Pope Francis on Amoris laetitia and reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Persons

Pope Francis's comments in an interview (see a transcript and the video of his comments at 1P5) support the interpretation of his intent that I proposed in my previous post, namely that the pastoral practice in dealing with divorced and remarried persons who desire accompaniment by the Church and to live within it, should be somewhat more like the pastoral practice in dealing with persons who, objectively and voluntarily, reject various points of Catholic doctrine and unity, but who desire a certain union with the Church, and/or who have limited access to the sacraments in their own church or ecclesial community. He affirms that there are new, concrete possibilities opened up that did not exist prior to Amoris laetitia, yet at the same time, that to say that alone — "I could say, 'yes, period.', but that would be too small an answer" — without seeing that in the larger context would be a mistake.

In the case of the orthodox, it is clear enough to most people that there are reasons why an orthodox christian is not in a position to accept, e.g., the Church's teaching on the authority of the pope — because he grew up learning to see the Church's teaching as wrong, a human deviation, etc. — and that the Church's acceptance that these persons can in good faith reject the pope's authority does not imply any lessening of the doctrine itself. It does imply, however, this doctrine is not manifestly true to each and every person of good will.

If there are similar externally perceptible reasons why individual persons are not in a position to accept the Church's teaching on the indissolubility and unity of marriage and/or the restriction of genital intercourse to marriage, and the Church accepts these, this similarly does not imply a lessening of the doctrine of indissolubility and unity of marriage itself. It does, however, imply, just as in the case of the orthodox and the authority of the pope, that the Church's doctrine on marriage is not manifestly true to all of good will, not even to all Catholics of good will.

There is, of course, a difference between the orthodox who does not accept the Church's teaching, and a Catholic who does not accept it, namely that the Catholic claims to be Catholic. This could be a reason to maintain a different practice in the two cases, not because of there being a difference in regard to whether one or the other is manifesting persevering in sin or not, but because one claims to be a Catholic, to be with and live with the Catholic Church, and the other does not.

 

Amoris Laetitia and Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried

In this post I want to consider what the exhortation Amoris Laetitia seems to suggest regarding the reception of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics, in relation to canon law and to previous statements about it.

According to canon law, nn. 915 (which forbids admitting to Communion those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin) & 916 (which forbids receiving Communion in a conscious state of sin), as interpreted by the pontifical council for legislative texts in its declaration concerning the admission to Holy Communion of those who are divorced and remarried, those who are divorced and remarried may receive Eucharistic Communion without separating from each other under the following conditions:

  • For serious motives they are not able to separate
  • They intend to refrain from acts proper to spouses
  • They have received the sacrament of Penance with this intention
  • They receive in such a way as to avoid scandal

If we generalize these conditions somewhat and refer them to that which gives them their moral and ecclesial significance, we can say, those who appear to be publicly persisting in sin can receive Eucharistic Communion when:

  • For serious reasons they are not able to remove that which gives the public appearance of persisting in sin
  • They intend to refrain from sin
  • They reasonably believe themselves to be in the state of grace, or at least should not reasonably conclude that they are in a state of sin (*)
  • They receive in such a way as to avoid leading other persons to disrespect of the Eucharist or of the good that seems to be contradicted by their public apparent sin

How do these conditions compare with the conditions for non-Catholics, and in particular, Orthodox oriental Christians, to receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister? (As I pointed out five years ago in that post on the Church's declarations on the matter, this allowance of non-Catholics to receive Communion is the basis of one of the strongest arguments that the Church's current legislation on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried is not in its entirety a necessary consequence of the nature of Eucharist and marriage.) Canon 844 § 3 requires that:

  • The non-Catholic members of the oriental Churches ask on their own for the sacraments
  • The non-Catholic members of the oriental Churches are properly disposed.

Since these Christians are in a public state of material schism or material heresy, why doesn't canon 915 exclude them from Eucharistic Communion?

