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Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 28, 2014

 Not since the Second Vatican Council has a gathering of representatives of the world’s Catholic bishops sparked such interest and controversy as the extraordinary synod of bishops on the family which opens in the Vatican on October 5. While the agenda is very wide, public interest has mainly focused on how this synod, and the follow-on synod in October 2015, will address the situation of Catholics who are divorced and remarried, and whether they can be re-admitted to communion.

As is well known, Pope Francis asked the German cardinal-theologian Walter Kasper, emeritus President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, a former university professor and diocesan bishop, and author of a book of mercy that he greatly appreciates, to give the keynote address on the family to the College of Cardinals when they met last February to discuss this subject. In one part of that long presentation Kasper envisaged a possible way forward on the question of the divorced and remarried. The subsequent debate revealed two very different theological approaches to the question.

Several cardinals – including the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Muller, and the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura, Raymond Burke, have opposed Kasper’s opening on the question of the divorced and remarried, but Pope Francis publicly praised his contribution.

The temperature rose significantly, however, on the eve of the synod when five cardinals – including Muller and Burke – published a book rejecting Kasper’s line, while another Vatican cardinal, George Pell, wrote a preface to a different book in the same vein. Many in Rome perceived these initiatives as a clear attempt to close the discussion on this delicate topic even before the synod opened, some interpreted it as resistance to the pope.

In this context, America and La Nación – Argentina’s leading daily, interviewed Cardinal Walter Kasper in his apartment in Rome, September 26, and asked how he reads the opposition and the contrasting theological visions at work here, and what he expects to happen at the synod. This is what he said.

 Q. There is much interest in this synod, especially regarding how it will deal with the question of whether there will be some opening towards Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

A. Yes, this interest in church questions is a positive thing and we should be grateful for it. But the problem is that some media reduce everything at the synod to the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried people. The agenda of the synod is much, much broader and concerns the pastoral challenges of family life today. The problem of divorced and remarried is one problem, but not the only one. Some media give the impression that there will be a breakthrough and start a campaign for it. I too hope there will be a responsible opening, but it’s an open question, to be decided by the synod. We should be prudent with such fixations otherwise, if this doesn’t happen, the reaction will be great disillusion.

Q. Some cardinals and bishops seem to be afraid of this possibility and reject it even before the synod meets. Why do you think there is so much fear of a development in the church’s discipline?

A. I think they fear a domino effect, if you change one point all would collapse. That’s their fear. This is all linked to ideology, an ideological understanding of the Gospel that the Gospel is like a penal code. 

But the Gospel is, as the Pope said in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium), quoting Thomas Aquinas, the Gospel is the gift of the Holy Spirit which is in the soul of faithful and becomes operating in love. That’s a different understanding. It is not a museum. It is a living reality in the church and we have to walk with the whole people of God and see what the needs of the people are. Then we have to make a discernment in the light of the Gospel, which is not a code of doctrines and commandments.

Then, of course, there is also a lack of theological hermeneutics because we cannot simply take one phrase of the Gospel of Jesus and from that deduce everything. You need a hermeneutic to see the whole of the Gospel and of Jesus’ message and then differentiate between what is doctrine and what is discipline. Discipline can change. So I think we have here a theological fundamentalism which is not Catholic. 

Q. So you mean you cannot change doctrine but you can the discipline?

A. Doctrine, in so far as it is official binding doctrine, cannot change. So nobody denies the indissolubility of marriage. I do not, nor do I know any bishop who denies it. But discipline can be changed. Discipline wants to apply a doctrine to concrete situations, which are contingent and can change. So also discipline can change and has already changed often as we see in church history.

Q. What did you feel when you learned that this book of the five cardinals was being published which attacks what you said?

A. Well first of all everybody is free to express his opinion. That is not a problem for me. The Pope wanted an open debate, and I think that is something new because up to now often there was not such an open debate. Now Pope Francis is open for it and I think that’s healthy and it helps the church very much.

Q. There seems to be fear among some of the cardinals and bishops because as the Pope said we have this moral construction which can collapse like a pack of cards.

