Cardinal Maradiaga: ‘Pastoral Conversion’ Is Top Priority for Pope’s Family Synod

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Cardinal Maradiaga: ‘Pastoral Conversion’ Is Top Priority for Pope’s Family Synod

The Honduran cardinal said the bishops and Pope want to focus on how parishes and pastors form and nourish families, not on the question of communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.

by PETER JESSERER SMITH 06/04/2014

WASHINGTON — Speculation and expectation are building for the upcoming extraordinary synod of bishops that convenes this October to discuss the pastoral challenges to the family all over the world in the 21st century.
But according to Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Tegulcigalpa, Honduras, a member of Pope Francis’ council of eight cardinal advisers, the focus will be mainly on “pastoral conversion” in how the Church forms and nourishes marriage and families, and not the separate question of communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.
Cardinal Maradiaga sat down June 3 with journalists in Washington, where he shared his insights on the Pope’s vision for the upcoming synod on the family and what the faithful should expect from it.
The cardinal explained that Pope Francis, from the beginning of his pontificate, identified that the “lack of family” is the “most important problem affecting the world nowadays.”
He added that the Pope opted to make three consultations with the world’s bishops: first, through an extraordinary consistory of the cardinals dedicated to the family.
“For two days we discussed the family,” he said.
The cardinal said these discussions will be followed up with the survey to bishops all around the world about the state of marriage and family in their dioceses. He said some bishops chose to consult with their people, others with their priests, and some with just themselves.
“But in general, the responses have been so many,” he said.
Cardinal Maradiaga said that most of the bishops’ conferences already have completed the questionnaire. The next two phases will proceed with the extraordinary synod in October “with all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences,” and then the ordinary synod in 2015 with Catholic bishops from around the globe.

Marriages That Might Be Invalid
He addressed some of the hype and speculation surrounding discussion of the synod, saying that “it is necessary to make some changes” in the Church’s pastoral care of families. He said the question of “giving or not giving Communion” to divorced and civilly remarried persons is “another subject, and it is not the most important.”
Instead, the “main concern” is the sacramental validity of many Catholic marriages in the first place.
“The doctrine is not going to change, because the indissolubility of marriage comes from Jesus,” he said. “The Word of God says what God has united men do not separate. That is clear. Of course, but [the question is] has God united some couples?”
“In other words is there a sacrament or not? This is the key,” he said.

The cardinal shared anecdotal evidence that in Honduras most of the unions attempted as Catholic marriages “were not sacraments.” He explained that many marriages involved forms of coercion that prevented one or both parties from giving their free consent to contract the sacrament.
“Many people went there because the father-in-law came with a pistol to the back: ‘If you do not marry my daughter that is pregnant now, I’ll kill you,’” he said. “We can’t talk of a sacrament there, because one of the conditions for a sacrament is freedom, freedom of choice.”
He added, “Many times it is not necessary to have the pistol at your back. Many times it is a moral pressure.” He gave the example of couples who feel badly after they conceived a child out of wedlock and who married subsequently because they felt it was the honorable or right thing to do. “But these are not the motivations for a sacrament,” he said. “A sacrament is quite a different thing.”
One solution in such cases of attempted but not valid sacramental unions is to “try to give more possibilities to the local tribunals” to address these cases. But reform of the annulment process has challenges to address.
“The way of the [declaration of nullity] process nowadays is complicated, and you need to question a series of witnesses,” he said. “Well, sometimes what can you do if the witnesses are already dead? Who can testify? Or some places where people are so poor that they cannot pay the cost of the tribunal?
“These are pastoral problems that have to be resolved,” he said. “But as I say before, these are not the most important things related to the family.”

(Read the rest there)

Am I correct in assuming that nothing will be definitive until after the 2015 ordinary synod? If so, I am glad.

I don’t know, and I’ve wondered about this myself. I’m not sure how the two Synods relate to each other.

Since I hadn’t seen it mentioned before, I was surprised to read this in the article:

“The next two phases will proceed with the extraordinary synod in October “with all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences,” and then the ordinary synod in 2015 with Catholic bishops from around the globe.”

This makes it sound like the 2014 Synod will have only the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences, while the 2015 Synod will have all the Bishops.