I'm not aware of any even semi-authoritative account, but suggest that the presumption is made that they are not culpable for their schism or heresy, and that this is a common and public presumption. Consequently:

  • they are not able at the time to cease from the public schism, as that would be contrary to their convictions in conscience
  • They are well-disposed, having confessed any grave sins they are aware of and intending to avoid them in the future, etc.
  • It is common knowledge that orthodox are sincerely convinced of their position rather than moved by bad-will, so their receiving communion on their own request causes no great scandal with respect to the obligation to seek and adhere to the true Church.
  • There is no general invitation made to non-Catholics to receive, so it remains clear that it is not a normal, but an exception for them to receive

Would canon 915 require excluding from Eucharistic Communion a divorced and remarried Orthodox Christian who is permitted Communion in his own Church? Or would not the common and public presumption of good-will apply to them in this matter just as much as it does in regard to their schism, so that the objective disorder, the objective sin of adultery would not be an instance of "manifest grave sin" in the sense intended by canon 915?

Are there also particular circumstances in which there can be and is a de facto, common, and reasonable presumption of good-will on the part of divorced and remarried Catholics? If so, the objective disorder and sin as such would be per se no greater grounds for exclusion from Eucharistic Communion than the objective disorder and sin of the separated Orthodox Christians is.

As I pointed out in my previous post, Pope Francis seems to deliberately avoid an express mention of Eucharistic Communion with divorced and remarried Catholics. But the tenor and trend of comments made at multiple places in the exhortation suggests, I think, this view and the corresponding pastoral practice.

What would this look like, concretely? Something along the following lines, perhaps? Everyone in a parish knows that a couple in an irregular marital-like union discussed their situation with the pastor, everyone knows that they would have talked about the Church's teaching on marriage and the Eucharist in their talks with the pastor, and everyone knows that they would not go up to receive unless after those talks with the pastor they were doing the best to follow their conscience (whether trying to abstain from sexual intercourse with each other, or whether yet unable in conscience to accept/believe that abstinence from sexual intercourse was God's will for them).

The big question is, is such a thing really possible, and is it really desirable? How is the congregation going to determine whether a given couple is only going to go up to receive if they are sincerely doing their best to follow their conscience, without classifying people into the "good, sincere and well-intentioned folks" and others who are less well-regarded by the congregation? If the congregation cannot determine that, and the pastor has to allow communion to one couple who have had talks with him (including confidential talks pertaining to the interior forum), and refuse communion to another, is that not a violation of the interior forum?

I note, however, that this big question was, in a sense, just as much a question prior to Amoris laetitia, even if it was pertinent to much fewer couples. If a divorced and remarried couple was refraining from sexual intercourse with each other, it was still the big question, how can they receive Communion in such a way as to avoid scandal?

(*) Cases could, at least, in principle occur where a divorced and remarried person is not guilty of the sin of adultery: e.g., (1) a woman with good reason divorces a husband who abuses her and their children, he goes missing in war, she remarries, he turns out to be alive again, and from the time she discovers that, she ceases marital intercourse with her new partner; or (2) a catholic turned protestant who was married in the Catholic Church is led to believe his first marriage was declared invalid by the Church, he remarries as a protestant, then later converts to Catholicism, and discovers there was no declaration of nullity by the Church)

Amoris Laetitia – Gospel and Grace of Marriage and Family

I've just finished (quickly) reading Pope Francis's Exhortation Amoris laetitia. Here a first few remarks on it.

