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. (Update: this part of the introduction is now available on the Vatican website: Concerning some objections to the Church's teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful). 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.

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