I don’t really understand the format :confused:

It’s good that we are hearing this sort of thing, but in my opinion the damage is done. A “hot-button” pastoral issue, one with implications for the permanence of Catholic doctrine as a whole, has been associated with this synod, or with both of them, and prominent cardinals have publicly debated it. There’s even been a minor scandal involving the Pope and this issue, though real information on the circumstances have been hazy.

Still, unless the Pope declares that communion for divorced and remarried Catholics is a non-negotiable issue and will not be discussed at the synod (and most indications are that such a declaration will not be happening) this issue will inevitably overshadow both synods and their aftermath.

I would speculate, based on the above quote, that the 2014 meeting could have a substantially different outcome from the global meeting of all bishops. So can someone tell us what the difference is between a “synod” and the Magisterium? For instance, can a synod definitively proclaim a teaching which is really the function of the Extraordinary Magisterium. Are they, in essence, the same? And wouldn’t all the bishops need to agree as in the case of the Ordinary, Universal Magisterium? My brain glazes over when it comes to the legalities and I confess, I’ve never thought much about it before and have simply trusted that the Church will follow the will of the Holy Spirit, but now, I must agree with what Aelred said in the previous post.

If I’m not mistaken, only the teachings of Popes and Ecumenical Councils qualify as acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium. The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is the combined day-to-day teachings of all the bishops throughout the world, united to one another as opposed to when an individual bishop or sub-group of bishops expresses dissent. As such it is a rather etherial concept and of course never produces documents you can point to as its acts. At most you might get the Extraordinary Magisterium making a statement about what the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium has always taught.

On the other hand there is the plain old Ordinary Magisterium which belongs to every bishop and applies to every act of teaching he performs in his capacity as bishop. This ordinary (and not universal) magisterium is not infallible and does not demand the assent of faith, though we still need to be respectfully receptive to it, giving it what is called “religious assent.”

These synods are not Ecumenical Councils and their decisions are not part of the Extraordinary Magisterium. I do not know if any of their acts may sometimes qualify as acts of the ordinary magisterium of the participating bishops. I would suspect not, since for the most part they seem to be a matter of the bishops talking among themselves and making recommendations to the Pope, rather than issuing teaching documents to be read by ordinary people. On the other hand, after each synod the Pope usually writes an Apostolic Exhortation based on the discussions that occurred at the synod, and this is an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium, specifically one more formal than an Apostolic Letter but less formal than an Encyclical.

All these details are lost on most people, however. If the synod recommends something scandalous, or even simply debates certain matters of doctrine as though they are up for grabs, it will be a big problem for the Church even if the Pope never acts on it.

Ultimately we do need to have faith that the Holy Spirit will preserve the Church’s actual doctrine. So far I’ve only seen one of these vocal Cardinals suggest actually “updating” the Church’s doctrine on marriage itself, and it is possible that he misspoke. Certainly the article in the original post suggests that the author does not regard Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage to be up for grabs, and he has been one of the most vocal Cardinals calling for change.

What I am less sure about is whether a policy could be enacted regarding the distribution of communion which is inconsistent with the Church’s doctrinal teaching on the sacraments. Does the Holy Spirit protect not just the Church’s teaching but also make sure Church policy is always 100% consistent with that teaching? Somehow I don’t think so. And in any case, even if nothing wrong happens at the synods or after, all the media spin about the subject has already done damage and will inevitably do more.

Great post, thank you.

One of my big concerns is to figure out what exactly is meant by “the doctrine won’t change”. Many key figures (like Card Maradiaga here) have said this is one form or another.

The problem is that I’m pretty sure Card Kasper has basically said “the doctrine won’t change” and then proceeded to outline policies that essentially change the doctrine. Someone please correct me here if I’m wrong.

In other words, the outcome I’m concerned about is them saying “of course doctrine hasn’t changed, of course marriage is indissoluble, now here’s how we’re giving communion to the remarried…”

:thumbsup:

The doctrine won’t change.

The discipline might.

What do I mean.

The doctrine is you can only be sacramentally married once and “remarriage” is adultery and people in mortal sin cannot receive communion.

No dispute.

The discipline is what does that all mean and how do we handle it. Does someone who was remarried as a Protestant in a church who blessed such action have culpability? Do they have full will and knowledge? If they had kids in the second marriage and not the first should the second marriage be dissolved and the family separated? Or could there be other ways to be forgiven and seek repentance and do penance and then be re admitted to the sacraments.

