Book by powerful group of cardinals issues warning to Pope Francis on remarriage policy ahead of Vatican synod!
A powerful group of cardinals has struck a blow against the reformist agenda of Pope Francis, warning him in a new book not to relax the Catholic Church’s ban on remarried divorcees receiving Communion.
The book will be provocatively published on Oct 1, just days before the Vatican convenes an extraordinary synod, or meeting, of bishops. The synod will discuss the gulf between official Church teaching and the real lives of millions of ordinary Catholics, including the issue of the Sacrament for divorcees who remarry.
In the latest sign of a conservative backlash against the Pope’s push for a more inclusive and compassionate Church, the five cardinals maintain the traditional position that divorce is not permitted and that anyone whose marriage breaks down and then marries again in a civil ceremony is technically an adulterer.
“The authors of this volume are united in their firm belief that the New Testament shows us that Christ prohibited, without any ambiguity, divorce and any successive marriage on the basis of God’s original plan,” they write in the book, entitled Remaining in the Truth of Christ – Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.
As such, they must not be allowed to receive the Sacrament, insisted the cardinals, who include hardliners such as Gerhard Ludwig Muller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the Vatican doctrinal enforcement department which succeeded the Inquisition.
The book is a riposte to remarks made in February by Walter Kasper, a reformist cardinal close to Pope Francis, who hinted that the Church might be prepared to relax its rules on remarried divorcees taking Communion.
The retired German cardinal called for the Church’s leaders to look afresh at the contentious issue with “tolerance, clemency and indulgence”.
The Vatican needed to find a way to help Catholics who divorce and remarry continue to participate in the life of the Church, Cardinal Kasper said.
Married couples should ideally stay together for life, but the Church should be realistic and acknowledge “the complex and thorny problem” of marriages that break down, he told his fellow cardinals.
While marriage should still be regarded as an indissoluble institution, in some cases the Church should tolerate, even if it did not fully accept, people entering a second, civil union.
But that compromise was roundly rejected by the cardinals, who see it as dangerous meddling in the teachings laid down by Jesus in the Bible.
“This is one of those situations where we don’t believe we have the authority to make any change because that would go against Christ’s word in the Gospels,” Robert Dodaro, one of four theologians who collaborated on the book, told The Telegraph.
“The cardinals are not looking to be punitive towards divorcees. But they say that if the Church starts tolerating second marriages, what happened to the principle of the indissolubility of the first marriage?”
The cardinals had worked on the book “feverishly” throughout the summer so that it would be ready for publication ahead of the synod on the family which starts on Oct 5, said Prof Dodaro, the president of the Patristic Institute, a theological college in Rome.
Catholics who obtain an annulment or civil divorce are not barred from taking Communion, but those who remarry in a civil ceremony are.
“The Church believes that in the eyes of Christ they are still married to their original spouse,” said Prof Dodaro.
But the cardinals’ conservative views are at odds with the Pope’s reformist instincts.
In April he reportedly told a woman who had married a previously divorced man that she was free to take Holy Communion, contradicting what she had been told by her local priest.
Jacqui Lisbona, who is from the Pope’s homeland of Argentina, wrote to him saying that she had been refused Communion by her local priest, who said she was “living in sin”.
The Pope telephoned her at her home on Easter Monday and reportedly told her: “A divorcee who takes Communion is not doing anything wrong.”