“I’m sticking with Jesus”


Is anyone else finding it relevant that as the Church leadership discusses rules on divorce and remarriage, contraception, homosexuality and other family issues, the daily readings from Galatians, in which Paul rails against the congregation for falling for false prophets who undercut the power of the gospel of grace by insisting that followers have to obey the law in full? No? Just me?

Last week, talking about the synod, Cardinal Pell of Australia told the press that on divorce, “I’m sticking with Jesus.”

Well. It’s true that in Mark 10:11-12, Jesus says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

But in Matthew 19:9, Jesus throws in a caveat: in cases of unchastity, it appears, remarriage isn’t adultery.

And in John 8, Jesus is asked what to do with a woman caught in adultery. His response, as you know, is to challenge he who is without sin to cast the first stone. And when nobody dares, He tells her to “go and from now on do not sin any more.” No big penitential rite. No paperwork. Just go, do better.

But I think rather than argue over which of those versions “counts,” Pope Francis would rather focus on a couple other stories: in John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman (the conversation itself breaking cultural norms), asking for water from her and telling her “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” And only after she begs him for this living water does he raise the issue of her five husbands. And then, he does so with the effect, not that she goes and gets four annulments, but that she recognizes him as a prophet, runs into town, and tells everyone she sees to come see this prophet, with a result that many Samaritans in the town become believers.

Maybe the question we should be asking about Church teaching is, does it have this kind of result? Or does it get in the way of spreading the gospel?

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