  1. While at times wordy, there is a great deal of good, deep and concretely helpful advice in the exhortation for families and those who accompany them: about love and emotion, attentiveness to and communication with one's spouse, mutual forgiveness, educating children, the changes in the relationship of spouses to each other as children are born, grow up and leave, about various possibilities and ways for the Church to bring the Gospel to individuals, couples, and families, etc.
  2. The responsibility of the State is touched upon in a number of cases, but mostly just in passing.
  3. An underlying concern in the entire document seems to be: that the Gospel, the call, and the grace of God be spoken and extended to all persons here and now, not only when they are or become willing to hear and accept it in its totality, not only when they themselves take initiative to learn and embrace it. "Pastoral care for families has to be fundamentally missionary, going out to where people are. We can no longer be like a factory, churning out courses that for the most part are poorly attended." (Paragraph 230)
  4. This concern manifests itself most directly in chapter 8, titled "accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness". The tension between the fullness of the Gospel of marriage and family and the family situations of weak and sinful human beings is not to be resolved by abandoning the Gospel with its ideal of marriage and accepting those irregular situations as normal in the world of today, nor by abandoning those human beings who have not yet accepted or have deviated from God's plan for marriage and family. This tension must be upheld.
  5. The Pope does not make an express statement on the hot-button issue of Communion for divorced and remarried persons, but implicitly addresses it and locates it within this general concern, that God's call and mercy be extended to divorced and remarried persons, not only when they are able and willing to recognize and follow God's call in its fullness, but even when they recognize and/or follow it only imperfectly and with admixture of error, weakness and sin.

What Pope Francis seems to be suggesting regarding Communion for divorced and remarried persons I'll take up in a separate post. (Here a previous post on Church statements on the reception of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics.)

Remedies for Gossip and Slander – St. Josemaria Escriva

Gossip and slander are frequently found even among those who consider themselves good Christians. Few things, however, are more harmful to a community. It can start innocently enough. One person makes a comment to a third person about something someone else did or said. Perhaps this first person doesn't even intend the comment to be negative. The person hearing the comment, however, sees it as reflecting badly on the person being spoken about. Instead of clarifying the situation, he passes on this juicy tidbit of gossip, possibly distorting it even more in the process. The telling of this rumor ceases to be merely gossip and becomes slander, that is, the making of claims detrimental to a person's reputation with reckless disregard for the truth, disregard for the fact that one possesses no substantial evidence for these defamatory claims. The whole process is deeply opposed to charity and very harmful to the relationships between people. The slide below illustrates the origin and spread of such malicious rumors:

Gossip turning into slander, causing mistrust

Such things are, regrettably, all too real and all too common.

 The biblical rules for dealing with the faults people commit are aimed to avoid this culture of gossip and slander.

 "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reprove him openly, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:17-18)

When one sees or believes that someone has done something wrong, one normally must talk to that person, and tell him so; one ought, of course to be open to the possibility that one has misunderstood the situation, and that this person in fact did not do anything wrong, as well as to the possibility or even likelihood that even if he made a mistake, it was not out of malice. This open talk with the person whom one feels has done something wrong hinders the bearing of a grudge, a violation of fraternal charity. It also decreases the likelihood of seeking an outlet for one's grievance by unnecessarily making it known to third parties, gossiping about it.

Christ lays down a similar rule, and further clarifies the way to proceed in such cases:

"If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Mat 18:15-17 — The words "against you" are not present in a number of manuscripts.)

 To go to the person in private, if the situation can be then resolved, keeps other people from getting involved who do not need to know about the fault. It also avoids the danger of falsely accusing a person. When one goes to the person concerned, one may find out that one has misunderstood the situation. By going directly to him, one has avoided slandering him by passing on this defamatory misunderstanding to others.

Only if the situation cannot be resolved between the two persons should one bring others into the situation. And then one should if possible not immediately involve everyone, but bring only a third party or two in, who may help to bring more objectivity to the situation, at any rate as witnesses. Only if all such efforts fail need the sin be brought to the attention of the larger community to deal with it.

 Unfortunately, this rule of Christ, this rule of christian charity, is widely ignored. For various reasons (to avoid a confrontation with the person, to pass it on to someone more “capable” of dealing with it, to pass it on to an “authority”, to feel better about one's own faults by talking about the faults of others, out of a pleasure in gossiping, etc.) most of the time people do not talk with the person they believe committed a fault, but talk about him to others. How can someone break this vicious circle of gossip? He can of course refuse to pass on such negative gossip himself, he can indicate disapproval of it, etc. But that often is not enough to stop the pervasive culture of gossip. Nor does it rectify the injustice (the damage to a person's reputation) of which he has become aware, at least not in most cases.