A. Yes, it’s an ideology, it’s not the Gospel.

Q. There’s also a fear of the open discussion at the synod.

A. Yes, because they fear all will collapse. But first of all we live in an open pluralistic society and it’s good for the church to have an open discussion as we had at the Second Vatican Council. It’s good for the image of the church too, because a closed church is not a healthy church and not inviting for the people of the day. On the other hand when we discuss marriage and family we have to listen to people who are living this reality. There’s a ‘sensus fidelium’ (‘sense of the faithful’). It cannot be decided only from above, from the church hierarchy, and especially you cannot just quote old texts of the last century, you have to look at the situation today, and then you make a discernment of the spirits and come to concrete results. I think this is the approach of Pope Francis, whereas many others start from doctrine and then use a mere deductive method.

Q. In a sense the synod is like a replay of the Second Vatican Council.

A. Yes, I think it is a very similar situation. Immediately before the Second Vatican Council there were Roman theologians who had prepared all the texts and expected the bishops would come and applaud and in two or three weeks it would all be over. But it didn’t happen in this way, and I think it will also not happen this time.

Q. In an Italian daily, Il Mattino, you are reported as saying that you think the real target of these attacks is the Pope not yourself.

A. Maybe it was a bit imprudent of me to say it. But many people are saying this; you can hear it on the street every day. I myself do not want to judge the motives of other people. It is obvious that there are people who are not in full agreement with the present pope, but this kind of thing is not totally new, it happened also at the Second Vatican Council. Then there were people against the ‘aggiornamento’of John XXIII and Paul VI, though perhaps not in this organized way. Even Cardinal Ottaviani, the Prefect of the Holy Office at that time, was against the intentions of the majority of the Council.

Q. Many analysts think it’s not a coincidence that this book comes now precisely on October 1. There has been resistance to Francis from the beginning, but this seems a more organized kind of resistance.

A. Yes, it is a problem. I do not remember such a situation where in such an organized way five cardinals write such a book. It’s the way that it’s done in politics but it should not be done in the church. It’s how politicians act, but I think we should not behave in this way in the church.

Q. In recent weeks the Pope said we must read the signs of the times. He wants the synod to do this.

A. Yes, to read the signs of the times was fundamental for the Second Vatican Council. I cannot imagine that the majority of the synod will be opposed to the Pope on this point.

Q. In recent weeks too Pope Francis, in his homilies, has spoken again and again about mercy, and insisted that pastors must be close to their people, and avoid having a closed mind... it seemed as if he was referring to people like the five cardinals and supporting you on the question of mercy.

A. I think there is often a misunderstanding on what mercy is all about. Some are thinking that mercy is cheap grace, and ‘light’ Christianity. But it is not that, I think mercy is a very demanding virtue; it is not a cheap thing. It does not take away the commandments of the Lord; that would be absurd. But as it is the fundamental virtue according to St Thomas Aquinas, mercy is a hermeneutical key for interpreting the commandments.

Q. Some were surprised that the Pope appointed a number of very conservative participants to the synod?

A. I think he did this because he didn’t want to be criticized by selecting only those who are in favor of one position. He wants an open discussion; he wants the other group too to have their voice. He wants to be fair. He does not want to exclude anybody, but to include everybody and have all participate in the discussion. He wants to hear everyone, and everyone should have a voice. And I think this is very positive.

Q. His understanding is that God speaks through the people and their real situations.

A. Of course. That’s the theological conception in the last book of the New Testament: Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches! In the synod there should be a listening and prayerful atmosphere.

Q. Coming back to the question of communion for the divorced and remarried. Is the communion the prize for the perfect one or is it something to help the sinner?

A. We are all sinners. Nobody is really worthy to receive Holy Communion. Communion has a healing effect. Especially people living in difficult situations need the help of grace, and need the sacraments. 

Q. So in terms of the sacraments, do you think that at the end of the day the decision should be up to the individual or the couple?

