Communion for divorced Catholics: the German bishops twisting Pope Francis’s arm

29 December 2014

3:21 PM

29 December 2014

3:21 PM

Just before Christmas, virtually unnoticed by the media, the German Catholic bishops made a plea for the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics (or Catholics married to divorcees) to Holy Communion.

That it should be the Germans, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx – Archbishop of Munich, president of the German bishops’ conference and coordinator of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy – is no coincidence. In 1993, the future Cardinals Kasper and Lehmann asked the Vatican to admit couples in irregular marriages to Communion – indeed, to allow these couples to make up their own minds as to whether they should receive the sacrament. Cardinal Ratzinger kicked that proposal, and with it the liberal German Church, into the long grass.

Now Pope Francis has revived the German plan, by inviting Kasper to set the agenda for the first session of the Synod on the Family last October. That ended in disarray (my accounts here and here), leaving everyone confused about what the full Synod, meeting this coming autumn, had the authority to decide.

Time is of the essence. And the Germans have got their act together, as this report for the Tablet makes clear. It’s worth quoting in full (my emphases in bold):

The great majority of German bishops would like to see remarried divorcees being allowed to receive the Sacraments under certain specified circumstances.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who presented the findings of a special working group in the German bishops’ conference on the subject in Bonn on 22 December, described divorce and remarriage as ‘often the beginning of a process of alienation from the Church’.

The president of the German bishops’ conference went on: ‘The search for a theologically responsible and pastorally appropriate accompaniment for Catholics whose marriages have broken down and who have married again in a register office is a pressing challenge for the Church worldwide.’

The Church’s approach to those Catholics has provoked sharp and outspoken criticism both within and outside the Church, the bishops said. Even happily married, committed Catholics found the present rulings ‘incomprehensible and unmerciful’, particularly the fact that remarried Catholics are excluded from the Sacraments. Only very few remarried divorcees see annulment as a solution, because they do not think that their first marriage simply never existed, the bishops said.

A possible annulment of the first marriage ‘is only practicable for a small minority. It does not solve the problem’, they added. ‘When the present pastoral approach to remarried divorcees is perceived as a scandal by committed, practising Catholics, one must seriously ask whether Scripture and tradition really reveal no other way,’ the German bishops concluded, and underlined their determination to intensify their efforts for a renewed pastoral approach towards remarried divorcees.

The German bishops would like to see the findings used as guidelines in the current nationwide preparations for next October’s follow-up Synod on the Family at the Vatican.


From this we can infer three things. 1. The German Church is acting as a united lobby – the ‘great majority’ are pushing for change. 2. When the Germans say that devout Catholics find the bar on Communion for divorcees ‘incomprehensible and unmerciful’, and a ‘scandal’, that means that Cardinal Marx and colleagues find them an incomprehensible scandal. I’m assuming that Marx chose those words himself; he has certainly put his name to them. 3. The German bishops plan to dominate – one is tempted to say hijack – the discussions over Communion for divorced people at the coming Synod.

Why the Germans? An article in the December 12 issue of the new Catholic Herald magazine (not online) by Jon Anderson, its specialist in European Catholic politics, helps explain. Mass attendance in Germany has fallen from 22 to 11 per cent since 1989 – and that decline would be sharper if it weren’t for Polish immigrants. How does the church exercise such influence? Answer: it receives £4.6 billion a year from Germany’s church tax. Its charity Caritas employs 560,000 staff – the country’s second largest employer after Volkswagen.

These vast budgets create a mindset in which German bishops feel entitled to dictate pastoral practice for Third World dioceses whose churches are overflowing but can’t afford to replace a lightbulb. The bishops of these dioceses, who will again encounter the likes of Marx and Kasper in October, are very conservative on the matter of divorce. You might think that is hypocritical, given the prevalence of priests’ mistresses in Africa, to say nothing of polygamy, but such chaos makes bishops in the developing world all the more determined to hold the line. Also, they suspect Kasper et al of subtle racism, seeking to ‘enlighten’ people of darker skin.

At the end of the Synod, it will be Pope Francis who has to decide whether to implement whatever it decides. Will it recommend a radical relaxation of pastoral practice so that, after some form of consultation or display of repentance or whatever, irregularly married Catholics can receive Communion? The Germans (and their allies in the Vatican) have now said that they will settle for nothing less, though they may have a fall-back position. And the bishops of Africa (and their allies in the Vatican) have made it equally clear that they will settle for nothing of the sort.

Francis’s opinions are mystery – possibly to himself, one Vatican source tells me. Yes, he wants Kasper’s ideas debated. But, although he’s become more liberal with time, he’s still a 78-year-old Argentinian Jesuit who recoils at the notions of women priests and gay marriages, neither of which innovation is entirely unacceptable to the semi-protestant German liberals.

Surely the Pope is shrewd enough to realise that he cannot deliver what Marx is demanding, even if he wanted to: some of his own senior officials plus hundreds of cardinals and bishops around the world would rise in revolt. As I said last week, Catholic teaching on matters of sexual morality is open to no more than tweaking – and arguably the Church can no longer go down the route of informal pastoral relaxation now that, thanks to Francis’s Synod, it is crossed by battle lines.

The danger for the Pope is that the German-led liberals will turn on him if he fails to deliver radical change, much as their predecessors turned on Paul VI when he refused to allow them to abandon the Catholic stances on birth control, married priests or transubstantiation. At which point Francis may wish that he’d made a few friends in conservative and traditionalist circles.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • cestusdei

    The Germans racist? Gee, that’s never happened before…

  • louise

    Having tried to post a comment some days ago which has,
    inexplicably, failed to appear – I’ll try again.

    I’m impressed by the simplistic and uncharitable nature of
    many of the comments. The following thoughts might make people realise the complexity of these situations….
    What of the innocent party in a divorce- for example the Catholic partner of a non-Catholic, married in a Catholic church.The non-Catholic partner then breaks up the marriage- leaves or starts another relationship- it is the Catholic partner who is penalised by the current rules – not the one who broke up the marriage. If one partner is determined on their own account to break up a marriage there is little the other can effectively do to stop this.
    Current UK law allows divorce after 5 years’ separation irrespective of the views/wishes/religious affiliation of either partner. If the Catholic church REALLY abhors divorce why is there no sustained opposition to this situation? I understand, though don’t know the details, that Jewish and Islamic religious law is given some standing by the state- why isn’t Catholic?
    Commentators have mentioned annulment. If the divorce/separation has been personally acrimonious the apparent need to involve both parties can prevent any progress at all on simple malicious grounds.
    The majority of married couples divorcing don’t do so lightly – especially if they’ve been married a long time and have children. Divorce causes a great deal of despair, heartache and grief that remains for the rest of one’s life. Is it really too much to hope that the Church and so-called Christians could show concern and charity towards a (sadly) large group of people who often find themselves in a situation not of their own making and, at the very time they need the Church – the Church isn’t there for them?

    • MenAreLikeWine

      Jesus was very clear on the indissolubilty of marriage.

      “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Mark 10:9

      It isn’t about fault. It is about going against the clear command of God. Now, if one isn’t a Christian then they probably won’t be too worried about that. For a Christian, to presume to know better than God himself is problematic.

      This is one of the most straight forward issues in Christianity. Cardinals Marx and Kasper are setting themselves up in opposition to God.

      • louise

        Why not address the specific points I mentioned, rather than simply reiterating what has been said already?

  • rtj1211

    One is minded to say that, with a 78 year old Argentinian Jesuit ensconced in the Vatican, that the concept of ‘fixed term papacies’ may well be upon the Catholic Church. In that case, the German liberals would do better to be looking to influence future successors since the current incumbent may well not be around in 5 years time anyway.

    All this does, however, raise the difficulty in having common policies in an organisation which exists in countries so diverse that one size fits all is increasingly an anachronism of comical proportions……

  • Jacobi

    There’s always a mixture of motives.

    A majority of German bishops are for allowing divorced (from a valid sacramental marriage) and remarried people, to be admitted to Holy Communion.
    That is not permissible. Such people are in a state of mortal sin and it would be sacrilegious for them to continue to receive. It’ quite simple really.

    Now if this report about the bishops is true, it is for two reasons.

    1. Monetary. They are very wealthy from religious tax and this will ensure their income and possibly increase it.

    2. Relativism. A large number of them come in to the “Relativist” category, that is, they do not believe in Absolute Truth but, are happy to see the Church change its beliefs to comply with current secular custom.

    Their technique is to eventually destroy Catholic belief in core Catholic doctrine, particularly the Real Presence, and what better way to do so than to have all and sundry, mortal sinners or otherwise, lining up Sunday after Sunday to receive, and
    be seen to receive, and smiling to their pals on the way back.