 St. Josemaria Escriva's advice

St. Josemaria Escriva proposes a radical method to counter malicious gossip: Tell the person who is spreading gossip that you will speak to the person concerned about it, and then go and do just that; and do not say “someone told me,” but name that person, so that the one about whom such statements were being made can, if necessary, talk to that person himself.

"This is how you should answer a backbiter: 'I shall tell the person concerned' or "I shall speak to him about it."  (Furrow, 916)

"I can see no Christian fraternity in a friend who warns you: 'I've been told some terrible things about you. You shouldn't trust some of your friends.' I think it is not Christian because that brother has not taken the honest approach of silencing the slanderer first, and then telling you his name out of loyalty. If that brother does not have the strength of character to demand such behavior of himself, he will end up making you live on your own, driving you to distrust everyone and to be uncharitable towards everyone." (Furrow, 743)

This is illustrated by the following slide:

Breaking the chain of gossip

Of course, at this point the problems caused by gossiping are still not yet all resolved. Further steps would be necessary, such as e.g.:

Jen and Pat go on to talk to James, to clarify/resolve things with him.

Jen talks again to Randall, telling him he seems to have misunderstood the situation, and suggests Randall correct the mistake by talking to James and Pat and then to Tom to clarify Tom's statement that Randall had previously uncritically received (and possibly misinterpreted).

 

What do you think about this suggested procedure of St. Josemaria Escriva?

Ratzinger On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried

In 1998 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger introduced the volume entitled 'On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried', published by the Libreria in the dicastery's series. The third part of this introduction has been recently republished by the L'osservatore Romano. In outline, he makes the following points there:

(1) The possibilities of separation indicated in Scripture (the obscure case of porneia [Mat 5:32, 19:9], and division over faith [1 Cor 7:12-16]) do not justify relativizing Christ's restoration and elevation of marriage as a sign of the unconditional covenant of divine love.

(2) The patristic tradition clearly shows the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage, and does not supply grounds for a general pastoral practice at odds with this indissolubility.

(3) Epikeia cannot be applied to norms of divine law, and thus not to the indissolubility of marriage. Epikeia may, however, be applicable in the internal forum in some instances in which the external juridical judgment is mistaken (regarding, e.g., the validity of a first marriage). This question needs further study.

(4) The Church's teaching and practice is in full accord with and develops the teaching and personalistic orientation of Vatican II regarding marriage.

(4b) Further study is needed on the question regarding whether or not baptized persons who never or who no longer believe in God can truly enter into a sacramental marriage. "In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage." What is clear is that faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament. What remains to be clarified is what counts as an absence of faith that would hinder a sacramental marriage.

(5) A truly pastoral approach to marriage, including cases of divorce and remarriage, must remain faithful to the truth, which cannot be passed over or compromised. "In the end, only the truth can be pastoral."

Since this introduction is from Cardinal Ratzinger, at the time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I have added this introduction to the timeline in the earlier post The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics.

Why is Consecrated Virginity Not a Sacrament

Marriage and religious life are two fundamental ways to fulfill the fundamental vocation of every human being to love. Why is marriage a sacrament and consecrated virginity or celibacy is not?

Since Christ certainly could have made consecrated virginity a sacrament, any answer can only be based on arguments of appropriateness. Both marriage and virginity are signs of the union between Christ and the Church. Is there a difference in the way in which they are signs of this union, such that marriage is fittingly a sacrament, and consecrated virginity is not?

Marriage signifies the union of Christ and the Church inasmuch as the very union of the two humans spouses derives from, participates in, and is a likeness of the perfect union of Christ with the Church. Nevertheless this union of the spouses remains distinct from this spousal union of Christ and the Church. The spouses do not give themselves directly to Christ, but to each other.

