Friday, December 2, 2011

Vatican Newspaper Reprints Cardinal Ratzinger's Thoughts on Divorce and Communion

Tde Vatican Newspaper reprinted a old ( the 90's) text that Cardinal Ratzinger AKA THE POPE now did on marriage and divorce. The whole thing is a great read . See
The pastoral approach to marriage should be founded on truth-Concerning some objections to the Church’s teaching on the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful

I found this part interesting of how and WHY this might have gone off rails a tad in the Church of the East:

Others object that the patristic tradition leaves room for a more varied praxis, which would be more equitable in difficult situations; furthermore, the Catholic Church could learn from the principle of “economy” employed by Eastern Churches separated from Rome.

It is claimed that the current Magisterium relies on only one strand of the patristic tradition, and not on the whole legacy of the ancient Church. Although the Fathers clearly held fast to the doctrinal principle of the indissolubility of marriage, some of them tolerated a certain flexibility on the pastoral level with regard to difficult individual cases. On this basis Eastern Churches separated from Rome later developed alongside the principle of akribia, fidelity to revealed truth, that of oikonomia, benevolent leniency in difficult situations. Without renouncing the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, in some cases they permit a second and even a third marriage, which is distinct, however, from the sacramental first marriage and is marked by a penitential character. Some say that this practice has never been explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church. They claim that the 1980 Synod of Bishops proposed to study this tradition thoroughly, in order to allow the mercy of God to be more resplendent.

Father Pelland’s study points out the direction in which the answers to these questions can be sought. Naturally, for the interpretation of individual patristic texts, the work of historians is necessary. Because of the difficult textual issues involved, controversies will not be lacking in the future. Theologically, one must affirm the following:

a. There exists a clear consensus among the Fathers regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Since it derives from the will of the Lord, the Church has no authority over it. For this reason, from the outset Christian marriage was distinct from marriage in Roman society, even though in the first centuries there did not yet exist any canonical system. The Church in the time of the Fathers clearly excluded divorce and remarriage, precisely out of faithful obedience to the New Testament.

b. In the Church at the time of the Fathers, divorced and remarried members of the faithful were never officially admitted to Holy Communion after a time of penance. It is true, however, that the Church did not always rigorously revoke concessions in certain territories, even when they were identified as not in agreement with her doctrine and discipline. It also seems true that individual Fathers, Leo the Great being among them, sought pastoral solutions for rare borderline cases.

c. This led to two opposing developments:
- In the Imperial Church after Constantine, with the ever stronger interplay between Church and State, a greater flexibility and readiness for compromise in difficult marital situations was sought. Up until the Gregorian reform, a similar tendency was present in Gallic and Germanic lands. In the Eastern churches separated from Rome, this development progressed farther in the second millennium and led to an increasingly more liberal praxis. Today in some of these churches there are numerous grounds for divorce, even a theology of divorce, which is in no way compatible with Jesus’ words regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Without fail, this problem must be addressed in ecumenical dialogue.
- In the West, on account of the Gregorian reform, the original concept of the Church Fathers was recovered. This development came to its conclusion at the Council of Trent and was once again expressed as a doctrine of the Church at the Second Vatican Council.

On doctrinal grounds, the praxis of the Eastern churches separated from Rome cannot be taken up by the Catholic Church, as it is the result of a complex historical process, an increasingly liberal – and thus more and more removed from the words of the Lord – interpretation of several obscure patristic texts which were significantly influenced by civil law. Furthermore, the claim is incorrect that the Church simply tolerated such a praxis. Admittedly, the Council of Trent did not pronounce any explicit condemnation. The medieval canonists, however, consistently spoke of the praxis as improper

Furthermore, there is evidence that groups of Orthodox believers who became Catholic had to sign a profession of faith with an explicit reference to the impossibility of a second marriage.

That is pretty fascinating and indeed makes a lot of sense.

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