    Why they, the bishops, want to do this, who knows. After all, no one has to be a Catholic you know, so they could just go and join some other lot!

    ps by the way I didn’t get my copy of the Spectator this week and I’m a bit miffed. Anyone else have this problem?

  • licjjs

    I think it timely to remind ourselves and especially those outside the Church that a Synod is simply a meeting with Bishops of different regions of the Church to advise the Pope regarding whatever topic has been chosen for discussion. It is NOT any kind of governing body.

    On entering a search for the synod document, Google came up with the 1979 questionnaire from the English Bishops (yes, you see we did have consultation documents before Francis came on the scene). Perhaps some people might find it interesting to compare with the present. We tend to forget that there was a Synod on the family at the beginning of the reign of John Paul II which resulted in the Papal document ‘Familiaris Consortio’. Why another synod was deemed necessary so soon is a mystery of the universe; perhaps Cardinal Kasper could tell us.

  • Leo Flanagan

    Is this a catholic version of the welfare state intended by Francis with mercy being doled out without obligation?

    Some claim our NHS is the best health care system in the world free at the point of care.
    A model that inspires Francis to see the church as the best field hospital in the world.

    But with doctors like Marx and Kasper, I might have to take my soul somewhere else

  • altsegel

    We all make mistakes in our youth. Ill thought through marriages which end in affairs, adultery, separation and divorce are commomplace along with sexual promiscuity and a myriad other sins.
    Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
    If a couple become christians in middle age, both the veteran of earlier marriages but now in love, stable and happily remarried, how does the church accomodate them? How does it make sense of their circumstances? How can it say: this gospel is not for you as you are persisting in a sin – your remarriage?
    Catholic doctrine on divorce is wrong and in conflict with Christ’s teaching on forgiveness. Vide the Samartian woman at the well.
    A relaxation of the rules of annullment may be one way ahead. Hoewever the honest and bolder way would be to allow people to say OK I got it wrong, but I am with the love of my love, bless me.

    • Murray

      If a couple become christians in middle age, both the veteran of earlier marriages … how does the church accomodate them?

      My wife and I became Catholic Christians in middle age. I had been previously civilly married, she had not. Neither of us were baptized. I applied for an annulment of my prior marriage, a dissolution was granted under the Pauline Privilege, and our marriage was convalidated on the night of the Easter Vigil, after we had been baptized and confirmed. Does that help answer your question?

      But I suspect this wasn’t the central thrust of your question. Unbaptized heathens, as we were, can usually be regularized pretty easily, as (more controversially) can Catholics who marry outside the Church without a dispensation from their bishop.

      The problem we are discussing arises when a baptized person leaves a valid sacramental marriage and enters into a new romantic relationship, whether they date, sleep around, cohabitate, or marry. According to the explicit words of Christ himself, that person is objectively committing adultery. There’s simply no getting around it, and your example of the Samaritan woman at the well in no way diminishes or contradicts this teaching. “The one you have now is not your husband” hardly constitutes approval of the new relationship, and since we are not told what Jesus requires her to do about her situation, we cannot use it as the basis for an argument. For all we know, he might have told her to return to her first husband!

      Hoewever the honest and bolder way would be to allow people to say OK I got it wrong, but I am with the love of my love, bless me.

      The “honest and bolder way” would be for the Church meekly to validate whatever choices a person thinks they’re entitled to make? Why, that doesn’t sound honest and bold at all, quite the contrary! This is modern sentimentalism in a nutshell, in which all must defer to my present subjective emotional state, and if that changes, all must defer to the next one: “OK, I got it wrong AGAIN, but I am now with the REAL love of my life, bless me.” Rinse and repeat.

      We moderns dislike being held to rational, objective standards, and we often seem to believe that our freely chosen actions should be free of unpleasant consequences. But Jesus is as objective as you can get, and he takes great pains (even going to the Cross) to warn of the dreadful consequences of sin. We should take care not to mislead ourselves with an easy, false compassion that encourages people to remain in grave danger of damnation in order to avoid difficult choices.

    • winslow

      what happens when the next ‘love of my life’ shows up?
      It appears your middle aged couple were married before they became Christians. If so the Church has no jurisdiction over those marriages. All they need do is enter into a Christian marriage and live happily ever after.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

  • carl jacobs

    In the West, men have come to see life in terms of the pursuit of happiness. Marriage then becomes an instrument for achieving happiness. When the instrument no longer fulfills its function, it must be changed. It reduces marriage to a self-centered arrangement of “What have you done for me lately?” The covenantal aspects are completely erased in service to the self. Truly there is no more self-serving self-centered selfish guide to life than happiness.

    All this talk about mercy and compassion is really a disguised way of saying “Change the rules so I can serve myself and be happy.” The rules after all are intended to enforce virtue at the expense of happiness, and this is why our modern culture cannot abide them. But why enforce virtue? For the sake of those who would experience the collateral damage of a self-centered pursuit of happiness. That is what is missing in this conversation – the understanding that the Covenant is more important than the happiness of the people who made it. Because there are more people at stake than just the self who demands to be served.

  • sanfordandsons

    What happens to the rest of the conservative pew Catholics if Francis does change Church teaching? Do we revolt? March on the Vatican? I’m a little worried that the downsizing of the Curia has brought out the “rats” in the woodwork, with all the future new schismatics now in the German “curia” supposedly will apostasize on their own and, again, form their own church. Why is it that German Catholics have always been a thorn in the side of the Papacy? It has to be more than money.

    • Athelstane

      In the worst case, there could be a schism.

      But we are long off that, at least in a formal sense; there are plenty of degrees of resistance or dispute short of that, as we know from Church history.

      Arguably, we have had de facto schism in much of the Church for many years.

  • Vex

    If any section of the college has a chance of getting its way its the Germans, old cynic I might be but considering they’re the biggest donators to Vatican coffers of all I can’t see the Church being too eager to drive them away.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Heads up bead mumbles. You’ve been brain washed since the day you were born. Organized religion is for the gullible weak-minded that can’t handle mortality. Take control of your mind and tell those dog-collar vampires to take a hike.

    • carl jacobs

      Thus Spake Zarathustra.

  • Apotheoun

    Quite frankly, I do not believe that German bishops are “twisting Pope Francis’s arm”; instead, I think Francis is behind the efforts to change the Church’s doctrine on marriage, and also on homosexuality. After all, the leaders of the synod that recently ended, and of the upcoming synod next year, were all given the positions of authority that they hold by the Pope himself personally; and moreover, at the conclusion of the synod he insisted that the sections of the “final synodal relatio” that failed to get the required two-thirds support of the bishops present were published as a part of the text in spite of the fact that they were rejected. Those rejected sections of the “relatio” were very weak indeed, and the whole text looked like something that could have been published by the Episcopal Church USA.

    • John Byde

      Exactly, Apotheoun. At the risk of seeming uncharitable, I am suprised that Bergoglio gets such a free pass from even conservatives. As you say, it was him who chose Kaspar and left in the offending paragraphs. I’d love to trust him, but I don’t. Sad

  • Denis

    Cardinal Marx and his fellow travellers just don’t get it. The very disaffected individuals they think they are appealing to have long since stopped listening.
    We have had decades of liberalism that has only hastened the collapse of the Church. This nonsensical “mercy” won’t mean a thing, except to confirm that we have an amoral Church which appeals to no one.

  • Mr Grumpy

    “When the Germans say that devout Catholics find the bar on Communion for divorcees ‘incomprehensible and unmerciful’, and a ‘scandal’, that means that Cardinal Marx and colleagues find them an incomprehensible scandal.”

    Sorry. Damian, but this is just delusional. The reality is that the German hierarchy is under intense pressure from the laity – right across the spectrum from the “Wir sind Kirche” activists who think they should be running the show through the ordinary Mass-goers to the invisible church tax payers. A bishop who goes against the trend takes his career into his hands – cf. the “bishop of bling” who was in truth hardly more blingy than his colleagues, including, er, Cardinal Marx.

    In Germany the “Spirit of Vatican II” points straight towards liberal Protestantism. And there is no mistaking the genuine sense of injustice over the divorce issue if you talk to ordinary German Catholics.

    What’s to be done? Between now and October there’ll be no end of political posturing from liberals pretending they don’t know what the Gospels say, and culturally blacked-up rich world conservatives and traddies pretending they’d be more at home in a Ugandan parish than a German one (naming no names). Maybe, just maybe, once the Synod’s out of the way we can start having the conversations (and the prayers) we should have been having all along – about how mercy and truth can meet together in a way that can begin to engage the Germans and save them from schism.