Consecrated virginity signifies the union of Christ and the Church inasmuch as the virgin is devoted, by her own will and by the Church, to the very union that constitutes the Church, to the fulfillment of the union with Christ begun in baptism. Thus it bears less the character of a sign, and more that of the reality itself.

We might tentatively say, then, that it would be less fitting for consecrated virginity or religious life to be a sacrament, a sacred sign that confers grace, because it is above all reality, a deepening of the baptismal grace, the spousal union with Christ the Bridegroom. It is a sign of the future kingdom, but it is a sign of it inasmuch as it already anticipates it in this life.

Another, complementary way to explain this looks at the different ways marriage and religious life relate to time and history. Marriage pertains above all to the working out of God's plan for man in time. Those who rise from the dead “neither marry nor are given in marriage”; human marriage ceases with death, even though some aspects of marriage, e.g., the love between the spouses, endures beyond death. The virgin's spousal union with Christ, however, does not cease with her death, but is consummated—she becomes even more perfectly that which she began to be on earth through baptism and through her vows: the bride of Christ. Since all of the sacraments pertain to the dispensation of God's grace in time and history, it is thus more fitting for marriage to be a sacrament than for consecrated virginity to be one.

Ratzinger and the Magisterium on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics

Cardinal Ratzinger, who proposed in 1972 that there should be some possibility in certain cases for divorced and remarried couples to receive the Eucharist, seems to regard the teaching of the Church (see the last post–The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics), and in particular Familiaris Consortio, as having definitively settled the matter.

In a letter to the editor of The Tablet, responding to Theodore Davy, he wrote that his suggestion in 1972 was just that, a suggestion, that the matter must be subject to the judgment of the magisterum, which "spoke decisively on this question in the person of the present Holy Father in Familiaris Consortio."

Again, in an interview with Peter Seewald, published as Salz der Erde (1996), he was asked "Is discussion of this question [of reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried] still open, or is it already decided and settled once and for all?" He responded:

As a matter of principle it is decided, but of course factual questions, individual questions, are always possible. For example, perhaps in the future there could also be an extrajudicial determination that the first marriage was invalid. This could perhaps also be ascertained locally by experienced pastors. Such juridical developments, which can make things less complicated, are conceivable. But the principle that marriage is indissoluble and that someone who has left the valid marriage of his life, the sacrament, and entered into another marriage cannot communicate, does in fact as such hold definitively.

The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics

While the present practice called for by the Church in regard to the reception (or non-reception) of Communion by divorced and married Catholics, a practice which emphasizes the objective and visible unity in the Church and in the life of faith that is appropriate to the Eucharist, may not be strictly a necessary consequence of the nature of the Eucharist and of marriage (one significant argument that it is not a strictly necessary consequence is the allowance under certain circumstances for non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist, though they are not objectively and visibly united in the fullness of the faith and life of the Church), it is a practical decision of the Church that has been repeated several times, and in itself calls for obedience. In what follows I outline some of the major points in the Church's practical teaching on this matter and in the surrounding discussion by theologians.

1972: Ratzinger's article On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage, in which he clearly states the Church's firm conviction of the indissolubility of valid sacramental marriage, but suggests a certain toleration of some second, non-sacramental marriages, that would allow the partners to receive Holy Communion, is appropriate and in keeping with the Church's tradition.

April 11, 1973: Cardinal Seper, prefect of the CDF, writes to the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USA), speaking about "new opinions which either deny or attempt to call into doubt the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church on the indissolubility of matrimony", and closing with the practical guideline:

In regard to admission to the Sacraments the Ordinaries are asked on the one hand to stress observance of current discipline and, on the other hand, to take care that the pastors of souls exercise special care to seek out those who are living in an irregular union by applying to the solution of such cases, in addition to other right means, the Church's approved practice in the internal forum (probatam Ecclesiae praxim in foro interno).

