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Will Pope Francis Allow Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics?
July 04, 2014

Will Pope Francis Allow Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics?

by Paul Simmons

On February 20, 2014, at the request of Pope Francis, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, gave a highly controversial speech to more than 150 cardinals gathered in the Vatican for a “consistory” in preparation for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October. In his speech, the Cardinal called on the Church to allow communion for divorced and re-married Catholics.

Divorced and re-married Catholics are prohibited from receiving sacramental communion because they are living in a state of mortal sin. The Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble - divorce does not break the bond of marriage. Therefore those who divorce and subsequently remarry are living in a state of adultery, and are therefore prohibited from receiving communion. They can, however, say a prayer of “spiritual communion” instead.

Kasper, however, called into question this prohibition, arguing as follows:

Whoever receives spiritual communion is one with Jesus Christ, how then can he be in contradiction with the commandment of Christ? So, why can he not then receive Sacramental communion? If we exclude divorced and remarried Christians from the sacraments (…) do we not perhaps put up for discussion the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church?
In his speech, Kasper laid down his “criteria” for allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion:

“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’” - Matthew 5:321. if he repents of his failure in the first marriage, 2. if he has clarified the obligations of the first marriage, if it is definitively ruled out that he could turn back, 3. if he cannot abandon without further harm the responsibilities taken on with the new civil marriage, 4. if however he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith, 5. if he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation, should we or can we deny him, after a period of time in a new direction, of “metanoia,” the sacrament of penance and then of communion?

The speech sparked an intense debate amongst the Cardinals, with many going public with their objections to Kasper’s proposals via interviews with the press.

Is the Catholic Church on the verge of allowing communion for divorced and re-married Catholics? Doing so would mean a complete reversal on a ruling that is as old as the Church itself. It would lead to devastating changes to the Catholic understanding of the human family and human sexuality. It will also greatly undermine core Catholic teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

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