While the word “love” in general is mentioned no less than 185 times in the Bible, the specific phrase “Love your neighbor…” is therein found in no less than 26 places. The conclusion is rather obvious: Loving one’s neighbors – people as a whole, irrespective of race, color and creed – is a fundamental and wherefore a well-embracing mandate for everybody to know and obey. The injunction is not only relevant but also necessary. Why? The gross violation of loving one’s neighbor is eventually the root cause of war and oppression, of killings and mutilations, of cruelty and thievery and many other anti-human acts and reactions.
So it is that no less than Pope Francis himself calls for kindness and understanding specifically in favor of divorced and remarried Catholics – rightly saying that strictly speaking, they remain members of the Catholic Church through whose pastoral ministry they were baptized and confirmed, received the Sacraments of Confession and Communion, and even entered into a sacramental Conjugal Covenant. Yet the truth remains that if marriage is followed by a divorce and this is still followed by remarriage, then the Catholics concerned may not receive the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion under such circumstances. All these however in no way mean that they are then outside the fold of the Church or even beyond the reach of the Commandment of Love.
No closed doors! – the Holy Father was quoted as expressly saying in conjunction with divorced and remarried Catholics of the Church – can and may still participate one way or another in many of the many pastoral agenda of the Church such as in affirming the truth, in serving the cause of justice and in promoting peace. In fact, even non-Catholics should be agents of what is right, proper and fair. The affirmation and promotion of such a composite human social agenda are markedly consonant with the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Question: Is the denouncement of graft and corrupt practices, the exposure of liars and cheats, the imprisonment of criminals and other malefactors still according to the mandate of loving people? Answer: Yes. Such censures are means of inviting them to eventual repentance and conversion. They are also actions that affirm the victims of such malefactions as well as protect the innocent from the misdeeds of such malefactors. Again, they are ways of advancing the social imperatives of truth, justice and peace.
As to the pronouncement and pleading of Pope Francis for understanding the predicament of divorced-remarried Catholics, this in no way means that divorce is good and that remarriage thereafter is right. Such is not merely dissonant with right reason but also contrary to the Catholic faith. But just like Christ, he is pleading for the love of neighbor – including Catholics belabored with the said conjugal predicaments. There is but one reality that do not and may not be the object of love, i.e. evil itself. On the other hand, loving but the Godly, the holy, the saints – this is superfluous.