A. No, the sacraments aren’t only private events but public celebrations of the whole Church. The admission to the Eucharist goes through baptism and, after sin, through the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and absolution. Absolution is an official act of the Church, a juridical act. Therefore divorced and remarried people should find a good priest confessor who accompanies them for some time and if this second, civil marriage, is solid then the path of new orientation can end with a confession and absolution. Absolution means admission to Holy Communion. I do not start immediately with the question of admission to communion but with a penitential path. This does not mean to impose special acts of penance because normally these persons are suffering a lot; a divorce is not such an easy thing. It’s suffering. In this situation they need the help of grace through the sacraments and if they have an earnest desire and do what they can do in their difficult situation the Church should find ways to help them in a sacramental way.

Q. This then is a development of pastoral practice.

A. Yes, it is pastoral practice ending in a sacramental practice. The Church by its nature is a sacramental reality. It’s not just pastoral counselling, it’s a sacrament and the sacrament has its own value. To say, “I absolve you” is different from giving good human counsels. It is saying: God says Yes to you and accepts you anew; you have a new chance.

Q. Some have proposed to have an easier and quicker process of annulment of marriage. The Pope has now set up a commission to look at the annulment process.

A. Well, there are situations in which such annulments are helpful and can be made. But take the case of a couple who are ten years married and have children, in the first years they had a happy marriage, but for different reasons the marriage fell apart. This marriage was a reality, and to say it was canonically null and void does not make sense to me. This is an abstract canonical construction. It’s divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.

Q. At the beginning of the interview you said there is the fear that if you open a door then all the moral structure collapses. In the 1980 synod, for example, they didn’t want real free discussion and those who spoke openly got sidelined. Now, there’s a fear that if you talk openly you may come up with other conclusions not only here, but also in other areas too.

A. Yes, there is not only the question of the divorced and remarried but also same-sex unions, rainbow families, stepfamilies, the whole gender problematic and many other problems. But I think all these are very different situations and problems. You cannot argue from one situation to the other. In each of these questions a different kind of argumentation is needed. But if fear is at work, fear is always a bad counselor. The Church should not act out of fear. The Church should be the people of hope.

Often pastors want to control human life. It’s clericalism. They don’t trust people and therefore don’t respect the conscience of people. Of course, we have to give guidelines from the Gospel and remind people of the commandments of the Lord, but then we should trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts and in the conscience of our people.

Q. This synod process began with last year’s worldwide consultation. It was followed by the Consistory of Cardinals last February, and preparation of the Working Document. What do you expect to come out of this synod?

A. We have two phases of the synod. It’s not just one synod it’s a synodical process. I think the general idea of the Pope is to have this first synodical step in order to clarify the ‘status quaestionis’ (the actual state of the situation of family today). I think that’s very important because there are questions in Asia and in Africa that are different from ours in the Western world. After a clarification of the ‘status quaestionis’ we will have a whole year to discuss the problems on the local church level, in the dioceses, in the parishes and the bishops conferences. Then after a year the bishops come back to the synod in October 2015 to make, in communion with the Pope, the necessary and adequate pastoral decisions.

Q. So that year between the two synods is crucial.

A. I think it is very crucial. In this period the bishops will have time to speak to their people. Bishops will not be sitting in their palaces or residences, they will meet their people, listen to them and to the ‘sensus fidelium’ and then they may decide.

Q. In this sense the questionnaire was also important.

A. To have such a questionnaire was a new way to listen. And the Working Document (Instrumentum Laboris), which was prepared for the synod, is very different from the previous ones which were a doctrinal exposition of the whole question. But this one is a resume, a summary of the answers to the questionnaire. It’s a new kind of synod. It’s a synodical process which involves the whole of the Church.

Q. This decision by Pope Francis to invite open debate throughout the Church on the subjects that are touching the lives of the faithful is really a very courageous act.

A. It’s courageous, it’s new, and I think it’s very helpful because it’s a question of the health of the Church. A Church which cannot discuss what is going on, or cannot speak out in an open discussion face to face, will be a sick Church. In this context also the mass media can and should play their part.

Q. It seems that this whole debate on the divorced and remarried has become an issue that is in fact changing a lot in the Church

A. Yes, it is changing the whole atmosphere, the style in the Church, and gives the image of the Church as a dialogical Church. This goes back to what John XXIII wanted and also what Paul VI wanted in his first encyclical on the dialogue within the Church.

