Wednesday, December 3, 2014


 It seems that Pope Benedict has inserted himself into the "no Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics debate" by definitively teaching that they should not be ordinarily allowed to receive Holy Communion while their first union, still recognized by the Church, still exists.

The new section on a 1972 article recently rewritten by Pope Benedict once again shows the clarity of his thinking and teaching and just how papal His Holiness remains. He cuts through the rubbish of ambiguity and chaos, and shows Catholics the true teaching of the Church on marriage even while acknowledging the messiness of the reasons why people marry. It is as though His Holiness is giving an example to the current papal Magisterium about how to be pope!

He also gives a clear insight into something I did not know, that the new code of Canon Law in 1983 did not include the "Petrine Privilege" in it concerning the dissolution of marriage. He states the reasons why. 

Pope Benedict reasserts the traditional view about marriage and divorce in this  recently revised article he wrote in 1972 where he suggested at that time that the Church should review an ancient exception to the Church's ban on Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried after a period of penance, a position that Cardinal Kaspar now recommends anew but which came from Father Ratzinger in 1972. (1970's thinking, btw.)In other words, Pope Benedict in the last two months has repudiated that position and completely so and presents his orthodox position in the face of those who used him to promote a heterodox agenda at the recent synod, perhaps even as a direct challenge to Pope Francis' mouth piece, Cardinal Kaspar and by why of Kaspar directly to the pope himself!

I copy this from the blog Chiesa by Sandro Magister and it is from a much longer article which can be read by pressing this sentence.

This is lengthy but fascinating and includes His Holiness' support for those who are not free to receive Holy Communion to come forward for a blessing at Communion time.  I highlight in red the other bombshells of insight and nailing it!:

 The new conclusion of the 1972 article, rewritten by Joseph Ratzinger in 2014

The Church is Church of the New Covenant, but it lives in a world in which there continues to exist unchanged that “hardness of … heart” (Mt 19:8) which drove Moses to legislate. So what can be done concretely, especially at a time in which the faith is being watered down more and more, even within the Church, and the “things with which the pagans are concerned,” against which the Lord warns the disciples (cf. Mt 6:32), threaten to become ever more the norm?

First of all, and essentially, it must proclaim the message of faith in a convincing and comprehensible way and seek to open spaces in which this can be truly lived. The healing of “hardness of heart” can come only through faith, and only where this is alive is it possible to live what the Creator had destined for man before sin. This is why the main and truly fundamental thing that the Church must do is to make faith living and strong.

At the same time, the Church must continue to seek to plumb the breadth and boundaries of the words of Jesus. It must remain faithful to the mandate of the Lord, and cannot even stretch it very much. It appears to me that the “clauses of fornication” that Matthew added to the words of the Lord handed down by Mark already reflect such an effort. One instance is mentioned that the words of Jesus do not address.

This effort has continued over the whole course of history. The Western Church, under the leadership of the successor of Peter, was not able to follow the path of the Church of the Byzantine Empire, which had drawn closer and closer to temporal law, thus weakening the specificity of life in faith. Nonetheless, in its way it brought to light the boundaries of the applicability of the Lord’s words, defining their scope in a more concrete way. Two areas have emerged above all, which are open to a particular solution on the part of ecclesiastical authority.

1. In 1 Cor 7:12-16, Saint Paul - as a personal guideline, which does not come from the Lord but for which he knows he is authorized - says to the Corinthians, and through them to the Church of all times, that a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian can be dissolved if the non-Christian obstructs the Christian in his faith. From this the Church has derived the “privilegium paulinum,” continuing to interpret it in its juridical tradition (cf. CIC, can. 1143-1150).

From the words of Saint Paul the tradition of the Church has deduced that only a marriage between two baptized persons is an authentic sacrament and therefore absolutely indissoluble. Those between a non-Christian and a Christian are indeed marriages according to the order of creation and therefore definitive of themselves. Nonetheless they can be dissolved in favor of the faith and of a sacramental marriage.

The tradition ultimately expanded this "Pauline privilege," making it a “privilegium petrinum.” This means that the successor of Peter has the mandate to decide, in the area of non-sacramental marriages, when separation is justified. This so-called “Petrine privilege” has not however been incorporated into the new Code, as was instead the initial intention.

The reason was a disagreement between two groups of experts. The first emphasized that the objective of all the laws of the Church, its interior yardstick, is the salvation of souls. This means that the Church can do and is authorized to do what serves to pursue this end. The other group, on the contrary, was of the idea that the mandates of the Petrine ministry did not need to be expanded very much and that it should remain within the boundaries recognized by the faith of the Church.

