Monday, January 9, 2017


At another blog, 1 Peter, which I copy Mueller's position on the internal forum, there is another interview with Cardinal Mueller which he gave in the middle of December. In it His Eminence makes reference to the "internal forum."

I have written about this many times and a few years ago there was a lively discussion about it on this very blog, long before Pope Francis entered the scene.

In a nutshell, one cannot make use of the internal forum until the normal external forum is exhausted and no definitive decision about a contested marriage can be renedered due to a number of technicalities.

Fr. Kavanaugh might need to chime in on this if he remembers or was there. In the 1980's our now deceased bishop, Bishop Lessard, spoke at one of our clergy conferences (on St. Simon's Island as I recall) about the legitimate and illegitimate use of the so-called internal forum.

He made it clear that the external annulment procedure is the normal or ordinary form of accompanying a person who is in a marriage not recognized by the Church.  This process had to be followed to its conclusion where a decision is rendered on the validity or non validity of a contested marriage. Of course, if the decision definitively states a sacramental marriage existed and thus it must be honored, there isn't much more than can be accomplished other than asking the Catholic to participate in the Church but without the benefits of the Sacraments (except in an emergency of course) or they should separate or at least live as brother and sister if the Catholic truly wants to receive the sacraments worthily.

Only if there is no possible decision that can be rendered because of technicalities, could one then use pastoral discernment based upon conscience to assist a Catholic to return to the sacraments without living as brother and sister.

As I recall, Bishop Lessard stated that the Catholic, not the clergy, should initiate the internal forum which is under the seal of confession (thus a priest must be the pastoral counselor).  And one then can follow what Cardinal Mueller makes explicit in the interview I cut and paste below.


Here is what Cardinal Mueller states which backs up what Bishop Lessard told us:

On 16 December 2016, and in a similarly optimistic way, Cardinal Müller recently gave yet another interview to the German regional newspaper Passauer Neue Presse in which he had said that Amoris Laetitia merely dealt with the very particular problem of those “remarried” couples who are convinced – but cannot prove it in Ecclesial courts – that a previously vowed or contracted marriage had been invalid from its very inception. Here is the crucial question posed in that interview, and then Müller’s own response:
Q. Pope Francis has made it clear that the question of Holy Communion for remarried divorcees has to be decided case by case. What is valid here: the meaning of the Pope’s word or the contrary tradition of his predecessors?
Cardinal Müller: There is no exception to the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. The individual case referred to here relates to the question whether or not all natural conditions (especially the desire to marry) and the right understanding of marriage were given in Faith at the moment of contracting the marriage. In the normal case, an orderly church procedure (marriage process) clarifies whether or not a marriage is valid. In this context, the Pope refers to the “individual cases” in situations in which no clarity can be achieved by the Church, but where a single person, in his conscience, and after careful consultation with his confessor, honestly comes to the conviction of the invalidity of his first marriage.The confessor needs a profound spiritual discernment on the basis of ecclesiastical teaching on marriage. He can not simply suspend the indissolubility of a marriage at his own discretion and judgment and thus ignore the word of God. According to this situation, therefore, general guidelines would be here a contradiction in itself. This is also written in the papal document [Amoris Laetitia]. There is no door opened to a kind of “Catholic divorce,” which is secretly conceived and embarrassedly cloaked with pious words. [my emphasis


rcg said...

If, after extensive discussion with the confessor, can the priest/confessor make a recommendation to not approach communion? What should he do if the person presents himself anyway?

Jusadbellum said...

So.... if it's that simply why not answer the Dubia?

TJM said...

The tragedy in all of this, is that we are having this debate at all. One of the things I always admired about Holy, Mother the Church, was the fact that you used to know what the doctrine was; there was clarity. Now, that did not mean that one received the answer one desired, but you knew where the Church stood on an issue. The essential problem as I see it, is that some Catholics want Christianity without the Cross. They want the Faith to be a big, warm cuddly blanket, where weakenesses are not challenged, but encouraged.

Rood Screen said...

I agree that there should be some means of accommodating Catholics who are objectively in invalid marriages, but who are unable to prove this invalidity to an ecclesial tribunal. However, if the proposed pastoral innovation of A. L. was really just about invalid marriages that cannot be formally declared null, then surely the Holy Father would have said so. But he did not, and he does not.

GenXBen said...

Why would convalidation not be possible? if in the internal forum, the parish priest said it was up to the penitent's conscience and his conscience said his first marriage was not valid, then who's left to say it was?

Victor said...

And when are things not clear? I suppose this whole mess with Henry VIII would have been avoided if he had shown or paid off confessors to have shown that things were not clear. So much for the martyrs of the Faith.
As Cardinal Sarah has pointed out: "While Christians are dying for the faith and their fidelity to Jesus, in the West, men of the Church are trying to reduce the requirements of the Gospel to a minimum." (God or Nothing)

Rood Screen said...