  • Frank

    The fact that Germans still pay the church tax is yet another strange thing about Germany. As for preventing various categories of “sinners” from being given the communion….one wonders why anybody in these categories carries on going to this church, let alone paying the tax – plenty of other churches will hatch, match and bury you.

  • Pato Correa

    I´m divorced but if I can´t keep taking communion I won´t remain Catholic.

    • kag1982

      Really? You don’t want to keep paying $ to a Church that won’t let you receive the Sacraments. Shocking.

      • Pato Correa

        Never paid a cent to the church. I think I´ve not been a good Catholic at all

    • CathyLouise

      Pato, it’s a little more complicated than “divorced means no communion.” Please do speak with your priest before you decide to leave the church. Each situation is unique, please avoid the comments experts.

    • licjjs

      Your choice. Being divorced is not a bar to communion. Entering into a permanent formal new ‘marriage’ is.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Organized religion, so last century.
    Smell up and wake the coffee, guys.

    • Zimbalist

      Disorganised religion is so hot right now.

  • Beverly Stevens

    Two things: 1) Follow the money and 2) The Germans are angling to make Marx the next pope. Have a look here:

  • rodlarocque1931

    This pope will try and change doctrine, but Our Lord will remove him one way or the other before this is done. A pope cannot contradict past popes on faith and morals. It is impossible. Though ever since Vatican II the popes have been giving the impressions that they can do whatever they want.

  • ardenjm

    Firstly: In the West the situation has become pure poison because even as the Church forbids the divorced and remarried from receiving communion, paedophile priests and the Bishops who moved them from parish to parish continue to celebrate Mass…
    That sickens people – the rank hypocrisy of it. And how many of these Bishops have been reduced to the lay state or incurred penalties for what they did? A handful at most. Still longing for the day when Cardinal Murphy O’Connor will incur ecclesiastical penalties for the Gatwick Airport scandal.

    Second: In Germany specifically – it’s about the money. Simple as. (Nothing changed much there since Martin Luther.)

    Third: Why does Pope Francis allow the Germans to set the agenda? Because he agrees with them. He doesn’t need traditionalist friends (he’s far too authoritarian to worry about THAT. He knows that the Traditionalists have to obey or else deny their traditionalism). He also knows that the liberals aren’t going to be unhappy with him: if he fails to deliver it’s because civil wars cost money and the last thing the Germans and their allies want is to lose the cash. Moreover, they appreciate tactics. If they can get a de facto change in the way Catholics act then the de jure decisions of either Pope or Synod become secondary. Of course, to have the Pope turning a blind eye helps. But it doesn’t really matter much. Liberals, unlike Traditionalists, don’t obey.

  • Murray

    I’m not convinced that Damian’s explanation is the correct one. If it’s all about the German Church Tax, why do a significant number of non-German bishops support the Kasperites when they have nothing material to gain from doing so?

    Sure, there might be a bit of quid pro quo going on here: Baldisseri and Forte support Kasper in return for the Germans supporting Forte and Spadaro on the pro-homosexual front. But ultimately, I think this is a very cunning strategy assumed at destroying the fundamental basis of the Church’s authority.

    Consider: if the Church says it’s OK for people living in an objective state of adultery to receive Communion without a firm purpose of amendment (in this case, resolving to live as brother and sister), several consequences will inevitably follow:

    1. There will be no grounds for withholding Communion from anyone else living in a state of objective grave sin. No matter how heinous or tawdry the sin, no matter how unrepentant the sinner, the same “merciful” logic will apply.

    2. Since sacramental absolution will no longer be required before receiving Communion, the Sacrament of Penance will fall into disuse. Why bother confessing?

    3. The Sacrament of Matrimony, instituted by Christ as an inseparable lifelong bond, will rapidly turn into the mockery it has become in the Protestant and Orthodox churches.

    4. The Church will be tacitly admitting that she was wrong for 2,000 years about the Sacraments of Matrimony, Penance, and Eucharist. And if she was wrong about these most central of her doctrines, what becomes of her claim to indefectibility? If she was wrong about these, why should we think that anything else she teaches is true?

    5. The Church will likewise be acknowledging either that Jesus was wrong about marriage, or that Scripture is wrong about what Jesus said. Either way, she will thus vacate all other scriptural basis for her teachings, including the papacy, the Eucharist (whatever’s left of it after the above), the Blessed Mother, apostolic succession, the priesthood, and … well, you get the picture.

    These are all easily foreseeable consequences of Kasper’s little pastoral “tweak”, and it’s certain that the Kasperites, no fools they, know it as well. If this is the case, then it’s about much more than just the Church Tax, though I’m sure it’s a nice side benefit. It’s nothing less than an attempt to destroy the Catholic Church, like the little pebble that struck the great statue in Daniel’s vision, causing it to crumble into dust.

    • Damian Thompson

      Quick point. The German church tax allows very unsuccessful bishops to ‘do theology’ as radically as they like, as it doesn’t matter if their churches are empty. But it’s an instrument for lobbyists; there’s no shortage of Italian bishops who are broadly signed up to the Kasper agenda because they agree with it. Francis I would guess supports liberals on divorcees and Communion though I hope he realises that he has raised the stakes too high.

    • Athelstane

      Murray: money clearly drives much of the urgency of the German bishops’ agenda here – their recent actions to date (announcing that those who opt out of the tax will be denied sacraments, as a response to a growing wave of tax opt-outs) are too naked to deny that – but you are right to say that there’s more at work there. Namely, bad theology, something German theologians have produced in truckload lots over the last century.

      Remember that Cardinal Kasper was formerly the assistant to none other than Hans Kung.

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    Of course strictly speaking, the most relevant debate in this situation has got to be concerning what Jesus means when he tells us that things to make us sin are bound to happen, but woe betide the one through whom such sins come, followed by a stern reminder about what it will be like for those who cause his little ones to sin.

    So we should be glad these bishops are interpreting the words of Jesus in a way that makes common sense, I think. Of course everyone should be able to take holy communion, who are we to judge otherwise and how could anybody judge otherwise?

    • carlolancellotti

      Don’t be ridiculous, nobody is entitled to God’s grace. And the Church has full authority to decide who gets sacraments and who does not.

  • Howe Synnott

    Rules that appear ‘incomprehensible and unmerciful’ will reinforce the notion that Rome is ‘out of touch’ with the life of ordinary people – we are not talking about the life of a saint.

    It is not about ‘sin’ – or trying to prevent it; regrettably, it indicates little appreciation of the ‘Human Condition’ by the Church.

    • winslow

      For your information, Howe, the Church doesn’t make the rules. I’ll give you one guess who does. Hint: It’s the one who made ‘the human condition.’

      • Howe Synnott

        Winslow, thank you for your response.
        I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments stream arising from this piece. In particular, your many contributions – a delightful mixture of erudition and acerbic clarifications.
        Perhaps my favourite – your post in response to the Interrogator, “The Interrogator is exactly right…..”. A wonderful style – and leaving no doubt as to your position.

        • winslow

          Thanks, Howe. I think.. Happy New Year.

  • almarsh

    Cardinal Kaspar in retirement continues to have an influence far beyond his wisdom. It is time that another retired German Cardinal stepped forward to close down this nonsense once again.

    • bosco49

      Shall we just cut to the chase here? The German Bishops are arguing that sexually active divorced and civilly remarried couples should be permitted to continue to have sexual relations and still receive the Holy Eucharist. Period.

      There has long been a ‘pastoral solution’ offered by the Universal Church for the divorced and civilly remarried Catholic that they might receive both the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, i.e. admit you have sinned, repent, and refrain from sexual relations.

      Pope St. John Paul II wrote:

      “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who,repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves
      the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts
      proper to married couples.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84)

      On 14 September 1994 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the CDF issued a letter to all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of
      the Faithful within which letter then-Cardinal Cardinal Ratzinger stated:

      “The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.”

      On 24 June 24 2000 the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts issued an instruction “Concerning The Admission To Holy Communion Of Faithful Who Are Divorced And Remarried”

      The Pontifical Council stated:

      “Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – “to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses” (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, theywill be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo.”

      For the German bishops it seems it’s all about the sausage.

      • Roderick Blyth

        If people genuinely think that Church teaching on this subject is ‘incomprehensible and unmerciful’, and can’t be bothered to read what Our Lord said on the subject, they have only to read what bosco49 has posted. The fact that anyone can allege that the teachings of the Church on this subject are a ‘scandal’ is an index of (i) the complete failure of the Church to offer proper catachesis in its parishes and schools; and (b) the resulting permeation of secular ‘norms’ into the value systems held by allegedly committed catholics. The Church in Germany is an Augean Stable that needs a good poet-hosing, not a privileged place in the councils of the the Church. I have watched the Reformed Churches fall into a self-paraody dictated wholly by the ‘democratic’ secularism of their constituents, and cannot bear to see the same thing happening in the Catholic Church. ‘Compassion’ is the argument always used, so that anything that is seen as imposing ‘suffering’ on anybody is treated as trumping all considerations drawn from scripture, the fathers and the Councils – most of which is a closed book to the ‘moderns’. Well – I have got compassion fatigue: I think it is too often used an instrument by the devil. What use is it in cases where it leads people in the opposite direction to that which is preached for our salvation?