March 21, 1975: Upon a request for clarification of what the "Church's approved practice in the internal forum" is, Archbishop Hamer, the secretary of the CDF wrote:

I would like to state now that this phrase [probata praxis Ecclesiae] must be understood in the context of traditional moral theology. These couples [Catholics living in irregular marital unions] may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.

1978: The International Theological Commission publishes "Christological Theses on the Sacrament of Marriage", in which it affirms, thesis 12: "In receiving the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, the church would let such parties believe that they can, on the level of signs, communicate with him whose conjugal mystery they disavow on the level of reality." Their life contains an "objective contradiction" to Christ's teaching, and is thus an obstacle to eucharistic unity.

September 26-October 25, 1980: Synod of Bishops meets in Rome to consider "The Duties of the Christian Family in Today's World"

Ratzinger writes a pastoral letter to the priests of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising in which he states that those living in a second marriage, whose first marriage was invalid (or who are convinced of its invalidity?), but its invalidity cannot be canonically proven, can receive the Eucharist provided no scandal is caused. He further called for study of cases where the first marriage was valid, but someone wants to return to eucharistic union without abandoning the second union. (Referenced by James Coriden in "Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried" — I have not yet been able to find a separate verification that this is accurately represents what Ratzinger wrote, or the text of the letter itself.)

November 22, 1981: Familiaris Consortio re-affirms the Church's practice of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Eucharistic Communion.

84. … [Divorced and remarried Catholics should not consider themselves or be considered as separated from the Church.]… However, The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

July 27, 1991: Theodore Davey ("The Internal Forum," The Tablet 245, no. 7878 (27 July 1991) 905-906), arguing from the statements of Cardinal Seper and Archbishop Hamer quoted above, interprets the "internal forum" practice as allowing for Eucharistic Communion in a number of situations: when a person is subjectively certain of the nullity of his or her previous marriage; when there are various reasons for not approaching a marriage tribunal; when there is the conviction of the validity of the previous marriage that since deteriorated to divorce and a second marriage has taken place, giving the following guidelines for the use of this solution:

  • there is no possibility of reconciliation between the spouses since the first marriage has irreparably broken down;
  • acknowledgement of any responsibility for the failure of the first union, and where necessary reparation is made;
  • the second marriage has been in existence for some time, morally speaking it is impossible to separate because of new obligations arising from the second union, and the partners to it are genuinely doing their best to live an authentic Christian life;
  • such Eucharistic sharing should in no way be seen as a questioning of the teaching on indissolubility, and by preaching and teaching, such a practice must be regarded as entirely exceptional.

He closes with the words "It should be noted that among the pastoral theologians who have helped to formulate these norms by their writing, the most distinguished is the present prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger." (referring particularly to Ratzinger's article On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage).

October 26, 1991: Cardinal Ratzinger responds to Fr. Davey in a letter to the editor ("Church, Pope and Gospel," The Tablet 245, no 7891 (26 October 1991) 1310-1311). What he had written was not "norms in any official sense", but "formed part of a suggestion (Vorschlag) I made as a theologian in 1972. Their implementation in pastoral practice would of course necessarily depend on their corroboration by an official act of the magisterium to whose judgment I would submit. . . . Now, the magisterium subsequently spoke decisively on this question in the person of the present Holy Father in Familiaris Consortio." He also addresses Davey's use of Cardinal Seper's statement:

Cardinal Seper’s mention in his letter of 1973 of the "approved practice in the internal forum" which Fr Davey cites was not referring to the so-called internal forum solution which properly understood concerns a marriage known with certainty to be invalid but which cannot be shown to be such to a marriage tribunal because of a lack of admissible proof. Cardinal Seper for his part was not addressing the question of the validity of a prior marriage, but rather the possibility of allowing persons in a second, invalid marriage to return to the sacraments if, in function of their sincere repentance, they pledge to abstain from sexual relations when there are serious reasons preventing their separation and scandal can be avoided.

