Thursday, February 20, 2014

THE CLARIFICATION OF THE PASTORAL CARE OF THE DIVORCED AND REMARRIED IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


American Catholics have to understand one thing and that is that American Catholicism is way ahead of the rest of the Church in terms of pastoral care for the divorced and remarried. When I was in Italy visiting my relatives in Livorno, I got into a discussion with two of the wives of my first cousins (and in Italian that really impressed me that I could actually do it, but I digress) about how the Diocese of Savannah handles Catholics who are divorced and married again outside the Church.

I explained the annulment procedure, made clear that simply being divorced (without remarriage) is not in impediment to Holy Communion and that I have blessed the second marriages of many Catholics who sought an annulment.

Many dioceses around the world do not handle annulments and pastoral care of the divorced as the American Church does.

What many Catholics don't understand also is what is called the "internal solution" when the "external solution" fails. Often times the annulment procedure cannot go forward, as it is a court case requiring witnesses and testimony, because witnesses are uncooperative or have died or simply don't recall or remember the facts. The person applying for the annulment feels that in fact their is evidence for nullity, but they simply can't prove it because of these circumstances.

In these cases, and only after the external forum is exhausted, the Catholic would make an appointment with a priest for the Sacrament of Penance. If the person believes in good conscious that their previous marriage was not sacramental, although it can't be proven in a Catholic tribunal because of lack of testimony from witness, and that the current unrecognized marriage is good, responsibilities toward spouses and children are being met and there is no scandal in the parish or wider community concerning this "illicit" marriage, then within the Sacrament of Penance, thus extraordinary and under its seal, the priest can give a solution of conscience for that person, offer absolution and allow the person to return to the sacraments. However, the marriage itself cannot be blessed or "con-validated" by the priest--he tells the penitent to put it in the hands of God and be prepared to explain it to him at the appropriate time of judgement. The onus in on the penitent not the priest.

So, after making the above case, read what the Associated Press has said about the Cardinal's deliberations on Marriage and Family life:

Cardinals from around the world delved head-on Thursday into one of the most vexing issues facing the church, how to find ways to provide better pastoral care for divorced and remarried Catholics who are forbidden from receiving Communion and other church sacraments.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a pre-eminent theologian who has called for "openings and changes" in dealing with these Catholics, delivered a two-hour keynote speech to the two-day meeting, which is serving as preparation for an October summit of bishops on family issues.

Church teaching holds that unless the first marriage is annulled, or declared null and void by a church tribunal, Catholics who remarry cannot receive Communion or other sacraments because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery. Such annulments are often impossible to get or can take years to process, a problem that has left generations of Catholics feeling shunned from their church.

Pope Francis has called for a more merciful approach to the problem while remaining loyal to church doctrine. He called Thursday for pastoral care for families that is "intelligent, courageous and full of love" but also doesn't delve into case-by-case options to get around doctrine.

Kasper frequently cited the Bible as a source of inspiration in a signal, almost Protestant in nature, that the answer to the problem lay in scripture. He told reporters that Francis had asked him to pose questions to the 150 cardinals to begin a debate on the issue.

"We cannot change the doctrine," Kasper said. "It's a question of applying the doctrine to concrete situations." He cited a case he was involved with regarding a remarried Catholic mother whose daughter was preparing for her First Communion, but she herself couldn't receive Communion because her first marriage was never annulled.

"The mother wants to live the faith. She educated her daughter in the faith. She went to confession because her marriage had failed. But is not a remission of sin possible in this case?" he asked.

There is an active debate over whether the ancient Christian church allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion after a period of penitence, which Kasper cited.

13 comments:

Henry said...

"But is not a remission of sin possible in this case?"

Isn't it truly amazing--and perhaps regrettably characteristic of the clarity of thought among too Catholics, high and low, nowadays--that a cardinal of the Church could be so abysmally ignorant of moral theology as this quote (if accurate) implies?

If she went to confession properly, then any sin involving her failed marriage was remitted when she was absolved. But if she is remarried, how can it be assumed that she is not now living in unremitted sin? Makes no sense.

