To Change the Church


There are roughly 1.28 billion Roman Catholics in the world. Of those, some probably do not know their Church says getting divorced and remarried without annulment counts as adultery. (As such, remarried Catholics are ineligible to receive the Eucharist during Mass.) Many more likely are aware of the teaching but quietly choose to ignore it. Of those, some are priests and bishops, who sometimes make "pastoral exceptions" for members of their flocks by allowing them to take Communion despite the prohibition.

What's the harm, then, in acknowledging what's already happening, and perhaps opening up the sacrament more formally? To Change the Church, a new book by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, suggests Pope Francis wants to do just that, but argues that Catholics who wish to see the Church's credibility preserved should fiercely oppose such a move. After all, the Vatican is not supposed to be able to reverse itself on core doctrine.

But the desire for an unchanging Church in a rapidly changing age is not unique to Douthat. Catholicism is in fact growing fastest in those parts of the world most attached to the conservative position. Religion, it seems, can be a place where people seek refuge from cultural dynamism.