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Cardinal Kasper’s Speech on Divorce, Remarriage, and Communion

Marcin Mazur/UK Catholic

Catholic News Agency - published on 03/05/14

Marriage is an image of, and is “embraced and sustained by” the bond between God and his people, in which “the fidelity to God remains even when the fragile human bond of love is weakened, or even dies.”

“The definitive promise of a bond of fidelity of God deprives the human bond of arbitrariness, and it gives him solidity and stability.” This is the basis for the indissolubility of marriage, he said.

As a sacrament, Cardinal Kasper said, marriage “is both a healer for the consequences of sin, and a tool for sanctifying grace.” In the face of hardness of hearts, families must continue on the path of “conversion, renewal, and maturation.”

He then turned to the family as domestic Church, saying, “families need the Church, and the Church needs families to be present at the center of life … without the domestic Churches, the Church is a stranger to the concrete realm of life.”

It was only after having discussed all this that Cardinal Kasper turned to the section of his address that has generated controversy: “the problem of the divorced and remarried.”

Noting the large number of persons suffering from the effects of divorce, he said, “It is not enough to consider the problem only from the point of view and from the perspective of the Church as a sacramental institution. We need a paradigm change and we must – as the good Samaritan did – consider the situation also from the perspective of those who are suffering and asking for help.”

The issue, Cardinal Kasper said, “cannot be reduced to the question of admission to Communion,” but regards “the overall pastoral interest in marriages and families.”

Pastors’ care and concern cannot “stop after the failure of a marriage,” and they “must remain close to the divorced, and invite them to take part to the life of the Church.”

Facing those who have divorced and entered a second, civil marriage while their spouse is still alive, Cardinal Kasper said that the Church “cannot propose a solution that is different from or contrary to the words of Jesus. The indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage during the lifetime of the other partner is part of the tradition of the Church’s binding faith that cannot be abandoned or undone by appealing to a superficial understanding of cheapened mercy.”

He suggested that the current situation is analogous to that of the Second Vatican Council on issues of ecumenism and religious freedom: Without violating the binding dogmatic tradition, the Council opened doors. We can ask ourselves: is it not perhaps possible that there could be further developments on the present question as well?

The answer, he said, can only be tailored to the multiplicity of situations, which “should be distinguished with care. A general solution for all cases cannot therefore exist.”

Cardinal Kasper suggested that “we cannot presuppose that that spouses” understand the conditions which make for a valid marriage, and asked if the presumption of validity “is not often a legal fiction.”

In light of this, he suggested that instead of questions of nullity being decided by a tribunal, “we sometimes ask ourselves … if other more pastoral and spiritual procedures could also be possible.”

“As an alternative, one might think that the bishop could entrust this task to a priest.”

He added, however, that it would be wrong to try and solve the problem with “a generous enlargement of the procedure of nullity,” since it would create the “dangerous impression that the Church would dishonestly concede what in fact is a divorce.”

Noting that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994 wrote that those who are divorced and remarried can make an act of spiritual communion, he asked, “why, then, can (such a person) not also receive sacramental Communion?”

He claimed that in the early Church, when someone entered a new relationship even though their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penance had available … a life raft through admission to Communion.”

Suggesting a “way of conversion” involving the sacrament of confession, he asked, “is it also the path that we could follow in the present question?”

When someone who is divorced and remarried “repents of his failure in the first marriage”; if he cannot return to the first marriage; if he “cannot abandon without further harm” the responsibilities of his second marriage; if “he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith”; and if “he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation,” Cardinal Kasper said, then “should we or can we deny him, after a period of time of a new orientation (metanoia), the sacrament of penance, and then of Communion?”

He clarified that this is not “a general solution,” but is “the narrow path of what is probably the smaller segment of the divorced and remarried, those sincerely interested in the sacraments.”

“Life is not just black or white; there are, in fact, many nuances.”

Cardinal Kasper emphasized the need for “discretion, spiritual discernment, sagacity, and pastoral wisdom” in these cases. “This discretion is not an easy compromise between the extremes of rigorism and laxity, but, as is every virtue, a perfection between these extremes.”

Concluding his address, he said, “We must take a positive starting point and rediscover and announce the Gospel of the family in all its beauty. Truth convinces through its beauty.”

“We need to help, with words and deeds, to ensure that persons find felicity in the family and thus can give to other families a testimony of their joy.”

Courtesy of Catholic News Agency

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Tags:
MarriageSacramentsSynod on the Family

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