Pope Francis recently praised “pastors who have shown a fraternal and attentive acceptance for those who are divorced, had their marriages annulled.” He went onto say that, “Children especially will be damaged if they see their parents kept at a distance from the church”… They are the ones who suffer the most in these situations…How will we be able to recommend to these parents to do their utmost to educate their children in the Christian life, giving them the example of a convinced and practiced faith, if we hold them at a distance from the life of the community, as if they were excommunicated?”
How true! This is my story. As a young girl, I watched as a priest told my mother she could not take part in communion because she was a divorced woman, remarried to a protestant. My mom, in his mind, was an adulteress.
Back in the good old days of Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, my mother would have donned the scarlet “A” on her chest.
“‘People say,’ said another, ‘that the Reverend Master Dimmesdale, her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to his heart that such a scandal has come upon his congregation” (The Scarlet Letter, Chapter II).
As it stood back in the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s, she was wearing one symbolically if not literally.
I saw hypocrisy, but mostly a lack of mercy and grace. This was probably my strongest motive for turning my back on the church. I believed in God, I just didn’t see God in church, so why would I go there?
My mom stood up to one of the priests. She said Jesus forgave the adulteress, caught in the act, so why wasn’t she forgiven? Why shouldn’t she be allowed to take part in communion. The priest had no response. One point for my mom.
On another occasion, she did not fare so well. My last memory of being in church was this: I was sitting with some friends in a pew. My mom was talking to the Priest. She turned around, her eyes red from crying, and said, “Elizabeth”. I stood up immediately, knowing we were not coming back to church again.
Looking back, I know there must have been some priests, who showed mercy and grace.(As there are today.) They just didn’t happen to cross our path.
And, so I wonder that God allowed that experience to happen. It puts me in mind of the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
A good reminder…