    • Genty

      Same goes for the meddling ‘retired’ Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor.

      • bosco49

        Ah! “Team Bergolio”.

      • licjjs

        I was just about to write the same thing!

    • licjjs

      Be careful what you wish for, though.

  • Julie

    Could the Bishops have been more adept at directing the current, in which their parishioners’ marriages and families have been drowning; under the influence of a careless mass-media and the admittedly, not inconsiderable enemies of God. If all that could have been said and done, was said and done, and parishioners’ thus recognise themselves, partly as the walking wounded of these spiritual battles ( yet complicit in its ‘mere atmospherics’ ) perhaps they should accept a blessing-in place of full communion, and guide their children.

    • kag1982

      Why would someone want to remain Catholic if they cannot receive Communion? This sort of half-nonsense where remarried Catholics are invited to remain in the Church (and continue giving $) and aren’t allowed to receive the Sacraments is just confusing. I get the radical traditionalists’ belief that these remarried couples should divorce; I don’t agree with it but at least I get it. I don’t get the position of many bishops today where they argue that the couples shouldn’t divorce but tell them to not receive Communion as punishment. (Oh and please continue dropping $$ in the collection plates.)

      • Julie

        An online image search for eucharistic exposition and adoration, makes it very apparent why Catholics are often in attendance other than to receive holy communion: O salutaris hostia…
        Being snowed in and absent from Mass, I also see that the weekday Missal offers many beautiful formulae for spiritual communion, via the saints.

        • kag1982

          There is no reason to remain Catholic if you cannot receive Communion ever. As in for the rest of your life. You can just go to any mainline Protestant church where you can receive their form of Communion while being fully accepted in a non-judgmental community.

          • Susan Peterson

            But in a Protestant church what you receive is not the Body and Blood of Christ. At least, not sacramentally, since the Eucharist depends on having validly ordained priests, and Protestants do not. Jesus may come there nonsacramentally to be with believers who seek him, but I doubt He will do that for someone who is running away from the Truth.

            • kag1982

              And for someone barred from receiving the Eucharist it doesn’t matter.

            • Vex

              Actually that depends on if you follow Catholic Church politics or not.

              About…Oh, was it two hundred years ago the RC debated the idea of Anglican clerics having valid holy orders and the Cardinalte actually favoured the notion they did (meaning Anglicans, and anyone in their line did have a valid Eucharist as Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches are considered to today).

              The only thing that decided against it was a personal decision by Leo XII despite wider opinion exactly the same was as when Humanae Vitae was being formulated (he said a different wording of the holy orders rite rendered it invalid).

              The Catholic Church certainly doesn’t claim all Protestants lack a valid Eucharist (Google the Old Catholics, basically everything Catholicism was pre-Vatican I but with Women Priests and divorce). They aren’t the only ones; lets not forget the Orthodox, Orientals, Coptics and the church of the east still have one…And all permit divorce and would welcome converts.

              Plenty of places an excommunicate Catholic can go and still receive the Eucharist. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Catholic bishop doubt the Orthodox having a genuine Eucharist, because after all that would render their own void in many cases since Orthodox/Catholic apostolic succession is very much intertwined!

              • ardenjm

                So if I’ve understood you correctly:
                Shop around because you might find a similar brand of Eucharist in a store that’s more to your liking…

                • Vex

                  No, just pointing out a hole in the claim that the Catholic Church is the only one with the sacraments. Even it admits it isn’t.

          • the whole worlds gone crazy

            Clearly you do not believe Catholic catechism, so why are you Catholic? Follow Luther and your emotions to the protestant faith. Many protestants become Catholic you are free to do the inverse. False faith is not merciful, rather it is a pathway to damnation.

            Funny how in the past 60 years all the lessons and teachings from the past are now considered outdated by so many. The arrogance of the modern world is destructive and vile.

            • kag1982

              And we are up to 84 now. And rigidity drives people away.

      • Athelstane

        I think it’s pretty obvious who’s after the cash the hardest, Kag: it’s the German bishops desperately clinging to the proceeds of their kirchensteuer. Which if you opt out of it, by the way, the bishops have insisted you forfeit the right to the sacraments and sacramentals (funeral Masses included).

        • kag1982

          Oh.. I’m against the Church tax, but I don’t think that is why the German bishops are solely in favor of mercy. And I’d prefer erring on the side of mercy rather than on the side of condemnation. At least the German bishops are in favor of giving Communion to remarried divorcees. What are conservative Catholics in favor of? These people rotting in the pews without access to the Sacraments.

          • Athelstane

            I don’t think that is why the German bishops are solely in favor of mercy.

            Oh, I don’t either; there’s plenty of bad theology at work, too.

            That said, however, it’s obvious from their actions that the German bishops value with real intensity their tax proceeds. This is not exactly an edifying witness for the faith, is it?

            These people rotting in the pews without access to the Sacraments.

            They certainly have access to *some* sacraments, Kag. And there is nothing to keep them from having access to the Eucharist if they repent of their sins – just like the rest of us. Otherwise, you are drinking your damnation when you drink from the chalice (I Cor. 11-27-29).

            Let’s try a simpler question which might better clarify where you draw your line: A man beats his wife and children, and sexually abuses them, day in and day out. He’s done so this morning before going to Mass; he fully intends to do so tonight. Should he present himself for communion?

            • kag1982

              So do you really think that the wife who is the abuse victim and divorces her husband and later remarries is living in sin? Should she be treated the same as her husband?

              • Athelstane

                Answers: 1) Yes, if there is no finding that the first marriage was invalid on proper canonical grounds; 2) Yes, insofar as reception of communion is concerned; no, insofar as pastoral care is concerned.

                Let us be clear: it’s quite licit, even advisable, from Church teaching that the wife ought to leave her abusive husband, for her own safety as well as that of her children (if any). A separation, even a civil divorce (to protect her legal rights), may well be necessary. That would not keep her from Communion. It’s only remarriage while the first marriage is still considered valid that presents a problem of mortal sin, because it would constitute adultery.

                The abusive husband is of course guilty of multiple grave sins, and ought to be assigned some serious penance, of the sort that the Early Church used to mete out.

                I reiterate my earlier question: Should the abusive husband present himself for communion without having repented?

                • kag1982

                  1. You really think that the Annulment Tribunal is the arbitrator of sin? I think that God doesn’t care.
                  2. Yes, suggesting someone remain Catholic if they cannot receive Communion is one of the stupidest things in the world. I don’t get it. I’m sorry we won’t give you Communion but we will give you something called “pastoral care” where we judge you as second class Catholics and lecture you about how evilllll you are and how you are being punished and singled out. But still come to Mass and be sure to come to Mass and give us money. Pastoral care! Reminding remarried divorcees that they are evil adulterers who needed to be shamed

                  And an abused wife not only deserves to be able to divorce her abusive husband but also to remarry. The abuser should think twice about going to Communion. This is because beating one’s wife is a serious sin; remarrying after divorcing your abusive husband isn’t.

                • Athelstane

                  You really think that the Annulment Tribunal is the arbitrator of sin?

                  No, a tribunal is a fact-finding body, and it relies on objective evidence as much as possible. In a larger sense – yes, the Church *does* exist to decide what sin is, so that it can forgive it, and be a channel for God’s mercy. If you want to leave this entirely to the discretion of the individual, I suggest that what you’re looking for is called Protestantism – or at least most flavors of it.

                  I think that God doesn’t care.

                  I think the very clear words of Christ in Mark and Matthew suggests that he very much does.

                  If we can’t believe those words are accurate, then everything in Scripture is open to doubt. And if that is the case, why bother with any of it? The whole thing would be a fraud.

                  I repeat my question a third time: Should the abusive husband present himself for communion without having repented?

                • kag1982

                  As I pointed out, an abusive husband should examine his conscience and probably refrain from Communion. This is because abuse is an actual sin. Remarrying after abusive marriage isn’t.

                  And tribunals are human institutions. They make mistakes. I don’t think that a marriage that has abuse is ever valid, but based on the current criteria, there is a possibility that the abusive marriage could be found so. In the 1960s, abuse victims were rarely given annulments. In fact, no one was given an annulment.

