What Cardinal Donald Wuerl is saying is very important, very clear, very orthodox and very common sense!
Question: On the topic of persons who have entered into a civil remarriage
after divorce and do not have a declaration of nullity: In concrete
terms, what are we talking about when we talk about the “internal
forum,” and how do you see pastors using this as a tool to help
Catholics in those situations?
Cardinal Wuerl's answer: Within the synod, there was discussion about the need for better
clarity in our terminology, and so, right away, we must explain what is
meant by speaking with a pastor in the “internal forum.” A perhaps
oversimplified definition is that it involves personal, private
spiritual guidance and counseling toward the goal of individual inner
discernment, as opposed to public acts, the “external forum.” Homilies,
classroom instruction and similar activities play an important role in
helping people to learn, know and grow in the faith, and legal
structures such as marriage tribunals are important in determining the
sacramental validity of a putative marriage. However, the one-on-one,
hands-on personal interaction in the privacy of an office or the
confessional is essential if we are to minister to people in their
individual situations and help them to understand in the context of
their own personal situations how to live the faith more vibrantly and
grow in the proper formation of conscience.
Question:Of course, there is a lot of speculation that priests may use the
internal forum to counsel Catholics in divorced-and-remarried
situations without annulment to receive Communion. Is that really
possible for a priest to do that in the internal forum, or is this an
issue you think that Pope Francis will have to clarify for the Church?
Cardinal Wuerl: The message of the synod, like the message of the Church as a whole
on all matters, is one of mercy, not moral indifferentism. The teaching
on conscience and the role of the Church in the formation of consciences
is not changed. Neither was it suggested that the internal forum, or
other subjective discernment, be a substitute for the objective tribunal
process. The synod was clear that in these conversations with a pastor,
the person’s discernment could not properly be contrary to the truth
and charity of the Gospel as taught by the Church. Certainly in all of
this, we welcome the Holy Father in offering the light of God to help
those in difficult situations to find their way.
Question: As the synod concluded, you commented in a pair of interviews
that, moving forward, the Code of Canon Law would no longer serve as the
“framework” or “frame of reference” for pastoral responses. Could you
elaborate on what you meant by this, in terms of when and how the Code
of Canon Law would be supplanted as a framework? How might this play out
in practical terms?
In the governance of the Church, it is important to have a set of
rules and norms. Following our archdiocesan synod last year in
Washington, we instituted various statutes to guide our efforts. Yet it
is also important to understand that these rules exist to serve our
Gospel mission, not frustrate it.
In promulgating the current code, Pope John Paul II reiterated that
it is not intended to be a substitute for faith, grace and especially
charity. Instead, there is a primacy of these things. Canon law is at
the service of the Gospel. It’s God’s love that saves, not the Code of
Canon Law. Law provides order in the Church’s activities, but we’re not
saved by those words in the law — we’re saved by Jesus on the cross. The
point here, really, is that we should not have an overly legalistic
approach that looks only at the printed words on the page and does not
see the person in front of us. That does not mean ignoring canon law,
but interpreting and applying canon law in light of the Gospel.
In the Church, we have always said: You speak the teaching of the
Church with clarity. And then, as a pastor of souls, you work with the
person, where that person is. The two go together. That’s always been
the Tradition of the Church: Speak the truth and minister with love. If
those struggling with Catholic teaching have a perception of being
alienated permanently and essentially from the Church, this raises a
barrier in the effort to live it in real, concrete situations.