What did he do this time?
He supported the permanence of marriage—and, as John Allen suggests, hinted that there are no sweeping changes coming on the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried:
Pope Francis gave his annual address to the judges of the Roman Rota, the Vatican’s main working court, to mark the opening of the judicial year. Most cases the Rota hears involve petitions for annulment of a marriage, and the pope was speaking just ahead of a decision he’s expected to make about whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion, the hot-button issue of all hot-button issues at his two Synods of Bishops on the family. The bottom line is while Francis did not directly address the divorced and remarried, the overall thrust of his remarks seemed to dampen expectations of sweeping change. Here are the highlights from his 1,000-word address:
Francis bluntly insisted that “there can be no confusion between the family willed by God and any other type of union.”
Noting that the Rota has sometimes been called the “tribunal of the family,” Francis said he wanted to reflect on another designation: the “tribunal of the truth of the sacred bond,” meaning the bond of marriage. He said those two aspects of the Rota’s mission are “complementary.”
Francis called the judges to remember that “those who, out of free choice or unhappy circumstances of life, live in an objective state of error, continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and therefore of the Church itself.”
He insisted that the fact that many people today get married without fully understanding Church teaching, and with a weak personal faith, is not in itself grounds for declaring their marriage invalid.
He called on judges to evaluate the sacramentality of marriage “very carefully.”