Pope Francis Says Family Separation Can Be A "Moral Necessity" In Cases Of Domestic Abuse And That's Huge
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Catholic Church's open-minded current pope, and recently he gave us one more. Pope Francis now says that a couple splitting up can be "morally necessary," especially in cases of abuse or where the couple's problems are harmful for children. Given the Church's long-standing stance that marriage is sacred and must be preserved at all costs, this is a huge step — one that hopefully will help Catholics who seek help leaving abusive marriages.
It is important to note that the pope did not say that he believes divorce is sometimes necessary, which would certainly be a radical departure from the Church's current belief that marriage is eternal and divorce is a sin. However, there are obviously ways for couples to separate without divorcing, and from the pope's perspective, this can be preferable "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.”
He also said that separation could be justifiable in cases where it is best for the children to spare them from their parents' fighting. “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 while addressing crowds in St. Peter's Square. (Where hopefully all of the babies were happy to see him this time?)
In the view of the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament, a sacred covenant sealed by God; as such, no human being has the right to end the union, not even the people who are in it. However, the Code of Canon Law does allow for couples to separate in cases of abuse and to get a common law divorce, though the Church still considers them married, and thus would not permit them to remarry. Still, the Church's emphasis on the importance of marriage and its permanence discourages many women from seeking help or trying to leave. Pope Francis's insistence that separation is not only possible but sometimes morally right could go a long way to changing attitudes in the Catholic Church that might make sufferers of domestic violence feel trapped.
This policy is in keeping with many of Francis's other gestures towards accepting unconventional family arrangements. Since being anointed, the pope has also married cohabiting couples, welcomed LGBT people into the Church, and endorsed simpler annulment practices.
In his remarks regarding the possible need for some couples to separate, he said, “We find many families in irregular situations around us. And this poses many questions: How can we help them? How can we accompany them?" Those questions are likely something the Church is going to need to keep asking as social norms shift and family arrangements conform less and less the the Catholic model. But it's good to see that the head of the Catholic Church is more interested in asking how to best stand with people than how to force them into a proper mold.
Keep doing what you're doing, Pope Francis!