The document was approved by Pope Francis on December 13 and posted on the dicastery’s website, as has become customary under new prefect Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández. In it, he comes to the defense of women who “have chosen life,” and urges that they be surrounded by compassion.
“No” to rigorism that turns people away from salvation
The prefect is responding to an email from Bishop Ramón Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera of San Francisco de Macorís in the Dominican Republic. In it, the bishop expressed concern about “single mothers who ‘abstain from communion out of fear of the rigorism of the clergy and community leaders.'”
According to the Vatican leader, the Pope has received other letters indicating that “in some countries, both priests and some lay people prevent mothers who have had a child out of marriage from accessing the sacraments and even from baptizing their children.”
For the Vatican, on the contrary, “Women who, in such a situation, have chosen life and who lead a very complex existence because of this choice should be encouraged to have access to the healing and consoling power of the sacraments.”
Cardinal Fernández reminds us that this position is not new.
It is a Church teaching that the future pope already has spoken passionately about. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis reprimanded “the hypocrites of today” for not allowing these women access to Communion. “They turn God’s people away from salvation,” he denounced.
Cardinal Bergoglio also underlined the courage of these women who have chosen to carry their pregnancies to term in a sometimes hostile environment.
In this vein, the Vatican note invites Catholic communities to “value the fact that single mothers welcomed and defended the gift of the life they carried in their wombs and who struggle, every day, to raise their children.”
Support rather than judge
In this document — which, like its predecessors, adopts a very pastoral tone — the Argentine cardinal asserts that the “central message” of the parable of the adulteress is not the injunction to “sin no more,” but “the invitation to recognize that no one can cast the first stone.”
Thus, if some single mothers, “given the fragility of their situation, sometimes resort to selling their bodies to support their family,” Cardinal Fernández urges us to “help them avoid this very serious risk, rather than judging them harshly.”
In conclusion, the cardinal urges his Dominican confrere to ensure that this “machismo and dictatorial attitudes” of priests who “mistreat the people of God” do not occur in his diocese.