In these last weeks I read again what Benedict XVI said in his famous talk to the Roman Curia about the hermeneutics of continuity re the Second Vatican Council. He was very clear: (there is) continuity in the principles, but there is a discontinuity in the application of the doctrine to concrete situations. He said there is continuity with newness and a discontinuity, because the principles have to be applied to a changing reality, as was done in the question of religious freedom (at that Council).

Q. What do expect will happen in the synod?

A. I think it depends a lot on how the Pope himself will open the synod, what he says. He cannot give us a solution at the beginning, indeed he should not do it, but he can give us a prospective, a direction.... I hope there will be a serene, friendly discussion about all these problems and I think we will achieve a large consensus as we did at Vatican II.

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Sue Hayes
9 years 9 months ago
Everything seems to boil down to fear of change, fear of losing control... many of the bishops seem to really believe it's ok to stifle the Holy Spirit in the name of holding onto power in some sort of sick desperation. When I came into the Catholic Church as a 16 year old the year after Vatican II ended, I saw a Church which was Spirit-filled and alive, and for the last almost fifty years I have watched that beautiful hopefulness hunted down and killed as the hierarchy madly back-pedaled as fast as they could, dismantling much needed change in the name of restoring "the good old days" which really weren't at all. They are now just a pathetic group of maundering male crackpots without a pastoral bone in their bodies, frightened to death that the "priesthood of the faithful" might actually become a reality. Viva Papa Francesco!!!
Sandi Sinor
9 years 8 months ago
You've summarized the sad reality pretty well, Sue.
James Sullivan
9 years 8 months ago
Actually there have been and are some phenomenal bishops--I understand your anger --I was told my love for another man was intrinsically evil! I just stayed around -went to Mass, read some great Catholic writers and had the company and communion of some wonderful fellow Catholics --you can't take the hierarchy SO seriously. I laugh a lot.
Robert Killoren
9 years 9 months ago
Does anyone know if there is voting in a Synod, like there was at Vatican II?
9 years 8 months ago
It's a grand thing to speculate on synod outcomes. My concern is more one of synod inputs. I agree with Cardinal Kasper that a "solution at the beginning" by the Pope should not happen. Rather "a prospective, a direction..." is hoped for. I hope in fact that when the 2015 Synod wraps up what we will see is more "direction" than "solution".
William Rydberg
9 years 8 months ago
Lets face it. If the developed world's priests and bishops took a straw poll, they would say Catholic divorce would surely eliminate a lot of time and energy taken away from immediate ordinary parish administration. Ordinary teaching on the subject has been the same (unchanged) since even before the New Testament was written/compiled because the subject is so close to how we live our ordinary daily lives. Minor and major schisms have occurred repeatedly throughout Church history largely due to the subject. The legacy of Caesaropapism has resulted resulted in peculiar compromises with Secular Authority (see http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350879?eng=y ) within the Orthodox. Rome seems to be the last bastion. Leaving the uncomfortable (non post-modern) but plain question Might Jesus have erred here with respect to rejection of the more ancient Mosaic Law on Divorce? As a believing Catholic, I do not believe that Jesus made an error in judgement of the Mosaic Law on Divorce, but rather he purposely demolished it within the context of the New Covenant. No judgement on those who seek to live outside... I believe that Jesus is our Lawgiver. No Divorce.
Joe Kash
9 years 8 months ago
I think this is a very bad beginning for the synod. Accusing those who disagree with you as being afraid is a non-starter for a fruitful debate. Cardinal Kasper needs to be more open minded to those who disagree with him.
Tim O'Leary
9 years 8 months ago
You are right Joe. I hope the leading and inflammatory questions came from La Nacion and not America. The questioner repeatedly uses the word fear or afraid to bait Cardinal Kasper and he took the bait. I count a dozen uses of these words above, so no wonder some conclude it's all about fear. It is about truth and mercy, and, since it is the truth that sets one free, mercy cannot be opposed to truth, unless its goal is to keep one in bondage. Also, Cardinal Kasper should not be so sensitive, and should welcome others into the public arena where his ideas are. Having said that, I pray that the synod does justice to both truth and mercy.
Sandi Sinor
9 years 8 months ago