                  The issue with annulments is that most of them are based on subjective factors. It is sort of difficult for people to judge based on these grounds. And if an annulment is denied because of bad advice or just a harsh panel, then the petitioner has little recourse to rectify it. You cannot have a case retried because your ex-sister-in-law vindictively lied about you or the parish priest helping you fill out the paperwork was absent most of the time.

                • Athelstane

                  As I pointed out, an abusive husband should examine his conscience and probably refrain from Communion. This is because abuse is an actual sin.

                  Ah – so you *do* agree that sin exists, and that there are sins that should keep a person from receiving communion. So we do have a common premise to work from *here*, at least.

                  The difficulty is that you think abuse is a sin, but that divorce and remarriage are not. And I’m curious what divine authority you rely upon to make that determination. Christ clearly denounces divorce, but he’s not so clear on spousal abuse. So how do you make this determination? Why is your assessment correct, and that of the Catholic Church for the last two thousand years wrong?

      • angther

        Refraining from Communion is not a “punishment”. It is a severe penance to bring conversion and reconciliation. Why would someone want to remain Catholic if they cannot receive Communion? I wish you could ask my dear grandmother.

        She made an unfortunate marriage to a man by whom she became pregnant and who was twice married. My poor grandmother was berated for showing her face at Mass after what she had done. But I believe that my grandmother became a saint by bearing the humiliation with grace and love. But she suffered terribly at the hands of even some of her own family members, who were embarrassed by her. She, however, raised her children with Mass and the sacraments and sent them to Catholic school. She, herself was not able to receive communion, but was on her knees at mass every Sunday, making spiritual communions, and praying countless rosaries for the conversion of her husband.

        Then I remember as a child attending their “wedding” in the church. I understood much later that it was possible because they were living as “brother and sister”. My grandmother received Our Lord sacramentally thereafter. Several years later, my grandfather took instruction, and preparing for his First Communion on Sunday, made his First Confession on Friday. My grandmother died in her sleep on that Friday night. My grandfather was at the communion rail on his knees to receive Jesus for the first time that Sunday morning.

        My grandmother’s brother was the priest that gave my grandfather his first communion. He announced during the homily, the events of his sister’s passing and said that he believed that her mission had been accomplished and that she had surely died of happiness.

        This is the kind of Catholic that suffering, and penance, and love produces. It is a White Martyrdom. Watering down the faith in an effort to be “pastoral”, is a sin against charity towards a child of God; denying them the opportunity to become saints. And it weakens the Body of Christ.

        • kag1982

          It was horrific that your grandmother had to endure that and it is horrific that the Church would ask anyone to bear such a cross for absolutely no reason.. And what your grandmother had to endure served absolutely NO PURPOSE. This is what Pope Francis mentioned as the “leaders” putting intolerable burdens on the people of God. Making certain people into scapegoats, forcing them to wear scarlet letters for their sins, and practically excommunicating them from the Church shouldn’t occur.

          And all Catholics are called to strive toward sainthood. It is interesting that the special “penances” (aka punishments) are only enforced on those who live outside certain family norms, especially if they are women. In your grandmother’s case, she was being punished for marrying a non-Catholic, which was an awful sin in her day. This doesn’t happen for men who are defrauding their customers and beating up their wives.

          • angther

            She was not being punished for marrying a non-catholic. She was not denied communion because she got pregnant. She could not receive communion because of the choice she made to marry a man that had been married twice previously. Given the circumstances, she no doubt felt she did what was best at the time. At that point, she had not been living in accord with the teachings of Jesus, and sadly, the marriage was a bad one; so she turned to the Lord as her only hope. But God, through His mercy and the teachings of the church turned her bad situation into her opportunity for sanctity.

            And BTW this was no “punishment” as you call it, of her as a woman. Men are held to the same standard of sexual right and wrong. Your notion of penance as punishment is flawed. This is precisely that to which I am referring in the watering down of the faith. Some deep theological understandings have been lost to modernism and the mistaken notion of “compassion”. Some sins are more public, and some sins are ongoing. My grandmother chose to stay married and continue her illicit marital relationship with her husband for the immediate good
            of the children. She bore her cross heroically, meanwhile partaking of all of the other helps and graces of the Church.

            Have you forgotten the whole purpose of our earthly journey here? Do you not understand the concept of sacrifice, redemptive suffering, and reparation? The Church is not retaliatory or unnecessarily punitive. God has set out consequences for our actions that will draw us back to repentance and Him. To do penance is a sign
            of sorrow and willingness to be purified. There are
            real consequences for sin, and my grandmother humbly accepted hers and relied directly on the mercy of God. She turned to God and brought her family with her. Her suffering had NO PURPOSE? I wouldn’t call the sanctification of her soul and the souls of her 6 children, husband, and all her grandchildren “no good reason”.

            • Murray

              Dead on, angther. Your grandmother’s story is beautiful. Thank you.

            • RufusChoate

              What a splendid and wonderful story.,

      • Philippa Martyr

        Why do you want Communion? Or any other sacrament?

        • kag1982

          Because it provides me the grace to continue with my life.

          • Philippa Martyr

            But if you eat and drink your own condemnation, that’s not really going to do you any favours, is it?

            • kag1982

              I don’t believe that.

              • winslow

                How very Protestant of you, Kag. You know you’re in the wrong church, don’t you? As a Catholic I don’t have the right or the authority to declare “I don’t believe that.” in reference to Catholic doctrine, nor do you, so just say goodbye and be an Episcopalian. They have everything you want

                • kag1982

                  I think that God differentiates between an individual person’s sins and I thought this is what the Catholic Church believed. Silly me.

                • winslow

                  You’re changing the subject. I said we, as Catholics don’t have the liberty of picking and choosing which of Catholic doctrine we will or will not believe.
                  Where is it written that God differentiates between our sins? You thinking what you think God thinks while thinking about what you think the Church thinks is at least two degrees of separation from the truth.

                • kag1982

                  I think that God judges individuals; there is no “rule book” to getting into Heaven.

    • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

      I don,t think Jesus does marginalisation or exceptionalist type tactics,which is what anything other than full communion will create. I don’t think Jesus even does ” tolerance”-no- jesus just does full blown, in-you’re-face, love,actually.

      • winslow

        Absolute nonsense!

      • Philippa Martyr

        It’s true. Jesus loves us enough to allow us free will, and the full use of that free will until the moment we die.
        And we can use that free will to love Him enough to do what He asks us to to, and be happy, and use the Sacraments properly.
        Or we can use free will to choose to disobey Him, and abuse the Sacraments by receiving them when we feel like we’re entitled, and complain that He should fall into line with us.
        That’s real love. He loves us enough to let us choose to do wrong, even if it means we will be lost to Him forever.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Of course we have free will. The Boss says so.

    • winslow

      First, I object to the derisive term ‘radical traditionalists.’ There are two categories of Catholic. Catholics and heretical Catholics. That’s it.Those who wish to throw Our Lord under the bus and abandon the 6th Commandment are heretics.
      The reasons for remaining in the Church while having separated oneself from the Sacrament have been stated by others and are valid. I have never heard a cleric say money is the reason the separated are encouraged to stay in the Church. There is no requirement that anyone at Mass put a dime in the collection basket.
      Kag, please don’t kid yourself you’re talking about mercy. Jesus said, ‘He who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery with her.’ What about that don’t you understand? Or have decided the 6th Commandment no longer applies? The divorced and remarried knew what they were doing when they remarried and the did it anyway. Now you talk about mercy. Please!
      The Catholic Church is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Deny Him and His teachings and you have ceased to be a Christian and there is no reason for any Christian religion, most especially the Catholic Church.
      Some of you folks need to so a little serious thinking.

      • John Byde

        Perfect answer winslow. Jesus’s own words about divorce and remarriage leap out from the bible. What more do we need?

  • Zephyranth

    IMHO, “avarice” and other such related sins are far greater evil (often unjudged so the guilty ones are free to take Communion)…. Making it hypocritical or unjust to disallow Communion for those who had experienced failed first marriages and have remarried (especially for those previously unmarried [celibate people] and who happened to marry people who have been divorced for a few decades already and led chaste lives prior to the second marriage).

    • Philippa Martyr

      Sexual expression is hugely important in human life – it’s how we make more human beings. Because of this, and because of the tremendous capacity for intimacy and union in sexual relations, anything to do with sexual expression has to be protected carefully.
      The upshot of this is that sexual sins, knowingly committed, always exclude a person from Holy Communion. They’re always serious, because sexuality is always a serious matter.
      It’s got nothing to do with your emotions, because they can’t tell you what is right or wrong. It’s got everything to do with serious objective realities.