Militia Immaculata said...

Wait a minute . . .

According to EWTN's Frequently Asked Questions page, the internal forum is not a solution (the full piece can be found at www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/annulment.htm ):

Sometimes it is suggested to individuals or couples that they can resolve marital issues concerning a first marriage in the "internal forum." This means essentially in the confessional or in the privacy of their conscience. Someone who is divorced and remarried will be told that they do not have to seek a Decree of Nullity to validate the present marriage, rather being convinced in their own conscience that their first marriage was invalid they can return to the sacraments. This is not, however, the case. Marriage is not a private affair but a social institution, one safeguarded by the Church according to the will of Christ. The Holy See has ruled out the internal forum solution as a valid way of resolving marital validity questions(emphasis added). Such issues must be submitted to the Church's canonical processes (a marriage tribunal).

JBS said...

Fr. McDonald,

We were told plainly and clearly in the seminary (c. 2000) that the solution you discuss is not legitimate, and never was. I wonder if you have any canonical or other authoritative texts to support this solution?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The internal forum is allowed under certain circumstances but only after the external forum, the annulment procedure, has been exhausted and there isn't adequate testimony:

An "Internal Forum Solution" is possible for the following persons:

A Catholic who has remarried, who has practiced the Faith insofar as possible, and who has demonstrated the stability of his/her present marriage over a sufficient period of time.
A Protestant who has remarried a Catholic, which Catholic wishes to resume a sacramental life and who has practiced the Faith insofar as possible, and who has demonstrated the stability of his/her present marriage over a sufficient period of time.
(This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the types of cases for which the internal forum solution might be possible.)

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The "Internal Forum Solution" is possible under the following conditions:

1. The remarried party and the parish priest are personally convinced of the invalidity of the previous marriages, though unable to offer proof in the external forum because
a. no witnesses are available to substantiate the alleged ground; forum because:
b. knowledgeable witnesses will not cooperate;
c. the first spouse's testimony is needed for proof but not obtainable;
d. Medical records or other necessary documents are not obtainable.

2. The remarried party (and the present spouse if Catholic) can receive the sacraments without causing scandal or adverse criticism in the Faith community.

3. The remarried party promises to have the present marriage validated in the event of the death of the first spouse.

4. The remarried party and the present spouse are fulfilling the responsibilities of Christian marriage in the present union, especially fidelity, parenthood, and a genuine sharing of conjugal life and love.

5. The Catholic party or couple in the present marriage must have practiced the Catholic Faith insofar as possible since entering this irregular union and must be raising any children born of this union in the Catholic Faith.

6. The Catholic party or couple in the present marriage must agree to receive the sacraments in churches where their irregular union is unknown if this is the only way scandal can be avoided.

7. The couple in the present marriage must understand that an internal forum solution, based on good conscience, implies no change in Catholic teaching on the Sacrament of Matrimony; that it provides no public approval of their union by the Church; that no entry of their present marriage can be made in the Matrimonial Register of the parish and no certificate of marriage can be issued for their present union. They must be willing to live with this lack of external Church approval which does not, of course imply disapproval of their return to sacramental life based on a good conscience solution.

Anonymous said...

In my parish, at every signal Mass, every single person goes to Holy Communion. Yet on Saturday afternoon I and an older man are the only ones there for confession. Does anyone really think that a Catholic who is divorced and "remarried" entertains for one moment that they can't go to communion? What is the big deal. The majority of Catholics not only don't care about Doctrine, they don't care about sin. They have no idea what the difference between mortal and venal sin is and they wouldn't care if they did. The pope and the bishops should be discussing how to stop the self destruction in the Church and actually teach the Faith in all it's beauty and clarity. Not looking for loopholes to get around doctrines that justify the latest fad of theologians.

Henry said...

Fr. McDonald, would you provide us with the source for your outline of the alleged "Internal Forum Solution"? (Without which one cannot know what stock to put in it.)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

http://www.fatherjohncatoir.com/annulments.html

Anonymous said...