I still see no difference between a sincerely repentant “remarriage” couple returning to the sacraments and a couple who was sterilized and never can be open to life in the marital act again returning to the sacrament.

There are lots of facets to this and I hope that whatever the outcome everyone who professes “all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches to be revealed by God” will remember that vow when they disagree with the church on something.

That other post saying “when all the bishops are assembled and make a decree of the church we don’t have to listen to them” is a bunch of LIES.

DONT justify Protestant style rebellion to hold on to your personal opinions.

If you are worshiping a God that thinks exactly like you in a church that revolves around you, you are simply worshiping yourself.

I don’t find this issue quite so simple. We have seen in the past how the waters have been muddied (think of the Winnipeg statement after HV.) Volumes have been written about various occurrences in which ambiguity, questionable literary expression and discrepancies in translation have given rise to uncertainties. And there is sacramental theology to consider and even the Constitution of the Church herself as it relates to this synod.

The doctrine is you can only be sacramentally married once and “remarriage” is adultery and people in mortal sin cannot receive communion.

No dispute.

Did you actually read the comments coming from Cardinal Kaspar in the Consistory and the others like Caffera and Burke who objected to his reasoning? The fear of many is that the pastoral approach may be used as a means to get around unchangeable doctrine or at least in some respect, weaken the stance of the Church.

Thank you for trying to clarify this.

If the synod recommends something scandalous, or even simply debates certain matters of doctrine as though they are up for grabs, it will be a big problem for the Church even if the Pope never acts on it.

Because every little word is picked up by the media and reported (accurately or not) I already see great harm being done as is evidenced by some of these threads. When the Holy Father’s words and others in high profile for instance, are used to support dissident opinion that is a big problem for the Church and I fear no one is listening to the clarifications that follow.

Ultimately we do need to have faith that the Holy Spirit will preserve the Church’s actual doctrine. So far I’ve only seen one of these vocal Cardinals suggest actually “updating” the Church’s doctrine on marriage itself, and it is possible that he misspoke. Certainly the article in the original post suggests that the author does not regard Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage to be up for grabs, and he has been one of the most vocal Cardinals calling for change.

aaahhh…more things to ponder in my already troubled mind. I’ve always wondered just how it happens that man is actually “prevented” from speaking error in the body of Ecclesia. The practical vs the supernatural realm, but I do trust that God will prevail.

That’s why they’re differentiating between doctrine (the timeless truth) and discipline (how it’s applied). It is fact that some bishops intend to advance the cause for communion after divorce and remarriage, so we might as well get used to the idea. What will come will come.

On the other hand, the synod will simply debate the issue, so there will be arguments from both proponents (i.e. Kasper, Maradiaga) and opponents (i.e. Mueller, Burke). What the Church decides on remains up in the air.

Because every little word is picked up by the media and reported (accurately or not) I already see great harm being done as is evidenced by some of these threads. When the Holy Father’s words and others in high profile for instance, are used to support dissident opinion that is a big problem for the Church and I fear no one is listening to the clarifications that follow.

The media isn’t picking these things out of thin air. The truth is that Church leaders are playing to both sides of the debate while issuing “clarification” to downplay exaggeration or unrest from either camp.

For example, the secular world loves talk of a clear break from traditional values - that is, a change in doctrine which states that marriage doesn’t have to be permanent from the outset, that divorce and remarriage isn’t sinful, etc. The Church denies this exaggeration. Regardless of the outcome, the values will remain the same even if Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion is put into practice.

On the other side of the fence, some Catholics expect a clear denunciation of such talk. They expect the pope to rigorously uphold traditional doctrine and discipline in any public statement (hence the tendency for some to exaggerate the other way around, citing a follow-up statement as a clear denunciation when it isn’t). However, this isn’t happening because the Holy Father has pegged it as an open issue: the synod will be the time and place for debate! In the meantime, cardinals in disagreement may publicly argue (whether it’s Kasper or Mueller), but each can only speak for himself.

I’ve always wondered just how it happens that man is actually “prevented” from speaking error in the body of Ecclesia. The practical vs the supernatural realm, but I do trust that God will prevail.

I suppose it’s a matter of faith. To be honest, I struggle with that kind of belief (it has always struck me as an argument to instill obedience and justify any decision made by leadership. Catholics swear by it when it aligns with their own expectations, but when it doesn’t? That’s when sedevacantists enter the picture).