Equally "bad" that Kasper's enemies are out there with guns blazing - publishing books denouncing him, making statements everywhere they can get a forum - see the bit about Burke in today's Tablet news headlines. I assume you agree that these cardinals (Pell, Burke. Mueller et al) are also not exactly being "open minded" to those who disagree with them. Kasper is probably right about the fear of the domino effect, but maybe the greatest fear among these men is that the laity will continue to reject their "authority". They fear the loss of power and fear that any "giving in" on any issue, including disciplines, will be seen as justification for the laity to continue to thumb their collective noses at some of the "teachings of the magisterium" and those who pronounce them. Fortunately a lot of laity are able to make a distinction between the "magisterium" and God. What is needed is for these cardinals to be able to do so.
J Cabaniss
9 years 8 months ago
Since Cardinal Kasper said "it’s good for the church to have an open discussion" it seems a bit whiny to complain when he gets what he said he wanted. Or did you think when he said he wanted an open discussion he meant only if the commenters agreed with him?
Sandi Sinor
9 years 8 months ago
There is a difference between discussion and an all-out assault on discussion. Burke, Pell et all are essentially trying to cut off discussion - saying that nothing can change and that Francis himself has no authority to change anything - even, one presumes, the "discipline" associated with pastoral care of the divorced and remarried. When all is set in stone, then no discussion is possible. That is what they are saying via their books and press conferences.
J Cabaniss
9 years 8 months ago
Cardinal Kasper asserted: "Doctrine, in so far as it is official binding doctrine, cannot change. ... But discipline can be changed." So, the first question to resolve is whether the issue is about doctrine or discipline, because as the cardinal himself acknowledged, binding doctrine cannot change. The cardinal then went on to observe: 'if this second, civil marriage, is solid then the path of new orientation can end with a confession and absolution.' Let's see if that is possible. Regarding confession and absolution, the church teaches: "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession (Canon 916)" This accords with Cardinal Kasper's comment, and it is surely a doctrinal requirement. What, then, is church doctrine on confession? Here is St. Robert Bellarmine's explanation (An Ample Declaration of the Christian Doctrine, p. 210)S. What is necessary for the receiving of the Sacrament? M. Three things are necessary, Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction; which are three parts of penance. S. What meaneth Contrition? M. Contrition containeth two things, and the one sufficeth not without the other. First, that the sinner be earnestly sorry for all his sins committed after Baptism... Secondly that the sinner have firm purpose to sin no more.This, too, is clearly a doctrinal statement on confession and absolution. So unless the church is prepared to reverse her position that a second marriage is an adulterous relationship - in which case confession and absolution are not necessary - those living in such arrangements cannot receive absolution inasmuch as they have no intention, firm or otherwise, to change. The teaching on marriage is doctrine. The teaching on confession is doctrine. If neither of these doctrines can change then the divorced and remarried cannot receive communion. There is no mere discipline involved here.
James Sullivan
9 years 8 months ago
Great interview. I love my "crazy" Church-- I want to an active part of it till I die. My partner and I (gay) due to work etc. go to 3 different parishes--one in Manhattan- One in Western MA and one north of Boston. All three RC churches lovingly accept my partner and I. The only problem we have us that we sing too loud! We truly believe singing is praying twice. Thank God for 3 wonderful pastors.
Bill Mazzella
9 years 8 months ago
Isn't it something that Francis called a Council without calling it that. This synod will be a true Council since the opinions of all the bishops will be considered. It is the debate that was killed at Vatican II. Although, many great things happened at VII. It was complete in many ways.
Bill Mazzella
9 years 8 months ago
"Incomplete" in many ways.
John Feehily
9 years 8 months ago