July 10, 1993: three bishops in Germany (Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Oskar Saier) issue a pastoral letter to those involved in pastoral activities in their diocese, in which they stated that a pastoral dialogue was needed to determine whether the "generally valid" prohibition against the remarried receiving the Eucharist "applies also in a given situation," and that there ought to be "room for pastoral flexibility in complex, individual cases." Citing Familiaris Consortio, they note the Church's teaching that "divorced and remarried people generally cannot be admitted to the eucharistic feast as they find themselves in life situations that are in objective contradiction to the essence of Christian marriage," but remark that canon law can "set up only a valid general order; it cannot regulate all of the often very complex individual cases."  ("Pastoral Ministry: The Divorced and Remarried," Origins 23 (March 10, 1994), pp. 670-673).

October 14, 1994: after a series of meetings between the German bishops and Cardinal Ratzinger, the CDF sends, under the authorization of Pope John Paul II, a letter to the episcopacy worldwide: Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the Faithful, which restates the position of Familiaris Consortio (including the two reasons cited above), adding, moreover, apparently in response to the suggestion that exceptions could be made in particular cases, "The structure of the exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations." (Origins 24 [October 27, 1994] 337, 339-41).

The German bishops respond to the CDF's letter with a message to the people of their dioceses in which they state that "we do not find ourselves in any doctrinal disagreement," with the position laid down by the CDF, but "the difference has to do with the question of pastoral practice in individual cases," and that there does "exist room, beneath the threshold of the binding teaching, for pastoral flexibility in complex individual cases that is to be used responsibly." (Ibid., pp. 341-44). This certainly seems to be disagreement from the statement of the CDF that the practice affirmed by Familiaris Consortio "cannot be modified because of different situations". However, they acknowledge that in light of the CDF response some of their own statements and principles "cannot be the binding norm of pastoral practice."

1998: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes the introduction to "On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried", published by the Libreria in the dicastery's series ("Documenti e Studi", 17). He there addresses and rejects a number of proposed reasons to change the Church's practice. He also indicates the need for further study regarding the possible applicability of epikeia in cases where, for instance, the judgment of an ecclesiastical court on the validity of a first marriage is mistaken, and regarding whether or not baptized persons who do not believe in God can enter into a valid sacramental marriage. (Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 refers back to this position of his, and affirms that the issue continues to need study.)

June 24, 2000: The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried, clarifies that Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion," does not refer to what is subjectively grave sin, but to what is objectively so, and in particular, that it applies to those living in a second, invalid marriage. Pastors should do all they can to ensure that individuals themselves respect this law, but if they do not succeed in this, then "the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy."

July 25, 2005: Pope Benedict XVI in a meeting with clergy in the diocese of Aosta again indicates the need for further study regarding the possibility of a valid marriage by baptized christians without faith. "Those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the Sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people's painful plight, it must be studied further."

Feburary 22, 2007: Sacramentum Caritatis states "The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist."

References: Kenneth R. Himes & James A. Coridan, "Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried", Theological Studies 57 (1996), 97-123.

James A. Schmeiser, "Reception of the Eucharist by Divorced and Remarried Catholics: Three German Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", Liturgical Ministry 5 (1996), 10-21.

Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus: "Living a Christian Life", Ch. 9: Marriage, Sexual Acts, and Family Life; Question H: What Should Spouses Do If Their Marriage Is Troubled? — http://www.twotlj.org/G-2-9-H.html

 

Ratzinger On the Indissolubility of Marriage and Pastoral Practice

Not much notice has been taken of Ratzinger's article on the dogmatic-historical aspects of the indissolubility of marriage and their relevance to present teaching and pastoral practice: "Zur Frage nach der Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe: Bemerkungen zum dogmengeschichtlichen Befund und zu seiner gegenwärtigen Bedeutung" in Ehe und Ehescheidung: Diskussion unter Christen, Kösel-Verlag, München, 1972. Perhaps that is to some degree because many communities and pastors "solve" the problematic simply by ignoring the Church's teaching and directives.