There are cases in which key witnesses have died, or in which they are unreachable or simply refuse to cooperate with the tribunal. However, I'm not sure why this should be an issue for confessors to resolve. In particular circumstances, it makes more sense for the bishop to be empowered to dispense from certain juridical requirements.

The trouble with AL is not cases such as these, but cases in which a couple are clearly not free to marry, but live as if they are whilst receiving Holy Communion.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, I don't recall the event, but what you've laid out is the common understanding of how "internal forum" has worked.

But - and it's a big one - there was a document from B16 about canon law/annulments, etc, some years back. Needing a better understanding I asked a canon lawyer - JCD - about it and his comment was that Pope Benedict had, in effect, done away with any use of an "Internal Forum" process. What was decided in the external forum - via a diocesan tribunal - was it. Case closed.

We'll have to take up these question at our AL gathering here in the Savannah deanery on 8 February.

Anonymous said...

Why so much energy wasted on this topic. The average Catholic today doesn't know or care what the Church teaches. Sin NEVER enters their minds because they are the best thing in the whole wide world. Does anyone think for one moment that any average "Catholic" living in 2017 would for one moment even consider not going up to receive Holy Commumion whenever they grace God with their presence at Mass? 99.99999999999% of Catholics today don't believe anything the Church teaches. Doesn't anyone understand that.

Jusadbellum said...

Anonymous, read carefully please because this is important: those of us on this blog know that 99% of Catholics aren't paying much attention at all to this brouhaha. We readily admit that most people are so far past the whole "struggling in my conscience" dilemma what with 25% average mass attendance nation-wide and some surveys suggesting 80% of Catholic women use Contraception.

But even though this is 'inside baseball' for you, it's still important for us to know what the Church is doing because we want to be serious and informed Catholics who obey our Holy Father and march in step with the Church rather than drifting off to "join the crowd" who are clueless and don't care.

It's fine that YOU don't care. That's on you. But we care. It matters to us whether or not there's a de facto or de juris "schism". It matters whether or not what we had formerly been taught to be so is still "so" or whether doctrine we formerly held to be dogma is just "discipline" to be dispensed with for convenience sake.

As others have posted, LOTS of Catholics have died rather than submit to similar changes and been recognized by the Church as genuine martyrs rather than as deluded souls burdened with an overzealous, scrupulous conscience.

rcg said...

Anon at 8:12 has an excellent point that could be a way forward for this mess. Perhaps we should have "Year of examination of conscience".

rcg said...

I recall the event Fr K mentions due to impact it might have had on the Kennedy family.

DJR said...

Dialogue said... I agree that there should be some means of accommodating Catholics who are objectively in invalid marriages, but who are unable to prove this invalidity to an ecclesial tribunal.

But all of this is ignoring one major problem: The fact that a first marriage has the potential of being invalid does not validate the second marriage.

A Catholic who was in a prior union but who divorces and then marries outside the Church is not married to the second person.

The second "marriage" is not valid; therefore, the people involved cannot, under any circumstances, engage in a conjugal relationship.

Assuming that the first marriage were invalid, if there is a divorce and remarriage, all that means is that the person has entered into TWO invalid marriages.

The Church cannot sanitize/regularize a second union without a decree of annulment concerning the first union; therefore, the Church can never consider the people involved in the second union married if it cannot annul the first one.

If the Church were to do that, we would have to admit that the Church either, A, sanctions bigamy; or, B, sanctions divorce and remarriage, i.e., marriage is not indissoluble; or, C, sanctions Catholics marrying outside the Church and contrary to canon law.

What is basically being proposed here is that there is a subset of people who are unmarried but who are allegedly allowed by the Church to engage in a sexual relationship.

How is that possible?

If this couple is permitted to engage in sexual conduct, why not other unmarrieds? Why not "gay" couples?

People are looking at this issue backwards.

The first question that needs to be asked and answered is: Are the two people who make up the second union married?

If the answer is no, that ends the discussion. They cannot engage in the marital act.

If the couple cannot receive an annulment, there is no way for them to receive Holy Communion while engaging in a sexual relationship because there is no way the Church can consider the second couple to be married.

DJR said...

"Only if there is no possible decision that can be rendered because of technicalities, could one then use pastoral discernment based upon conscience to assist a Catholic to return to the sacraments without living as brother and sister."

The above makes absolutely no sense whatsoever because it ignores the major premise, which is covered by the following question:

When confessing to a priest in the internal forum, is the penitent married to the person with whom he/she is engaging in sexual acts?

The validity/invalidity of the first union is irrelevant because its invalidity does not mean the second union is valid.

For a Catholic, a second union can NEVER be considered by the Church to be valid without a decree of nullity of a first union when the putative first spouse is still alive.

If the second union is not valid, that means the two people involved are not married, which means they cannot engage in sexual acts with one another.

A priest who counsels unmarried people that it is okay for them to engage in sexual acts is committing a mortal sin.