PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Based on the pope’s pastoral approach to change in the Catholic church, a St. Joseph’s University theology professor suggests Francis may act quickly on some of the proposed reforms from the just-completed synod on the family in Rome.
Vatican observers say the synod exposed divisions among top church leaders over the approach to such issues as communion for Catholics who are divorced or those remarried outside the church. But theology professor William Madges suggests Francis – who has the ultimate authority by virtue of his office – is a pope committed to walking the walk of mercy and forgiveness.
“And, as I would suspect, probably within the next, let’s say half year, probably issue what’s called an ‘apostolic exhortation’ so a document where he would sum up from his perspective what’s the direction of the church after this synod.”
Madges says the pope may have telegraphed his intent to cardinals and bishops during the final days of the meeting.
“He reminded them that namely the true upholders of doctrine are not those who uphold simply the letter of doctrine, but those who uphold the spirit,” he says, “And, he said we have to think of people first, not ideas and formula and repeated several times the kind of the command from Jesus to approach people with mercy and forgiveness.”
And, while treading a fine line upholding core church doctrine, Madges says it’s clear Francis will seek a way to reach out to people and try to re-engage them in the life of the Catholic church.