  • The Interrogator

    One last mention—-those Bishops are just using Pope Francis to get what they want.
    There is no doubt about that, but Francis had better think twice about his pandering to the paganism of the world, because HE is the one who would ultimately pay for such a rebellion, not those bishops in Germany!

    FRANCIS could be asked and probably would be pressured to resign as pope then. What a scandal. Would he want ruination to come upon him? We shall see. But, I’m so sad to see we have a pope who is this naïve.

  • The Interrogator

    I like your last words in the last paragraph. So true!
    I do believe that some Cardinals and Bishops will be putting pressure on Francis to resign, IF HE DARES TO CHANGE CHURCH DOCTRINE.

    Pope Benedict XVI is already seeing the terrible outcome of the relaxation of our morals in America & Europe since Vatican II. I never even thought about Vatican II, because I was raised during that time and didn’t know what was going on. But I experienced the time in the late 50’s & early 60’s when our culture still had real Christian values. Things started changing…

    But now, now that I am older, I can see how the “changes” in Church tradition here in America has really downgraded our faith, to the point people almost act as if they are Protestants. No reverence is there. Priests pander to the paganism of America and her politicians and Hollywood and the small element of very rich and decadent elites who control our politicians. They speak of Soddom & Gomorrah in terms that it was just about “bad manners”, instead of a sin that is so offensive to God that it strikes at the very being of the core of our existence! I reported our priest here in Billings, MT at St. Patrick’s to our Bishop for this very reason.

    Priests give in the hand. Now, with such relaxation of priests into the Church, priests that are questionable regarding whether they lean towards sodomy or are sodomites, is now an infestation and very difficult to get rid of. These are the priests who’ve become, in some cases, bishops, then Cardinals. I’d like to think we don’t have an infestation within Rome, but I shudder at that thought.

    Pope Leo XIII’s vision was bold—in that Satan would enter the Church. My sense is that the children of Fatima’s 3rd secret was just that & has never been revealed. Malachai died with it in his heart. Pope Benedict knows it. If there ever was a time for the truth of it to be revealed, it would be now. Perhaps Benedict followed the desires of whom he was following & respecting—the Pope he knew and loved who may have made a terrible mistake in keeping this secret. Certainly, Pope John XXIII made the worst mistake in originally keeping it secret. It has since backfired on the Church and has now become prophetic.

    • winslow

      The Interrogator is exactly right. These heretic Germans should be defrocked and urged to become the Protestants they really are. There is no other solution to this crisis.
      If Francis wants to be the Pope, he must become, in truth, the Vicar of Christ — Christ on earth. Does he think Our Lord would allow Himself to be pushed around by a mob of heretics bent on destroying the Church? That process began at Vatican II. It looks like the end game is under way.
      It’s time for Cardinals Burke and Pell to take center stage again and marshall the forces loyal to the Church for a serious counterattack.

  • Hamburger

    A conundrum is that divorced Catholics who take a new partner can, as long as they go to confession, can take communion and remarried Catholics cannot. Odd when you think about it.

    • Brendan

      No it does not. Confession is not valid unless the penitent resolves to sin no more. Intending to go back to sexual relations with a new partner (whether they have remarried them or not) does not constitute a resolve to sin no more. Divorced Catholics who take a new partner are not permitted to take Communion while they remain with that partner.

      • Hamburger

        I believe the point is the intention at the time of confession.

        • Brendan

          Indeed it is, but if someone intends to stay in a sexual relationship with a new partner when they make their Confession, then that Confession is not valid. It must be a genuine intention, not just something said in the confessional.

          • Hamburger

            Agreed, hypothetically they could do so at the time of the confession but are, like all of us, weak.

            • winslow

              Your notion is untenable, Hamburger. You are assuming the false penitent can con God. I don’t think so.

    • Fr Alexander JCL

      Just FYI, current Catholic practice is that divorced/remarried can only do this when they are not, strictly speaking, living in sin. Meaning they need to be i) at least sleeping in separate beds and ii) there needs to be an absence of scandal. This generally would be the case with older individuals who, for example, have children but wish to reconcile their lives with the Church. This is called the “internal forum solution”. If one is continuing in your situation there is no contrition and the priest cannot validly absolve you (even if he attempted to do so there would be no quasi-matter and thus it would not be a valid sacrament).

      • Patsy Koenig

        That is a redefinition of marriage. Jesus said: “He who divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery.”

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          I’d never join a club that would accept me as a member.
          I’d never join a club with a load of dated regulations.
          I’d resign from a club that told me how to live my life.

          • Romulus

            The Catholic Church is not a club.

            The Catholic church transcends time and is in no sense dated.

            The Catholic Church does not tell you how to live your life. She proposes and offers a way by which you may avoid eternal death, the reception or rejection of which is entirely up to you.

            • winslow


      • Hamburger

        Thank you.

  • kag1982

    Really? The bishops are going to revolt over the fact that a few remarried divorcees get to receive Communion (and the proposal is for a few remarried people in specific situations to receive Communion). That says more about the bishops in certain countries like America than it does about the proposal. The current proposal doesn’t work, so why not try something new. And I think that what Kasper is recommending is being equally flexible and pastoral to the African bishops and others. This includes allowing them space to deal with polygamy, tribal marriage customs, etc. It seems to me a deal can be reached with the Africans and that the real issue is with conservative Catholic culture warrior bishops and priests in the West who don’t want to deal with the pastoral problems in the West or in developing countries in African. They just want to hold the line on sexual morality as if it was a 1950s American TV sitcom and pretend that the problem will go away.

    And a vast majority of Catholics, including Mass-going Catholics, are in favor of this proposal. That is what the surveys clearly said. There does seem to be a very loud and very small minority of conservative Catholics who post online, many of whom seem to be suffering from elder brother syndrome. I cannot really take seriously as an argument those who have perfectly good marriages but seem so upset with accommodations for those who have had messy love lives. Surely, you have remained married to a person because you love that person, not because the Church says so. If you are in a miserable marriage solely because they Church says so, I’d recommend seeking counseling and even getting a divorce if the situation cannot be repaired rather than stewing over pastoral outreach toward others.

    • Shogun Smith

      the real issue is with conservative Catholic culture warrior bishops and
      priests in the West who don’t want to deal with the pastoral problems
      in the West or in developing countries in Africa

      No, the “real issue” is liberals who think that one deals with the pastoral problem of unrepented sexual sin by acting as if it weren’t sin – an approach which has no support in the example of Our Lord, His Apostles, or the last two thousand years of Catholicism. Fortunately, the Church of Christ enjoys guarantees from her Founder that she will not fail, so while the ride ahead may be bumpy, faithful Catholics have no cause for despair. Pray!

      • kag1982

        Or perhaps bishops who understand that the only sins in the world aren’t sexual in nature and that those who fail to live up to the high ideal deserve a second chance? The proposal doesn’t argue that divorce isn’t sinful, but it does argue that those that fail in their marriages deserve a second chance and don’t deserve to be excluded from Communion.

        • winslow

          First, divorce isn’t sinful. Remarriage is sinful. That should give you a glimmer how far off your ‘thinking’ is.
          Second, the proposal says, ‘Yes we know the divorced and remarried are living in sin, but we propose pretending they aren’t.’ Deal with that instead of verbal gymnastics.

          • kag1982

            “First, divorce isn’t sinful. Remarriage is sinful.”

            Actually, divorce is the sinful action, not the remarriage. Someone could divorce his or her spouse and spend the rest of their life single and it would still be sinful for them to leave their children and other obligations. Jesus was stating that divorce was a sin, not remarriage. And why was divorce such a sin? Because it meant abandoning one’s obligations and leaving the women in dire straits and needing to commit a sin to live. “Divorce forces the woman to commit adultery.” The idea of marriage and divorce in 1st century Judea was different than in 21st Century America. Marriages were arranged and for economic purposes and the men were the ones doing the divorcing. Most divorces were probably because of a wife’s infertility (or her failure to give birth to sons). There were obviously divorces among the upper class for reasons of sexual infidelity as well (i.e. Herod.)

            The Orthodox put the sin on the right place, the divorce itself. While the stakes aren’t as high as in 1st century Judea, the failed marriage is due to the sins of at least one partner (in the case of abuse or abandonment) and probably both partners. Reflecting on those sins isn’t such a bad thing even if the person is the victim. (The victim needs help identifying potential bad potential future spouses.)

            “‘Yes we know the divorced and remarried are living in sin, but we propose pretending they aren’t.’ Deal with that instead of verbal gymnastics.”

            The proposal suggests that every person’s individual circumstances are different. For instance, an abuse victim should be dealt with differently from an abuser. Now they aren’t.

