December 29, 2014

Does the media hype overstate the propensity of Pope Francis to revisit some formerly rigid positions? Some of the suggested cage-rattlings are obviously sensationalist.

But his refreshing overtures towards the Orthodox Church are most encouraging, as is his decision to allow Eastern Catholic churches to ordain married men.

Perhaps he may also have a more welcoming attitude than some high-ranking officials have had to former Catholics returning home, after having spent much of their lives believing they were good Catholic priests under an Anglican jurisdiction that professed the Catholic faith and lovingly celebrated a traditional Catholic liturgy.

Actually, Pope Benedict, who is often unfavourably compared to his apparently more popular successor, had prepared the way for lovingly welcoming – and welcoming back – all those who wished to come home to the fullness of the Catholic Church.

Those former Roman Catholics who, whether out of traditionalist devotion or for whatever mistaken thinking, had long ago been ordained in the Anglican Communion, would only have needed dispensation from the canonical impediment they had incurred.

But those entrusted with facilitating the reconciliation of these "prodigal sons" had nothing but stiff hostility to offer, quite at variance with the warm, open and merciful provisions of the Holy Father himself.

Indeed, those of us who have returned, at the cost of losing what was the most precious part of our identity and vocation, have experienced nothing but unfriendliness and hostility. Returning home has felt more like experiencing a new excommunication.

At the end of a long life, one had to give up on any hope for a sense of being "welcomed home." One had to accept irreversible condemnation and isolation.

Would Pope Francis want to revisit this situation as well and apply some humanity, not to speak of Christian forgiveness and a welcoming, forgiving love?

Ernest Skublics