The pharisees in this debate insist that individuals cannot be absolved and admitted to communion without a firm purpose of amendment. They happen to be correct in that precise assertion. Where they are wrong is that grave matter and grave sin are two distinct though related realities. Church discipline states that copulating individuals in a second marriage are committing adultery (because they are sacramentally bound to the prior partner(s). Copulation in the context of adultery constitute grave matter. But individuals who engage in such conduct must believe it is grave matter, give it sufficient reflection and full consent of their will before incurring mortal sin. A strong case may be made that the faithful have not received the hierarchy's understanding of adultery (involving their reading of Jesus' teaching) when applied to the divorced and remarried. I believe a careful survey of practicing Catholics would show without a doubt that they believe that divorced and remarried couples deserve a second chance to achieve a marriage until death does them part. The pharisees, chief priests, and other religious officials in Jesus' day thought that their exercise of authority actually shaped reality. Their belief that Jesus was a blasphemer actually made him one. In their arrogance, the bishops of the present age who walk in those footsteps believe that stating what the church does not actually believe makes it unassailably true. The Bishop of Rome invites them to discuss this and other matters openly. Most of regard this as refreshing, some regard it as threatening.
Tim O'Leary
9 years 8 months ago
John - to follow your argument, why only a second chance to try to give oneself forever? Why not 7 times if the issue is no longer about fidelity the first time? Or maybe 7 times 7. Sounds like a vote for "love the one you're with."
Tim Johnson
9 years 8 months ago
John, a couple of slight corrections which have huge ramifications to your comment. There is no such thing as grave sin in Church terminology. It is mortal sin and venial sin. A mortal sin must be about a grave matter, the person must know it's a grave matter and decide to commit it anyway. The difference here is know vs. believe. You can know the Church says abortion or adultery or muder are grave matters, but not believe that they are grave yourself. Under your definition, a person gets to decide what is grave for themselves, which ultimately would mean that there would end up being no grave matters anymore. That's not how the Church would see it. A matter is grave because of its nature, not what someone else thinks about it.
Tim O'Leary
9 years 8 months ago
From the reaction and name-calling, it seems the only thing eliciting fear is dialogue. Here is a link to Cardinal Ouellet's fearless thoughts: http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/view/marriage-and-the-family-within-the-sacramentality-of-the-church. I am waiting to hear what the Synod advises (it will be the Pope who decides, the synod advises) although it looks like Cardinal Kasper didn't consider all the ramifications. But, I do have a couple of puzzles I hope the synod solves for us: 1) If someone begins an adulterous affair, how many times do they have to continue it until it no longer becomes adulterous? What has to change (time? frequency? having a child from the affair?, some declaration, etc.) 2) If the adulterer falters and sleeps with his original wife (this seems to happen), is that sinful? Is there a gray period in between where sleeping with either women/man would be ok? (polyamory?) 3) For the spouse who has been left behind, what does faithfulness mean for him, her. Are they still bound by their vow? Are they married or eligible to marry? 4) What did Jesus mean when he said, "let no man tear asunder."? 5) Does one get to be called a pharisee just to ask for logic? The Anglicans divorced themselves from logic and it freed them up to go where no man went before, like Star Trek. As Mr. Spock would say "highly illogical." I am glad I don't get to make this decision. I think the issue of polygamy will be more important at this synod in any case.
9 years 8 months ago
Hi, Thank-you for this article. I read the articles on this approaching Extraordinary Synod with personal interest. I do not like people calling some Catholics Conservative or Liberal. And God knows we all would not be here, but for God's Awesome Mercy. First, I see that Jesus included Judas in the Last Supper, and so, I am appalled if people judge anyone who receives Communion with reverence. However... Second, I teach religious education to teenagers. And the ones who routinely "get the Faith" are the ones who come from divorced parents who remarried without an annulment and who abstain from the Eucharist. For some reason when the children watch and hear about the self disciple of the Catholic parent, this has caused the children to be very respectful of their Church. Third, I have a dearly loved younger sister who married an alcoholic man, knowing he was an alcoholic. Unfortunately, early on in the marriage, my sister realized that although he had promised to reform, he was unrelenting in his alcoholism. My sister divorced him, and never looked back. She says annulment is too difficult. She says the Church needs to reform. To me, Love of God and Love of His Church are very hard to separate. I do not believe my sister has that concept. And I would love for this Church to help her "get it" with the Synod. My husband divorced me after 27 years of marriage. He told me that he wanted me available to raise the children, and be a "stay at home Mom." And