            • winslow

              You are wrong again. Jesus said, “He who divorces his wife AND MARRIES ANOTHER, commits adultery with her.” He said nothing about divorce being a sin, nor anything about the other ‘sins’ you invented. Obviously you reject the annulment process, which was instituted to address the injustices you’re rightly concerned about.
              The Orthodox are the worst argument you could present to this discussion. They allow, not merely a first, but a second marriage as well.

              • kag1982

                “You are wrong again. ”
                “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced women commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

                “Obviously you reject the annulment process, which was instituted to address the injustices you’re rightly concerned about.”
                And the annulment process doesn’t address the injustices that have been outlined. It is a legalistic mess that harms people it was intended to help. My issues have the deal with injustices associated with the annulment process.

                1. There are specific reasons why people might not want to initiate an annulment. Abuse victims are one such case. Abuse victims might not want their abuser contacted to begin the annulment process. There is also situation where the person knows that it might bring up old wounds with relatives, friends, exes, etc. Witnesses die or lose their memories. They might not be willing to help.
                2. The priests (and it is mainly priests) are judging a person’s thoughts and actions in most cases. Do you really think that the person who never has met someone and is reading their testimony is going to be able to judge someone’s state of mind 20 years ago?
                3. The process itself is unpastoral in many places and is less fun than dealing with the IRS. This is true for many of the larger urban dioceses. Getting a good outcome is largely based on the level of service one gets in there. It is entirely possible that someone with a good case will have their annulment rejected because they get bad advice from a crabby priest. People might be embarrassed to provide extensive written testimony on their marriages.
                4. There are cases where the marriages are valid. Do you seriously think that someone’s marriage of 20 years isn’t valid? Even abusive marriages can be valid.

                “The Orthodox are the worst argument you could present to this discussion. They allow, not merely a first, but a second marriage as well.”
                The Orthodox has something called Ecclesiastical Divorce which is done at the parish level. The pastor must counsel the couple and then writes to request permission for the divorce afterwards. During the period, the petitioner usually goes through a period of penance and spiritual instruction. And the Orthodox allow up to three marriages, which is good for regular folks but bad for serial monogamists.

                • Athelstane

                  Our aggrieved German (or American) divorcees aren’t going to put up with any “period of penance and spiritual instruction,” or a more sober and stripped down ceremony, and you know it. This would, after all, imply that they had done something wrong. This is mere smokescreen; the great majority of these people simply do not believe that marriage is indissoluble, regardless of what the words of the Gospels say, and they see no problem with marrying as many times as one wishes.

                • kag1982

                  I think that many would put up with something like that if they truly wanted to receive Communion. And most already are married and don’t really want another religious ceremony. They just want to receive Communion.

                • Athelstane

                  They just want to receive Communion.

                  If so, why?

                • kag1982

                  Because receiving the body and blood of Christ is the only reason to be Catholic.

                • Philippa Martyr

                  I get what you’re saying, but it’s not the only reason.
                  Some other reasons to be Catholic:
                  -It’s the true Church, founded by Christ Himself.
                  -It’s the Body of Christ.
                  -It’s the Bride of Christ.
                  -It’s the path to Heaven.
                  -It’s the only Church that will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it.
                  -It’s headed by someone who is infallible on matters of faith and morals.
                  -It has a solid 2000 year old spiritual and intellectual tradition.
                  -The other Sacraments also come highly recommended!

                • Jackthesmilingblack

                  Front runner for gullible Muppet of the year.

                • kag1982

                  And remarried Catholics cannot receive any of the other Sacraments.

                  And the only difference between Protestant churches and Catholicism are the Sacraments. If you cannot receive the Sacraments, there is no point in remaining Catholic. Why would anyone want to remain part of a Church that didn’t want them for a full member and that made them wear a scarlet A.

                • Athelstane

                  And the only difference between Protestant churches and Catholicism are the Sacraments.

                  And Apostolic succession. Which is to say that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ…and they are not (though they may have some elements of the truth).

                  The Japanese Catholics forced underground during the Shogunate went two centuries without regular access to the Eucharist.

                  Obviously, they felt that there was an even more important reason to remain Catholic in spite of this great sacrifice.

                  “Sacrifice,” however, is not a word very congenial to most Westerners, unless it’s the sort of sacrifice (time spent in gym, or getting advanced degrees) that leads directly to some material advantage.

                • kag1982

                  Yes. And Bob Divorcee can go over to the Episcopalian Church next door unlike the Japanese. He can worship in an environment almost like the Catholic Church but they will give him access to the Sacraments and won’t treat him like a pariah. Question is why would anyone stick with the Church in this situation?

                • winslow

                  ” He can worship in an environment almost like the Catholic Church but they will give him access to the Sacraments and won’t treat him like a pariah.”
                  They can’t give him the sacraments because they don’t have a valid priesthood and thus, no sacraments.
                  Your inference is the Catholic Church treats the divorced and remarried like pariahs. Your streak is intact. It’s the divorced and remarried who are treating themselves like pariahs. Not being allowed the Sacrament under the conditions is a dogma of the Church, an edict given the Church by the Holy Spirit. You seem to think these are man made rules written for the sake of punishment. They are not. This particular one exists to protect the Body and Blood of Christ from profanation. It’s up for grabs whether you’re capable of understanding that.

                • kag1982

                  ” It’s the divorced and remarried who are treating themselves like pariahs. ”

                  Remarried people aren’t going to divorce or live like brother and sister. Sorry.

                  ” Not being allowed the Sacrament under the conditions is a dogma of the Church, an edict given the Church by the Holy Spirit. You seem to think these are man made rules written for the sake of punishment.”

                  It is a man-made rule to coerce people to go to Confession, which no one would do without the link between Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

                  ” This particular one exists to protect the Body and Blood of Christ from profanation.”

                  So Jesus is so precious and delicate that he cannot stand to mingle with sinners. Oh good Lord, what about all the sinners he ate with on Earth. I think that God can handle himself with sinners.

                • John Byde

                  sorry, Philippa, but the RCC seems VERY different from the churches described in the NT. And there are too many divergences from the NT (where did purgatory come from? Mary worship, etc.). I have respect for the RCC (at least until Bergoglio came along) but there are many decent Christians edging their way to heaven who are OUTSIDE the RCC. God bless.

              • Athelstane

                The Orthodox only changed the constant teaching of the Church (in the East) on the indissolubility of marriage under pressure of the imperial government – plain and simple.

                The powers of this world so often find this to be a teaching they cannot abide.

    • Athelstane

      And a vast majority of Catholics, including Mass-going Catholics, are in favor of this proposal.

      If they are – let us posit that this is true at least in Germany – then it is because the majority of Catholics really are not Catholics in terms of their belief, but are rather moral therapeutic deists.

      Communion has always been open to sinners – repentant sinners. The point here is that Catholics who are divorced and remarried are still sinning, and therefore are not repentant. The reality is that many Catholics (including certain bishops), like their non-Catholic neighbors, no longer agree with what Christ said in Mark 10:2-5 – they see nothing wrong with divorce. This is obvious since one can easily find ongoing sins that many such Catholics would find to be a bar to communion, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, serial rape, etc.

      Liberal Protestants gave up on this hard teaching generations ago. If we want to share their demographic destiny (extinction), we can do so, too.

      • John Byde

        A vast majority of catholics in Germany isn’t going to be a very big number anyway!

    • almarsh

      Jesus said, “Go – and sin no more”. The problem with liberals is that they no longer acknowledge the reality which is sin.

      • kag1982

        And the problem with conservatives is that they assume everyone’s sin is the same rather than looking at circumstances. Is an abused spouse who leaves his or her abuser and then remarries really the same as someone who divorces his or her spouse of twenty years to marry a “younger model”?

        • almarsh

          Special pleading. Sin is sin is sin.

          • kag1982

            So you don’t see distinctions based on circumstances? Even the legal system does.

            • almarsh

              I am a lawyer. People pay lawyers to find escape clauses. Jesus condemned the lawyers of his day who wrote bills of divorce for those who wanted to change their partners. See Matthew 19.6 “Those whom God has joined together, let not man divide”.

              • kag1982

                Like a tribunal where a bunch of celibate priests discuss whether the ts were crossed and whether someone was really married. An escape clause like that.

                • Athelstane

                  More than a few canon lawyers on tribunals are laypeople. Some of them are even married.

                • kag1982

                  There needs to be at least two ordained ministers on every tribunal case. Some of the ordained ministers are deacons, but at least one must be a priest on each case.

                • Athelstane

                  There needs to be at least two ordained ministers on every tribunal case.

                  A point which does not refute my comment.

                  Laypeople can even serve as judges on tribunals.

                  If we can’t trust priests to execute this process, I wonder what we can possibly trust them with.