Since it was not possible to find an agreement between these two groups, Pope John Paul II decided not to include within the Code this part of the juridical customs of the Church, but to continue to entrust it to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, which, together with concrete practice, must continually examine the bases and boundaries of the Church’s mandate in this area.

2. Over the course of time there developed more and more clearly the awareness that a marriage apparently contracted in a valid manner, because of juridical or practical defects, cannot really be concretized and therefore can be null. To the extent to which the Church has developed its marriage law, it has also elaborated in detail the conditions for validity and the reasons for possible nullity.

The nullity of marriage can stem from errors in juridical form, but above all from a lack of understanding. In dealing with the reality of marriage, the Church recognized very quickly that marriage is constituted as such through the consent of the two partners, which must also be expressed publicly in a form defined by law (CIC, can. 1057 § 1). The content of this joint decision is mutual self-giving through an irrevocable bond (CIC, can. 1057 § 2; can. 1096 § 1). Canon law presupposes that adult persons know on their own, on the basis of their nature, what marriage is, and therefore also know that it is definitive; the contrary must be expressly demonstrated (CIC, can. 1096 § 1 e § 2).

New questions have arisen on this point in recent decades. Can it still be presumed today that persons know “by nature” about the definitiveness and indissolubility of marriage, and that they consent to it with their yes? Or has there not perhaps taken place in present-day society, at least in Western countries, a change of mentality that instead makes the contrary to be presumed? Can the intention of the definitive yes be taken for granted, or should one not expect the contrary, that there is already a predisposition to divorce? Wherever definitiveness may be intentionally ruled out, there would not truly take place a marriage in the sense of the will of the Creator and the interpretation of Christ. This makes it clear how important a correct preparation for the sacrament is today.

The Church does not acknowledge divorce. Nonetheless, after what has just been pointed out, it cannot exclude the possibility of null marriages. The processes of annulment must be carried out in two directions and with great care: they must not become a disguised form of divorce. This would be dishonest and contrary to the seriousness of the sacrament. On the other hand, they must examine with the necessary conscientiousness the issues of possible nullity, and, where there may be just reasons in favor of annulment, express the corresponding sentence, opening a new door for such persons. New aspects of the problem of validity have emerged in our time. I have already mentioned above that the natural awareness of the indissolubility of marriage has become problematic in that this entails new tasks for the judicial procedure. I would like to indicate briefly two other new elements:

a. Can. 1095 no. 3 has inscribed the modern difficulty into canon law where it says that there is no capacity of contracting marriage among persons who “on account of psychological factors are unable to take on the essential obligations of marriage.” Today the psychological problems of persons, precisely in the face of a reality so great as marriage, are perceived more clearly than they were in the past. Nonetheless it is good to be on guard against rashly construing nullity on the basis of psychological problems. This would in reality make it too easy to pronounce a divorce under the appearance of nullity.

b. Today there is another question that imposes itself with great seriousness. Currently there are more and more baptized pagans, meaning persons who have become Christian by means of baptism but do not believe and have never known the faith. This is a paradoxical situation: baptism makes the person Christian, but without faith he remains nonetheless just a baptized pagan. Can. 1055 § 2 says that “between baptized persons there cannot exist a valid marriage contract that is not for that very reason a sacrament." But what happens if a baptized unbeliever knows nothing at all about the sacraments? He might even have the intention of indissolubility, but he does not see the uniqueness of the Christian faith. The tragic aspect of this situation appears evident above all when baptized pagans convert to the faith and begin a completely new life. This brings up questions for which we still do not have answers. And therefore it is even more urgent to explore them.

3. From what has been said so far it emerges that the Western Church - the Catholic Church - under the leadership of the successor of Peter, on the one hand knows that it is strictly bound to the word of the Lord on the indissolubility of marriage, but on the other has also sought to recognize the limits of this guideline in order not to impose on persons more than is necessary.

So on the basis of the suggestion of the apostle Paul and basing itself at the same time on the authority of the Petrine ministry, for non-sacramental marriages it has further elaborated the possibility of divorce in favor of the faith. At the same time it has examined the nullity of a marriage under every aspect.

The 1981 apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” of John Paul II went one step further. At number 84 it states: “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church […] Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.”

