CONFIRMED: Communion for remarried divorcees is on the agenda

“We will discuss it without any taboos. The Orthodox experience could be of help to us.”
– Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops

Vatican Insider has put an end to my speculation: “Church should take new approach towards question of communion for remarried divorcees”:

“The experience of the Orthodox Church may be helpful to us, not just in terms of synodality and collegiality, but also in the case we are talking about now. It can help illuminate the way. But now is not the time to discuss which solution is better. These are issues that will be discussed in the Synod. We have started taking a different approach to these issues in relation to the past, asking dioceses and parishes to contribute information and ideas – the basis of this new approach – and this will help us a great deal. The experiences of other Churches such as the Eastern Churches will also be helpful. As you said, the Pope himself made reference to Orthodox practice.”


18 thoughts on “CONFIRMED: Communion for remarried divorcees is on the agenda

  1. “We will discuss it without any taboos. The Orthodox experience could be of help to us.”

    Taboo: ” A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion.”

    1) Taboos? Two-thousand years of Catholic teaching and practice is a “taboo”?

    2) A new direction in theology: change Catholic teaching and practice to reflect and include: a) the teaching and practice of the Orthodox schismatics; b) the teaching and practice of the Protestants; c) the teaching and practice of the Marxists.

    3) The New Evangelization: code for – collections are down; we need to do something.

    Actually, we do need a new evangelization: one directed at bringing priests and bishops back into Catholic teaching and practice. This evangelization is the task of the laity in virtue of their Baptism.


  2. This would be an unmitigated disaster. The Eastern Orthodox, wrongly in my book, believe one can legitimately divorce and re-marry if there “is no longer a marriage” as judged by an ecclesiastical court (the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox at least restrict divorce to cases of adultery). Their practice, a departure from that of the Apostolic Church, was concocted by an emperor eager for a divorce and only codified in 920AD. And yet, there is something to be said for the fact that the Orthodox at least believe the second or third marriage is a real marriage. In Catholic theology and Canon Law this is impossible, which would mean giving Holy Communion to people the Church recognizes as public adulterers.


  3. RP and Rad Trad, thank you for the comments. I feel certain that adopting the EO marriage discipline, even in part, would be so radical a departure from Catholic praxis (to borrow one of the pope’s favorite words) that it would shake the Church to her foundations.


  4. I very much doubt this will happen. Studying EO praxis and implementing it in a Western context are two very different things since there are two different theologies of marriage here. Recall that the CDF recently clarified this with a fairly detailed report on the indissolubility of marriage. It’s time to calm down and be patient.


  5. According to various reports, there is little love lost between Pope Francis and CDF/Muller. See for example: .

    My sense is that Muller is simply being tolerated at this point. Given statements by the pope and his advisors before and after Muller’s “clarification”, which was merely published in a newspaper and not issued as a formal CDF statement, I actually have doubts that Pope Francis approved this intervention.


    • “According to various reports, there is little love lost between Pope Francis and CDF/Muller”

      Okay, now we are weighing the “reports” from gossip blogs like eponymousflower and your curious “sense” against a clear statement of the CDF, regardless of where it was published.

      From the preamble of said statement:

      “After the announcement of the extraordinary synod that will take place in October of 2014 on the pastoral care of families, speculation has been raised regarding the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful and their relationship to the sacraments. In order to deepen understanding on this pressing subject so that clergy may accompany their flock more perfectly and instruct them in a manner consistent with the truth of Catholic Doctrine, we are publishing an extensive contribution from the Archbishop Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

      Again, it’s time to calm down and be patient. Your soul depends on it.


      • Sine Nomine, the preamble you quoted is from the editors of “L’osservatore Romano”, who have opined on everything from Harry Potter to Bob Dylan. And let’s not forget the paper’s enthusiasm for Pres. Obama and eulogy for Michael Jackson. The article’s prologue would seem to have exactly the magisterial weight of the newspaper’s editors.

