German church leader signals opening for divorcees

BERLIN (AP) – The new leader of Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops is signaling support for allowing some divorced but remarried Catholics to receive Communion after a “penitential period.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who also sits on a panel that helps advise Pope Francis on Vatican reform, was elected Wednesday to head the German Bishops’ Conference.

Church teaching holds that unless their first marriage is annulled, remarried Catholics can’t receive Communion or other sacraments. The church is now discussing anew how to handle such cases.

With all due respect, why is Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics being discussed as if the teaching could be changed, when apparently even the Pope does not have the power to change the teaching in Communion and divorced remarried Catholics?

Card Marx “signaled” his support for this a long time ago, I don’t know why it’s news now.

As for his statement that the Cardinal’s reactions to Kasper’s proposal were “varied”, Sandro Magister said in his report on the Consistory that “numerous Cardinals of the first order” intervened against it, which I hope is accurate.

From what I’ve read of the Cardinals’ reactions to these talks (particularly Card Nichols), it seems that things could be moving towards increasing the grounds for nullity (rather than towards giving sacraments to the divorced/remarried). I don’t love this idea of expanding the grounds for nullity, but it’s far better than the alternative, so I hope that’s whats happening.

People overlook that, in the interview with La Stampa, the pope defended the Church’s prohibition about divorced and remarried people not being permitted to receive Communion: “The exclusion of divorced people who contract a second marriage from communion is not a [punishment]. It is important to remember this.” When he was asked what he meant in his encyclical Evangelium Gaudii by speaking of “prudent and bold pastoral choices regarding the sacraments,” he clarified his meaning, saying, "Some immediately thought about the sacraments for remarried divorcees, but I did not refer to any specific cases; I simply wanted to point out a principle. We must try to facilitate people’s faith.”

I think the pope has actually been pretty clear that the prohibition is not going to change. Members of the synod itself have come out and said so. But the media doesn’t report it much. Anyway, I don’t think the pope would defend the Church’s current stance if he was going to change it. And I certainly don’t think the cardinals who have openly stated that the Church’s stance won’t change would be saying this so confidently if changes were on the table.

Yes, examining the grounds for nullity would certainly make more sense. Simply doing a “period of penance” for prior divorce would not make an invalid marriage valid, any more than doing a period of penance for continuing cohabitation would make the union a marriage.

This headline will give hope to the dissidents whose sole object is to bring down the faith, teaching by teaching without further thought to what other prominent Church leaders are saying. Why do we encourage them?