceed forward, with serenity of mind. One way of building dialogue with the woman at work could be in a spirit of sharing. Another way of promoting dialogue and sharing would be to bring in some Rich Tea biscuits or other biscuit foodstuffs and sharing these with her and, remember what I say, all of your office colleagues. Remember the story of the loaves and fishes. The miracle of sharing!
You could find that the miracle of sharing brings your whole office together in woven bonds of mutual affection and perhaps even outreach to those on the peripheries of your workplace, perhaps even those outside of the workplace, those who until now have not felt included. Never exclude! Never! Always we must welcome the stranger and encounter him or her! If you wanted to go further, you could consider composting tea bags, cultivating a greener, cleaner, more ecological, Laudato Si compliant office space, ensuring that air conditioning is used sparsely, as infrequently as possible.
I would like to share some thoughts with you about family. Sundays are for families. We look at the family and what do we see. We see a place of sharing and love, a place of mercy. Without mercy, your marriage and your family is at risk of becoming closed, rigid, blinkered, unable to see the beautiful horizon and expanse of mercy that is at the heart of the God who became, for us, mercy. Marriage is beautiful, marriage is the home of mercy. Did I mention that it is estimated - I forget where I heard it - that 50% of marriages are invalid?
May I recommend to you a beautiful book - beautiful - I have read it often, especially when I feel doubts or feel I need some inspiration. This book has done me so much good. It is by Cardinal Walter Kasper. It is called 'Mercy: The Essense of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life'. Mercy is the balm, the oil with which we anoint the wounded. I can tell by your letter that you feel wounded. I recommend Cardinal Kasper's serene theology.
Always remember, the name of God is mercy. Mercy for the refugee, mercy for the prisoner, mercy for those who make mistakes, mercy for those who in relationships have experienced woundedness, failure and sadness. I always think that the Church is a field hospital for the wounded. We must treat these wounded individuals with mercy. Always mercy. Mercy, mercy, mercy. Mercy and rigidity cannot go together. They key to the whole of the Gospel, the key to understanding, is mercy. Without mercy, we cannot have fraternity or unity in diversity - diversity of customs, diversity of beliefs and diversity of methods, but always the same unity, but not conformism! I say again: Unity is not conformity! Conformity! What a prison that would be! A prison of joylessness which never encounters mercy, a form of spiritual euthanasia masked by rigidity, but dig, dig beneath the surface and you'll find only dissatisfaction, or something else. Such people often attend the Extraordinary Form, you know.
Finally, I would like to impress upon you the urgent need to focus on these key themes: firstly, fraternity - in which we find communal happiness, each serving the other. Second, dialogue, in which we leave our preconceived obsessions with doctrine and law to one side and - here is the third theme - encounter! Encountering the other! This encounter is always beautiful - it makes my heart feel happy. Your heart will feel happy too. Encountering the other brings us a deep joy. It is in this beautiful culture of encounter that people who are trapped - trapped in a closed, gnostic, self-absorbed neo-promethean pelagian worldview - are set free from rigidity and a dull life of superficial slavery and rigid, scrupulous attachment to laws, finding happiness and lasting fulfillment. All walls must fall! If you would like more information on happiness, please see my guide to happiness which I have posted for you below.'
Yours in the Lord,