Mercy must be exercised in annulment process



While our Church deals with the error of ‘annulments in the internal forum of confession,’ the subject of a March 15 Rhode Island Catholic editorial, our diocesan newspaper must also inform us about the “Exhortation on the Joy of Love” of Pope Francis concerning mercy.

Over 50 years in my priesthood, I have benefited from the ideals found in the teachings in church dogma and the discipline of the sacraments. But along with Dogmatic Theology, there is the discipline of Pastoral Theology and its sister, Moral Theology, as we deal with the broken dreams, sinful failures, matters of a well-formed conscience and the values of spiritual direction. And much of this work is done in the internal forum of Confession and Spiritual Direction, where we deal with so many shades of grey, between black and white of our dogmas. In chapter 8, Pope Francis joins with St. Thomas Aquinas to acknowledge that the ideals of general principles, seen in the public forum, are affected by lived situations where defects are dealt with in the internal forum - in a day to day struggle to reach an ideal that can last a lifetime.

Just as in my early priesthood, I found my way to accept the holy annulment process as something more than Catholic divorce, so also, now, Pope Francis asks me to develop pastoral insight as I administer mercy and forgiveness in the internal forum of spiritual direction and confession as something more than ‘annulment in the confessional.’

Rev. Paul Laporte, Pawtucket