Unlike the 1970 letter on celibacy, of which Ratzinger was a co-signer, which simply called for a re-consideration of the discipline of celibacy, not for a change in it, as has often been claimed, this article actually seems to suggest that a change in discipline (not doctrine) is appropriate, inasmuch as the Church should allow for some flexibility in certain cases in dealing with persons living in a second marriage.

Ratzinger traces two lines in the Church's doctrine and practice: on the one hand, the consistent conviction that a sacramental marriage cannot cease except by the death of one or both of the spouses, thus excluding the possibility of a second marriage; on the other hand, a recurring toleration of illicit (and invalid/non-sacramental/non-Christian) marriages in order to avoid still worse evils.

He sees the Orthodox way, in which these tolerated exceptions become the norm, as mistaken, yet nonetheless proposes that some room for such pastoral toleration of second marriages should be given. Concretely, he proposes that when the marital life of the first marriage cannot be restored, a second "marriage" has existed for a long time, with children and the resulting obligations to them, and in which the life of faith is manifest, it should be possible for a pastor and a Church community to permit this couple to receive Holy Communion.

Read the entire article: On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage

Aquinas on Marrying to Support One's Parents

Is someone obliged to marry if that is the only way he can support his parents?

 

This article is from Quodlibetal 10, q. 5, a. 1.

Whether someone is bound to contact marriage in order to support his father by the marriage dowry, if he is not able to support him otherwise.

Objections

It seems that a son who cannot support his father unless by marrying he receives a dowry from which he can look after his father, is not obliged to contract marriage in order to support his father.

1. Since charity is orderly, he is obliged more to himself than to his father. But it would be praiseworthy for someone to face death in order to preserve his virginity. Therefore someone is not obliged to contract marriage in order to save his father's life.

2. Further, precepts are not opposed to counsels. But preserving virginity is a counsel, as is evident from 1 Cor. 7:25. Therefore the precept of honoring one's parents does not oblige someone to lose his virginity.

On the contrary: Affirmative precepts are binding at certain times and in certain places. But the time when one's parents are in need is a time when one is bound to honor one's parents. Therefore at that time someone is bound by this precept. And so it seems that he is bound to contract marriage, if he cannot otherwise support his father.

Response: It should be said that the case proposed does not seem to be readily possible, since it can scarcely happen that someone is unable to support his parents without contracting marriage, at least by manual work or by begging. But if this were to happen, the judgment to be made in this case concerning the preservation of virginity would be the same as concerning other works of perfection, such as entering religious life.

Now different people have different opinions about this. Some say that if someone's father is in need, he should give all that he has, if he has anything, for the support of his father, and he can thus licitly enter religious life, committing the care of his parents to the heavenly Father, who feeds even the birds.

But because this opinion seems too severe, it seems to me better to say the following: he who desires to enter religious life may see that he cannot live in the world without mortal sin, or cannot easily do so. If he fears the danger of his committing mortal sin, then, since he is more obliged to care for the salvation of his soul than for the bodily need of his parents, he is not obliged to remain in the world. But if he sees that he can live in the world without sin, it seems one should make a distinction: if his parents can in no way live without his services to them, he is obliged to serve them and to forego other works of perfection, and he would sin by leaving his parents; but if they can in some way be supported without his services, just not respectably, he is not therefore obliged to forego works of perfection. The case is different when someone has already entered religious life; for since he has already died to the world by religious profession, he is freed from the law by which he was bound to his parents in worldly services, as the Apostle teaches in Rom 7:6. But in other, spiritual matters, such as by prayers, etc., he is bound to serve his parents.

What has been said about entering religious life can also be said about the observance of virginity and other works of perfection.

Replies to Objections

Reply 1. To the first objection, therefore, it should be said that if someone has not professed virginity, he should not die of hunger before contracting marriage [but should marry if that is necessary in order to live].

Reply 2. To the second objection it should be said that nothing prevents a precept from being opposed to a counsel in a particular situation.