This gives pastoral care an important task, which perhaps has not yet been sufficiently incorporated into the Church’s everyday life. Some details are indicated in the exhortation itself. There it is said that these persons, insofar as they are baptized, may participate in the Church’s life, which in fact they must do. The Christian activities that are possible and necessary for them are listed. Perhaps, however, it should be emphasized with greater clarity what the pastors and brethren in the faith can do so that they may truly feel the love of the Church. I think that they should be granted the possibility of participating in ecclesial associations and even of becoming godfathers or godmothers, something that the law does not provide for as of now.

There is another point of view that imposes itself on me. The impossibility of receiving the holy Eucharist is perceived as so painful not last of all because, currently, almost all who participate in the Mass also approach the table of the Lord. In this way the persons affected also appear publicly disqualified as Christians.

I maintain that Saint Paul’s warning about examining oneself and reflecting on the fact that what is at issue is the Body of the Lord should be taken seriously once again: “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:28 f.). A serious self-examination, which might even lead to forgoing communion, would also help us to feel in a new way the greatness of the gift of the Eucharist and would furthermore represent a form of solidarity with divorced and remarried persons.

I would like to add another practical suggestion. In many countries it has become customary for persons who are not able to receive communion (for example, the members of other confessions) to approach the altar with their hands folded over their chests, making it clear that they are not receiving the sacrament but are asking for a blessing, which is given to them as a sign of the love of Christ and of the Church. This form could certainly be chosen also by persons who are living in a second marriage and therefore are not admitted to the Lord’s table. The fact that this would make possible an intense spiritual communion with the Lord, with his whole Body, with the Church, could be a spiritual experience that would strengthen and help them.


John said...

This is important and tragic which Benedict XVI is saying. The importance is self explanatory but the tragedy is that it will be ignored in the current chaotic goings on in the Church at large. Imagine, instead of resigning the Pope Emeritus appointed the group of cardinals to advise on how to renew the curia.

God works is a mysterious way the cliche has it. I am thinking the present situation reminds what we have lost with Benedict's resignation and the further destruction the Church will have to endure before it renews again.

Anthony said...

In all due respect I hold the sedevacantist position and attend an Independent catholic church.Yes our priest was validly ordained in the pre-june 1968 rite by a Thuc line bishop.(in case you're wondering)The defining moment which made start looking for answers was seeing video of Joe Biden & Nancy Pelosi at Francis' s installation mass.Tje official catholic church needs to excommunicate ANYONE who is pro-abortion or pre-gay marriage.If not,they will keep losing parishioners like myself.

Anonymous said...

Anthony - I would warn you - when you find the perfect church, don't join it. You'll ruin it.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the pan-Orthodox council coming up:

As far as I know, the Orthodox Churches are planning on having a pan-Orthodox council in 2016. My question is, if the Bishop of Rome(pope), is not invited to attend, then is it actually an ecumenical council? Also, if he does not attend, is their council guided/protected by the Holy Spirit from error like ours is in the Catholic Church?

Anonymous said...

Is anyone going to acknowledge Pope Francis praying in the mosque with the Muslim cleric? Isn't there specific law in the Church about praying openly with these ppl?

Anthony said...

@anonymous Thank you for insulting me it was kind and charitable.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The pope is the supreme legislator of the Church and answers to no one on earth, only to God. A pope is pope for life or when he renounces his position as Benedict did.

The pope can legislate by decree or simply by action as he did when he washed the feet of women on Holy Thursday.

Anthony said...

Personally speaking no offense to anyone Francis I praying at the mosque was ironic given Muslims recently declared war on Rome.

Gene said...

Anthony, Francis talk about the Muslims is living proof that the Pope is not infallible about everything.

Anthony said...

@Gene In all due respect I hold the sedevacantist podition.Secondly papal infallibility concerns the Pope when giving a dogmatic decree.

Gene said...

Anthony, I know that. I was making a joke.

Anonymous said...

"The pope can legislate by decree or simply by action as he did when he washed the feet of women on Holy Thursday."

Fr. McDonald, any view, that the pope's Thursday foot-washing constituted legislation by action, is quite incorrect.

His action constituted an exception to existing and continuing legislative law of the Church. He had every right and power to make this exception for pastoral reasons. Indeed, (as I understand it) any bishop can make such a pastoral exception to existing law. (The Church does not have a "snail darter" mentality regarding its laws.)

But the difference between permanent change and valid exception to Church law is profound and fundamental. The difference is that the pope's action in taking exception to a law has no bearing on the continuing application of the law to either himself or others.