so I did. I sacrificed my career goals. Then he divorced me. It turns out he had never shared all of the money he made with his family. Instead, he "reinvested" it in himself. He is a lawyer. And I put him through law school. He showed up at "Family" Court with hundreds of thousands in credit card debts, and he said 1/2 of it was mine. I had never used one of his credit cards, ever. He had the family home sold to pay his credit card debts. Then he took my share of the pension to reimburse himself for paying the payments on the debt. The debt was all in his individual name and based on an income I never knew he received. Our adult children went into shock. Our daughter suffered a clinical depression. And when that ended, I suddenly went into a major clinical depression. I cannot pay for basic human needs, and he says I never learned to respect his limits with money, and the answer to my plea for a little more each month is "No, the court set the spousal support." I cannot afford healthcare. He tells me he plans to remarry if someone who loves him comes along. He says, "Divorce is okay." He "cannot remarry, without an annulment." He goes to communion on the Sundays when he goes to Mass. Our son cannot watch. And our children so far, do not include him in Sacraments when they marry or have their children Baptized. I think if the church said he could remarry and receive Communion, I would feel repulsed by such a Doctrine. I am grateful to our Pope for putting Cardinal Kasper as Keynote Speaker. And as I understand it, in charge of the agenda. And for notably balancing the factions of our Church. I think that lends great credibility to whatever the Synod in 2015 ultimately decides.
Tim O'Leary
9 years 8 months ago
Katherin - my heart goes out to you. More than any other comment here, you have demonstrated how hard the decisions the bishops have ahead of them.
Michael Barberi
9 years 8 months ago
I think a few things hopefully can be considered reasonable. 1. All bishops must approach this issue with an open mind. This includes those that strongly support the current teaching on divorce and remarriage and access to the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception, and those that seek pastoral changes. 2. There are good and legitimate philosophical and theological arguments by those on both sides of this issue. 3. It is not ipso facto impossible that a pastoral path cannot be developed whereby under certain circumstances divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion. This will not be easy because there are a host of other issues that must be resolved. 4. The question is whether this issue is a subject of doctrine or discipline. 5. The principle of graduation for habitual sinners in the sacrament of reconciliation might be an issue that touches upon the issue of Eucharistic reception for the divorced and remarried under certain conditions. However, this issue was not brought up in the recent document circulated to the bishops on the many issues they will consider. Nevertheless, as one parish priest told me recently, he always believed that people should be given a second chance. Many times, young people often do nor realize the gravity of marriage vows or marriage responsibility. Some are immature and are ignorant of the seriousness of marriage responsibly in the Catholic tradition. Many times, a second marriage works out well and is permanent and faithful. How the bishops will navigate this is anyone's guess. 6. No one should minimize the profound and grave burdens forced upon an innocent spouse, when divorce and abandonment is the result of the actions of one spouse. As such, the concept of mercy and understanding, as Cardinal Kasper has often mentioned, might apply here. Again, this issue is most complex. 7. While the Synod will not debate the interpretation Scripture, in particular the so-called exception clause in Matthew, a Catholic marriage will likely continue to be taught as permanent and not dissoluble unless by death or other issues that may be grounds for an annulment. 8. Lastly, the practices of the Eastern Catholic Church regarding this overall issue should be seriously considered, as it may well be since several members of this Church will participate in the Synod on the Family this month.

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A conversation with Rachel L. Swarns, the author of "The 272: The Families Who were Enslaved and Sold to Build The American Catholic Church"
JesuiticalJune 21, 2024
Spanish Jesuit Luis María Roma, who died in 2019, was recently discovered to have abused hundreds of Indigenous girls while serving as a missionary in rural Bolivia, and to have documented his acts in a diary.
Members of Coro y Orquesta Misional San Xavier perform the opera “San Francisco Xavier” at the Church of San Xavier in the town of San Javier, Bolivia, on April 23. 2024.
The opera ‘San Xavier’ provides a glimpse of how Jesuits evangelized with music—a key dimension of the 1986 film “The Mission.”