Actually, the bolded isn’t true. Card Muller has specifically said that he is not speaking his private opinion, but is speaking officially for the CDF. He drew a distinction between himself and Kasper in this regard, in that Kasper is only stating a personal opinion.

If this quote in the OP is correct that "the main concern is the sacramental validity of many Catholic marriages in the first place and that giving or not giving Communion to divorced and civilly remarried persons is another subject and it is not the most important,” then my first question becomes why was the Eucharist theme in the Consistory by the keynote speaker, Cardinal Kaspar, given such importance?

I cannot wrap my mind around this because of its obvious contradiction unless you are speaking of the “discipline” as relating to the question of the validity of marriage.

Regardless of the outcome, the values will remain the same even if Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion is put into practice.

Please clarify this. The Kasper controversy suggested many things according to the reports.

There would be much less debate if Church leaders were only referring to questions of validity (which is already a pastoral concession that uses legalistic logic to reconcile a potential contradiction). What they’re hinting at is a proposed change to the conditions for absolution under certain circumstances.

One look at the Eastern Orthodox position on divorce and remarriage tells us all we need to know. That the Eastern practice of permitting remarriage has existed for centuries (predating the schism without official condemnation, which Cardinal Kasper has been keen to point out) probably gives them some confidence that it can be compatible with Catholicism. Furthermore, it poses no further strain in terms of ecumenical relations, although I’d imagine that the Oriental Orthodox might have some reservations.

Please clarify this. The Kasper controversy suggested many things according to the reports.

Regarding Cardinal Kasper, I’m referring only to his commentary on communion after divorce and remarriage. Those who support his position will tell you that the proposal represents no change to doctrine, which is not a new concept. Eastern Orthodox leaders say the same thing, whether or not we agree with their line of thinking.

Kasper has spoken in favor of feminists who hold dissenting opinions on women’s ordination, abortion, and artificial birth control. However, I don’t think he actively champions those positions, regardless of what his own views may be.

I am (relatively) happy that the conversation seems to be shifting from the idea of giving communion to the remarried, and moving towards issues of validity. If the conversation is about ways to give communion to the remarried than it is the doctrine itself that is debated and, potentially, changed, which is obviously very frightening. But if its “just” issues if validity, than they’re not debating changing the doctrine, they’d only be debating the administrative policy of determining validity.

In other words, I think there is a huge difference between debating communion for the remarried, versus debating the process of anullment. If Card Maradiaga is right, and if we’re understanding him correctly, than the conversation is basically “there are lots of invalid marriages a out there, how should we consider the person’s intent and knowledge in determining validity, and how to we improve the administrative process of anullment”.

In this case the worst case scenario would be that we end up with an overly permissive administrative policy for anullment. Don’t get me wrong, that would be harmful and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen, but it wiuld be worlds better than debating doctrinal change.

I can see several good reasons for this conference. The family is in crisis as a societal unit. I am not concerned about the outcome being misperceived. I grant right away that this will happen. We people are just too good at reading from out own perspectives. What is important is that the Church do what it can to first bolster the institution of the family and then minister to those individuals under her care. Any rule as regard to divorce, remarriage or communion will be a byproduct of this synod, not the purpose.

The argument that the Church tolerated such practices has been refuted by Card Muller in this doc from the CDF (and keep in mind he is speaking officially here as Prefect of the CDF, not as a personal opinion):

“Sometimes it is maintained that the Church de facto tolerated the Eastern practice. But this is not correct. The canonists constantly referred to it as an abuse. And there is evidence that groups of Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.”

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/muller/rc_con_cfaith_20131023_divorziati-risposati-sacramenti_en.html

The whole section from this doc is pretty informative.

I would also site this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia (can’t copy/paste the quotes because theyre too long). It is on the correction of these practices, and also refutes the argument that the Church has tolerated them:

© Laxer Admissions and their Correction

newadvent.org/cathen/05054c.htm

How can the Eastern Orthodox position possibly overrule the Roman Catholic Church? The Divine teaching is clear so how can human judgment usurp that?

Regarding Cardinal Kasper, I’m referring only to his commentary on communion after divorce and remarriage. Those who support his position will tell you that the proposal represents no change to doctrine, which is not a new concept.

And herein lies the rub as many in the episcopate (one report if it is to be believed, stated 85% of those attending the Consistory) have adamantly voiced their theological objections.

Oops…thanks for your reference above, MC!

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