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Pope Francis waves before delivering his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The debate that shouldn’t be happening

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

As a Catholic Christian who has experienced the pain of divorce I follow – with more-than-occasional annoyance – the ongoing debate that surrounds Pope Francis’ recent pronouncements on marriage, coupled with the response from so-called conservative lay and ordained commenters.

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a story saying that a formal schism may be brewing within the Catholic Church because of what are perceived as Francis’ divisive statements on a host of topics, most recently the language he used in his papal statement known as Amoris Laetitia, which appeared to offer some wiggle room for Catholics who were divorced, then remarried in civil ceremonies, and who want to receive the Eucharist even though church law strictly forbids it.

In February I marked the 10th anniversary of my divorce. Not long after I got it I told a priest/friend that I hoped to remarry someday. He offered an unnerving, unwanted, annoying one-word response: “Perhaps.” Ten years later I’m beginning to think he was correct.

I tried online dating, but I have had enough of meaningless profiles and one-and-done dates with women who were simply not conversant with their faith. I’m comfortable with the awareness that marriage probably won’t happen because I have tried, and still do, to surrender that desire to Jesus and let him decide what becomes of it. “Not my will but yours be done.”

Surrender is the one word I haven’t read during the stream of seemingly never-ending articles about Francis. One side talks about compassion and cutting people some slack, while the other side talks about obeying the rules that the church has spent 2,000 years discerning, writing and defending.

But nobody talks about surrender. Nobody talks about asking God to place his law within us and write it on our hearts. And, God forbid, nobody talks about possibly being wrong.

Neither side in this absurd debate wants God to get involved in it. Each side talks to itself, not the other side, because neither side is listening. And because each side can justify its position theologically and philosophically there is no perceived reason to listen to the other side because both sides think they already know God’s will.

The debate has thus become something that neither side wants and neither side will confess: An avenue by which we wind up farther away from God than when we first began.

By trying to defend their view of the faith, both sides are actually killing the faith, not only for themselves but also for all those who, like me, can only read their words and weep.

All God’s blessings – Mark

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and a non-denominational prayer community and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal Sate Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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  • Matthew Sewell

    Mark – This was incredibly poignant and spot-on. As someone who also just went through a divorce, I can’t help but agree! I love Francis, and continually am shaking my head about the sometimes-merciless banter back and forth that ultimately draws no one closer to the Lord.

    I wrote this piece at the NC Register a few weeks back on Francis — somewhat related to what you’re saying. I hope you enjoy it! http://www.ncregister.com/blog/msewell/pope-francis-high-horses

  • Neal Schindler

    Sorry to hear about the divorce, Matthew. I hope you’re doing all right.

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