Internal Forum. Sometimes it is suggested to individuals or couples that they can resolve marital issues concerning a first marriage in the "internal forum." This means essentially in the confessional or in the privacy of their conscience. Someone who is divorced and remarried will be told that they do not have to seek a Decree of Nullity to validate the present marriage, rather being convinced in their own conscience that their first marriage was invalid they can return to the sacraments. This is not, however, the case. Marriage is not a private affair but a social institution, one safeguarded by the Church according to the will of Christ. The Holy See has ruled out the internal forum solution as a valid way of resolving marital validity questions. Such issues must be submitted to the Church's canonical processes (a marriage tribunal).

http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/annulment.htm

The "internal forum" solution no longer exists.

For a lengthy explanation, go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/46811462/Does-there-exist-an-%E2%80%98internal-forum%E2%80%99-solution-for-the-divorced-and-remarried

JBS said...

I have to echo Henry's request: someone please provide an authoritative reference (i.e. from the Vatican or USCCB website) either allowing or disallowing the internal forum solution. The EWTN reference, for example, cites no sources other than a vague mention of "the Vatican". If this solution is legitimate, then there ought to be some explanation of it in an official Church document or statement.

JBS said...

I've just re-read (for the first time in a decade) the CDF's 1994 letter "Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful", and I just don't see any allowance for this supposed internal forum solution based on a judgement of conscience, even in the limited cases described in this post. On the contrary, the letter says that pastors have the "serious duty" to admonish these couples "that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church's teaching".

If there really is a legitimate alternative, even a limited one, then I'm all for it. However, I want to be certain I'm not misleading anyone before I propose such a thing to couples.

Henry said...

http://www.fatherjohncatoir.com/annulments.html

Fr. McDonald, this article may or may not be correct, but in itself provides no credence for me, since it offers no authoritative references for the author's claims

The biggest source of problems in the Church since Vatican II has been self-appointed "experts" spreading bogus and even heretical information that is believed by gullible priests and bishops.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In canonical terms, a forum is the place where a judgment or other ecclesiastical act takes place. A "competent forum" is one in which the person making the judgment has the authority to do so. An external forum addresses matters that concern the public welfare of the Church and are, thus, a matter of public record. Examples of matters in the external forum would be ecclesiastical trials, questions posed to the Roman Curia in which the decision affects a portion or the whole of the Church and matters such as cases of divorce, annulments, etc.

The internal forum refers to matters of conscience. The most perfect and clear example of judgments in the internal forum would be the Sacrament of Penance. When a person confesses sins, the confessional is the "competent forum" in which the priest is the legitimate judge. The priest judges if the sins are to be remitted or retained (Cf.: John 20:23), what the guilt of the penitent is and, therefore, what the appropriate penance is for the sinner. No other forum or judge can usurp the judgment given in the confessional and, of course, the confessional remains absolutely inviolate under any circumstances and cannot be a matter of public record (Code of Canon Law [CIC], canon 983 § 1 & 2).

The parish priest may have spoken to the couple in the internal forum and helped them to determine whether or not they think they were validly married to other persons before marrying each other. The problem is that internal forum cannot be substituted for any reason for matters in which the competent forum is external. In short, the consent between the two persons was exchanged in the external forum, and marriage cases are resolved in the external forum.

"The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible. . . . [T]he consent that is the foundation of marriage is not simply a private decision, since it creates a specifically ecclesial and social situation for the spouses, both individually and as a couple." (Cardinal Ratzinger, Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF], Reception of Communion: Divorced-and-Remarried Catholics; Origins, Oct. 27, 1994, nos. 7-8).

Recently, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the Apostolic Penitentiary whose competence is the internal forum, said in an address in England, "Recourse to a so-called "internal forum solution" in order to resolve conflicts arising from irregular marriages is duplicitous." (Address to the Catenian Association ay 14, 2005)

United in the Faith,

Eric Stoutz

Anonymous said...

So, Good Father, what is Mr. Stoutz telling you?