The Church has precisely defined procedures for enacting legislative law, and papal or other exceptions--which for many Church laws are not uncommon in practice--play no part in those procedures.

(Respectfully, I must continue to wonder and indeed marvel at what, if anything correct, must have been taught in that 1970s seminary you attended.)

John Nolan said...

When, on 29 June this year we sang 'God bless our Pope, the great, the good' I could not get Benedict out of my mind. When I pray the Pater, Ave and Gloria for the Pope's intentions I try to focus on Francis since he needs praying for.

Православный физик said...

Don't get me started on Maundaygate I and II...that's all I'll say there.

Back to what Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI is saying. Apparently, he feels the need to state the Truth because even he can see what's happening.

Anonymous said...

"I try to focus on Francis since he needs praying for."

How about a daily decade "For Pope Francis, for his fidelity, that he may guide the Church faithfully in continuity with tradition."

Anthony said...

Speaking of Benedict 16 has anyone ever seen the pics of him at vatican 2 wearing a business suit?

Marie said...

Maybe he had nothing else to wear that day?
Seriously. I understand that German priests may wear business suits from time to time, especially when they have other businesses to attend to. I distinctly remember seeing a photo of the young Professor Ratzinger wearing a business suit at Regensburg, just as I now see the old Benedict XI still wearing white papals when he no longer the Pope.
So, your point is...?

Marie said...

"But the difference between permanent change and valid exception to Church law is profound and fundamental. The difference is that the pope's action in taking exception to a law has no bearing on the continuing application of the law to either himself or others."

I agree with Henry. It was not as if Pope Francis has issued a motu proprio rewriting liturgical law. Still I thought it was rather rude of the Pope to violate liturgical law without explaining to the faithful how the washing Muslim women's feet on Maundy Thursday for "pastoral reasons," trumps the original meaning of the rite, which is the call to the ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Personally, I'd much rather he does his foot-washing at any other time than on Holy Thursday - then he can wash as many feet as he can and not violate the law.

"(Respectfully, I must continue to wonder and indeed marvel at what, if anything correct, must have been taught in that 1970s seminary you attended.)"

Wonder not what the seminaries were teaching in the 70's. Rather, wonder what Pope Francis learned in catechism class as a child.

Anonymous said...

And the plot thickens....(dun dun dunnn).

George said...

Pope Francis is not averse to using a different method for canonization either.

In declaring certain saints recently, Pope Francis has used a procedure known as "equivalent canonizations," which does require a thorough study of the candidates' life and writings, fame of holiness and reports of favors granted through their intercession.

Unlike a regular sainthood process, though, it does not require the verification of a miracle through their intercession, nor further studies by historians and theologians working for the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

George said...


Are you intimating by the link you provided that a heretic was elected Pope? Even if that were true I would still praise God in His Holy Church. Why? Because a heretic was elected Pope and the Faith was still preserved!

Anthony said...

@George I am not telling you what to believe or think.

Anonymous said...

I got to thinking Benedict most likely did this to head off anyone drudging up this article from 1972, especially posthumously, and using it to claim he was all for Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.
Smart move, I think, since I am sure somebody would have done just that.

Besides that, we get some real guidance on this issue from him as a first rate theologian and as Pope Emeritus, which really helps the conversation, I think.

Gene said...

I think Bee is exactly right.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't until after I posted my observation that I actually clicked on the link to the original article/blog post, and saw it was EXACTLY because Kaspar had dredged up the 1972 article and used it during the Synod that Ratzinger made the revisions.

In the article it says, "In cheering for the admission of the divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion, Kasper said:

“The early Church gives us a guideline that can serve as a means of escape from the dilemma, to which Professor Joseph Ratzinger referred in 1972. [. . .] Ratzinger suggested that Basil's position should be taken up again in a new way. It would seem to be an appropriate solution, one that is also at the basis of these reflections of mine.”

In effect, in that 1972 article the then 45-year-old professor of theology in Regensburg maintained that giving communion to the divorced and remarried, under particular conditions, appeared “fully in line with the tradition of the Church” and in particular with “that type of indulgence which emerges in Basil, where, after a protracted period of penance, the ‘digamus’ (meaning someone living in a second marriage) is granted communion without the annulment of the second marriage: with trust in the mercy of God, who does not let penance go unanswered.”"

So I guess it was in RESPONSE to the misuse that Ratzinger revised the text. I'm glad he was still around to do so.