Pope Francis, spiritual leader of a billion people, has just informed them that 'the great majority' of sacramental marriages are invalid because couples don't go into them with the right intentions. He was speaking at a press conference in Rome. Here's the context, from the Catholic News Agency (my emphases):
'I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said "I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years". It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,' he said.
'It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say "yes, for the rest of my life!" but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.'
Uh? You can read the full report here but you won't be much the wiser. The Pope, thinking aloud in the manner of some maverick parish priest after a couple of glasses of wine at dinner, has just told millions of his flock that they are not really married.
Did he mean to say that? What does he really think? What authority do his words carry?
And why should Catholics even have to ask these questions? Francis's off-the-cuff ramblings on matters of extreme pastoral sensitivity are wreaking havoc in the Catholic Church, as I've written here.
Ross Douthat of the New York Times has just tweeted this response:
I suspect that even the Pope's most liberal admirers will have difficulty extricating him from this mess.