                • kag1982

                  Saying Mass and providing the Sacraments to faithful. You know.. things they are actually trained to do.

                • winslow

                  People who use ‘celibate priests’ in a discussion like this one are telling me they have nothing to say.

                • kag1982

                  Do you think that priests who choose not to marry should be judging others marriages?

                • winslow

                  Kag, clerics who sit on annulment tribunals are usually canon lawyers. They assess the facts against the law and are qualified to do so. It has nothing to do with ‘judging marriages,’ whatever that means.

                • kag1982

                  They are speaking about people’s marriages; perhaps having experience with marriage would help someone be kinder and fairer (which isn’t the case now.)

                • winslow

                  Spoken like a true secular liberal.

              • Jackthesmilingblack

                Thought it was, “let no man put assunder”.

          • Kaine

            Except it isn’t. Was Jesus guilty of wrath when he tipped over the tables of the money lenders?

        • winslow

          The abused spouse can get an annulment then remarry, being a little more careful when choosing the new spouse.

          • kag1982

            Abuse isn’t grounds for an annulment. There is a potential that an abusive marriage is valid. Also, an abuse victim might not want to contact an abusive spouse to begin the annulment process.

            • Athelstane

              Kag is correct that abuse, by itself, is not grounds for an annulment.

              But the abuse victim does not need to communicate with the spouse to begin an annulment. The tribunal takes care of that. They do not communicate any information about the spouse’s whereabouts to the other spouse. It’s up to the spouse whether they wish to cooperate with the trial, if they want to contest it, or if they wish to ignore it.

              • kag1982

                Yes and contacting the abuser could set a person off. This happened to a neighbor who I knew as a child. Her ex-husband was so upset about the annulment that he actually began harassing and threatening her. He even parked her car outside in the middle of the night and started yelling at her. My father called the cops. It was quite exciting.

                The people helping her with her claim weren’t sympathetic when she explained what would happen and continued to be unsympathetic when the husband started harassing her. She ended up dropping her claim and marrying in a Protestant church.

                • Athelstane

                  Unfortunately, the abused wife would be in the same situation when she files for divorce (as I presume she would), wouldn’t she? An annulment is going to be chickenfeed after that (there’s no money or custody at stake there, that’s already been decided). And if he’s threatening her, it would not be hard to get a restraining order against him.

                  We have clear words from Christ, in two synoptic gospels (the earliest ones, I might add), with the only variance being adultery as possible grounds. They’re injunctions that confound his hearers, because they are actually making the law more stringent than it was under the old covenant. Either they’re accurate accounts of what Christ commanded, or they are not. And if they are not, I do not see how we can rely on *any* passages in the gospels as accurate. The whole edifice collapses.

                  But you’ve already made clear elsewhere that you don’t think the gospels are accurate, or believe in Christ’s divinity. And that being the case, I don’t see how we have any common premises to work from. Some of us wish to belong to the Church that teaches as she has always taught, and be bound by its laws (however flawed its executors might be at times), and that is our right. We don’t wish anyone to leave, but if you don’t agree with what the Church teaches, there’s nothing to stop you, or those who think like you, from leaving.

                • kag1982

                  “Unfortunately, the abused wife would be in the same situation when she files for divorce (as I presume she would), wouldn’t she? An annulment is going to be chickenfeed after that (there’s no money or custody at stake there, that’s already been decided). And if he’s threatening her, it would not be hard to get a restraining order against him.”

                  This was a situation where is was quite a few years after.. six or seven I believe. Things have cooled down but the annulment set it off. And we weren’t living there during the divorce nor would I have remembered it but I will take the woman at her words that the annulment led to more harassment. And Church officials are required to be more understanding than secular officials. That is their job. The callousness with which they treated this woman is par for the course with Catholic officials.

                  “We have clear words from Christ, in two synoptic gospels (the earliest ones, I might add), with the only variance being adultery as possible grounds. They’re injunctions that confound his hearers, because they are actually making the law more stringent than it was under the old covenant. Either they’re accurate accounts of what Christ commanded, or they are not. And if they are not, I do not see how we can rely on *any* passages in the gospels as accurate. The whole edifice collapses.”

                  Wow… So I’m assuming that you believe that Adam and Eve were real people. Would it collapse the whole edifice if I told you that they weren’t real? And the Gospels all have Jesus doing different thing.

                  “But you’ve already made clear elsewhere that you don’t think the gospels are accurate, or believe in Christ’s divinity.”

                  I believe that the Gospels were tailored to different audiences. I believe that just because something is theologically accurate but not historically true. And of course I believe in the divinity of Jesus. Communion is the only reason I remain Catholic.

                • ardenjm

                  Just sticking my oar in:

                  “Wow… So I’m assuming that you believe that Adam and Eve were real people.”

                  We have to: it’s Catholic dogma.


                  And yes, without it the whole edifice does come collapsing down. Christ comes to save us. He saves us from sin. Sins are a consequence of the fallen human nature we’ve all inherited… from our first parents. So. Sorry. But Humani generis was very clear. Whilst remaining open on the question of evolution as a theory the Encyclical condemned the position you seem to be advocating:
                  “For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”

                • kag1982

                  Even Humani Generis doesn’t endorse the literal truth of the Genesis Creation story. Do you believe things happened like suggested in that story?

                • ardenjm

                  Humani Generis reminds us in no uncertain terms that there was an original father and mother of all humanity (that the Bible calls Adam and Eve) who were created in a state of original justice that they lost through original sin which left humanity in a fallen state – and that human nature, in that state, is inherited by all human beings.

                  Re-read the quote above.

                  That part is non-negotiable. The story that tells it in the Bible is what the Bible SAYS – and the Church has never bound herself to Fundamentalist Literalism – because the Church has always been aware that what the Bible MEANS in what it SAYS needs to be understood. This is what the Holy Spirit guides the Church’s Magisterium to articulate down the ages “bringing things new and old” from the storeroom. The opening gambit of the encyclical couldn’t be clearer in that respect – and brings me back to my original point: It is Catholic dogma that we have all inherited a fallen human nature from our first parents – and the consequences of that is what Our Lord came to save us from. (And give us in Communion – to re-iterate what keeps you Catholic…)

                  “This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the teaching authority of the Church.”

                • Athelstane

                  Ardenjm is correct: Humani Generis actually does uphold the truth of Genesis. Take another look at HG #38 and 39, which speaks directly to these questions:

                  38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies.[13] This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

                  39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.

                • kag1982

                  There can be theological truths and historical truths.

                • ardenjm

                  Yes. But unsurprisingly for an Incarnational religion like ours there comes a point where these two orders intersect: three principal ones come to mind:
                  Christ was born.
                  He rose from the dead.
                  He is present in the Blessed Sacrament.
                  Specifically historical theological truths include, I’m afraid, our first parents and the reality of the Fall – no matter how it escapes our historical analysis (like the Resurrection for that matter – to say nothing of the belief that Christ is present in this consecrated piece of bread and not in that other, non-consecrated piece of bread) nevertheless it is de Fide that there was indeed a Fall and that the consequences of that EVENT have been transmitted to all the offspring of those who did it: every human being. That also is de Fide.

                  You know you have no room for manoeuvre on this.
                  So, you know, just be gracious, hold your hands up and say: “okay, I’m trying to square circles here.”

                  Mind how you go.

                • Athelstane

                  And Church officials are required to be more understanding than secular officials. That is their job.

                  I’ve been through an annulment process myself. It was not always run like it should have been. I have had to deal with insensitive Church officials myself. So I am not unsympathetic, Kag.

                  But I was willing to abide by the Church’s procedures, and their outcome (even if it meant I might not be granted an annulment); as Flannery O’Connor once said, sometimes we suffer more from the Church than we do for the Church. And given what you have said, I would have granted your friend a restraining order had I been the judge.

                  Wow… So I’m assuming that you believe that Adam and Eve were real people.

                  Yes. Sure. That’s Church dogma. But that’s not necessarily incompatible with some openness to evolution.

                • kag1982

                  We shouldn’t suffer from the Church. The Church should provide comfort and support which it doesn’t.

                • Martlet

                  I’ve been through an annulment process myself.

                  Me too, Athelstane, and as I have said elsewhere in these endless circular discussions with Kag, I found it incredibly cathartic. Unlike you, I did not have to deal with any insensitivity and the only aspect I found burdensome is the time it took for what was a clear-cut case. My parish priest walked with me every step of the way and the sense of liberation I experienced when the decree was granted was worth every second of anxiety.

                  As for the case Kag resurrects periodically, I too find it hard to believe that the respondent was more troublesome over a decree of nullity than he was over the divorce itself, but even if that were the case because of some control issue he had, any judge in his right mind would grant a restraining order.