Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rome when Venerable Pius XII was Pope, emphasized in a recent interview that he has experienced the continuity of Popes, from Pacelli to Bergoglio.
“I have no difficulty in recognizing that there are differences, some of them significant, between Pope Francis and his closest predecessors. I collaborated for twenty years with John Paul II, and then briefly with Benedict: it’s natural for me to share their sensibilities. But I would like to add something. The elements of continuity are much more important that the differences."
“Ever since I was a high school student I learned to see in the Pope first of all the mission of the Successor of Peter, and only secondarily the specific person; and to completely join my heart, in addition to my words and actions, to the Pope. When John XXIII succeeded Pius XII, the changes were no less great; yet even then I had the same attitude," Cardinal Ruini said to Italian daily Corriere della Sera Oct. 4.
“It’s true that the differences aren’t just a matter of style. But they don’t touch upon the principle mission and the visible foundation of the unity of the faith and of the communion of the whole Church … Pope Francis himself has commented a number of times that what he is doing is simply being faithful to the Gospel, not holding an ideological position."
Cardinal Ruini is the vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome – he served in the position from 1991 to 2008. He spoke to Corriere shortly after a Polish priest working in the Roman Curia came out as gay and was dismissed after calling for a change in Church teaching on homosexual acts.
The priest, Msgr. Charamsa, had claimed that the Church’s call for homosexuals to live a life of abstinence is “inhumane."
Cardinal Ruini responded that “as a priest I too have the obligation of abstinence, and in more than 60 years [of priesthood] I have never felt myself dehumanized, or deprived of a life of love, which is something much greater that the exercise of sexuality."
He reflected that while “one hears a lot of talk" about a supposed “gay lobby" at the Vatican, “personally I have no way to talk about this gay lobby, and I would not wish to calumniate innocent persons," adding that “if it is true, it is a sad thing, which needs to be cleaned up."
The cardinal then reflected on Pope Francis’ July 28, 2013 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome, in which he distinguished between persons with homosexual tendencies and those who lobby for recognition of homosexual acts and relationships, and said that “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?"
“These are perhaps the most misunderstood words of Pope Francis," Cardinal Ruini commented. “It is a gospel precept – do not judge unless you wish to be judged – which we must apply to all, obviously including homosexuals, and which requires us to have respect and love for all. But Pope Francis has clearly expressed himself on a number of occasions in opposition to marriage between persons of the same sex."
Thence the cardinal affirmed that Pope Francis is frequently exploited in the media for ideological gain. “That certain positions of the Pope are emphasized and other passed over virtually unnoticed, is more than a risk; it is a fact."
Cardinal Ruini voiced his opposition to the legalization of same-sex unions, saying they “ignore the difference and complimentarity between man and woman, which is fundamental from the not only the physical, but also the psychological and anthropological points of view. Humanity through the millenia has known of polygamy and polyandry, but this case of marriage between persons of the same sex is an absolute novelty: a true break which is in contrast to experience and to reality. Homosexuality has always been around; but no one ever thought of making marriage out of it."
The interview then turned to the discussion around pastoral care of the divorced-and-remarried, with Corriere’s Aldo Cazzullo asking if it is possible to admit them to Communion.
“No. The divorced-and-remarried cannot be readmitted to Communion; not because of their particularly grave personal guilt, but because of the state in which they objectively are," the cardinal replied. “The previous marriage in fact continues to exist, because sacramental marriage is indissoluble, as Pope Francis said on his return flight from the United States. Therefore to have sexual relations with another person would objectively be adultery."
Asked about the new norms regarding the process of investigating the possible nully of a marriage, introduced by Pope Francis in August, Cardinal Ruini said that the only way they would weaken the bond or introduce a sort of “Catholic divorce" is “if the new provisions are not applied in a responsible manner. What is necessary first of all is to improve the preparation of judges."
“To surreptitiously introduce a kind of Catholic divorce would really be hypocritical, very damaging to the Church and to her credibility. But Pope Francis’ decision, for which many of us – myself included – hoped, has nothing to do with that kind of hypocrisy."
Regarding the question of the relationship between the faith of those who marry and the sacrament of marriage, Cardinal Ruini commented that “Pope Benedict, while being convinced that faith is necessary for sacramental marriage, as for any sacrament, was very prudent in drawing from this principle practical consequences. Even Pope Francis limited himself to indicating that a lack of faith is one of the circumstances which could allow the more brief procress before the bishop, when this lack of faith generates a simulation of consent, or an error which determines the will."