        As for the article itself, it ranks a little higher, perhaps on the level of this interview with Abp. Piero Marini (which did not, of course, reflect the mind of Benedict XVI). So far as I can tell, there is nothing in Muller’s article itself (which is quite good) that suggests it is promulgated officially or even unofficially by CDF. Also strangely missing – eerily missing – is any reference to the teachings of Pope Francis in support of his argument. The article appears simply as a personal contribution by Abp. Muller, and as such cannot stand in the way of a contrary papal decision.

        The entry at EF, a blog which I grant can be scurrilous at times, is not inconsistent with the open tension that can be discerned elsewhere. One can take it or leave it.

        You are right to remind me that dwelling on such matters is not good for my soul. Thank you. The Church is in God’s hands. Offer up a prayer for me if you can spare one …


  6. As for Ed Peters’ article, he’s right of course, but he’s missing something very important. Pope Francis argued in Evangelii Gaudium (Par 172) that:

    “The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).”

    The context here is that of preaching and catechesis: i.e., he is speaking to the ordained, to priests and bishops, guardians of the Eucharist, to whom Christ gave the powers of binding and loosing. My prediction is that this is the doctrinal line that will be taken at the Synod: “The Church maintains that those culpable for mortal sin are to refrain from the Eucharist until restored by the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, judgments about their personal culpability must be reserved to God and to the penitent alone. Therefore we do not exclude them, but they may exclude themselves.”


  7. Given the many signs we have that Pope Francis positively intends to move in this direction, I think we do need to ask ourselves some questions now, lest we wake up one morning to a news headline that induces cardiac arrest.

    What would it mean for the Church?

    Would it be merely a change in discipline, or does it touch upon doctrine?

    If it touches upon doctrine, would it be heresy or legitimate development?

    If “only” a change in discipline, would the change be supportive of doctrine or would it undermine doctrine?

    How should orthodox Catholics react? Acceptance? Protest? Resistance?


  8. Jeff, have you seen this post by Bill Luse?

    It gives the survey questions being asked on these topics, the answers to which I gather this synod (don’t know if I have the terminology right there) is going to use in its deliberations. I was especially shocked at the ones about “same sex unions.” To be precise, Bill quotes and discusses most of the questions. He ran out of steam and stopped before giving them all.


  9. What would it mean for the Church?

    Would it be merely a change in discipline, or does it touch upon doctrine?

    If it touches upon doctrine, would it be heresy or legitimate development?

    If “only” a change in discipline, would the change be supportive of doctrine or would it undermine doctrine?

    How should orthodox Catholics react? Acceptance? Protest? Resistance?

    Good questions, all of them.

    1. I think it clearly touches upon doctrine, having been the teaching of the Church from the beginning. As a wag bitterly pointed out, such a change basically mocks the martyr Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More.

    2. I don’t know how it could be a legitimate development, nor can I see a scenario where I would be persuaded that it is.

    3. Even assuming it is a legitimate development, it would effectively undermine the idea that marriages are indissoluable.

    4. Protest, resist and prepare for the hate bombs that would be inbound.

    Look, I’m extremely sympathetic to complaints about the flaws in the Church’s approach to marriage. Women (and, yes, sometimes men) who are abandoned, especially with dependent children involved, deserve something more expedited to resolve the nightmare scenario they’ve been flung into. Ditto poor Catholics, Catholics who live a long way from where marriage tribunals can address their situations. Clearly, as a culture, we have a disposable approach to marriage, so I have no trouble believing there are a lot of invalid marriages out there. But I don’t think that’s an argument in favor of the admitting re-marrieds to communion, willy-nilly.


  10. Jeff, here is a longer version of the story concerning Kaspar:

    I was particularly struck by the fact that the German bishops have apparently “gone rogue,” telling people who are divorced and remarried that they _may_ receive the Sacraments. At the same time, they have issued a statement saying that people who aren’t paying the church tax via their affiliation designation on their tax form may _not_ receive the Sacraments. That’s an interesting set of priorities. It appears that the two are related. The German bishops believe that people are changing their affiliation on tax forms because of the Catholic position on marriage and hope that, by loosening it, they can regain some of the lost tax dollars. Nothing like pounds, shillings, and pence to go straight to the heart of a German bishop.


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