“Those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various bishops’ conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people’s painful plight, it must be studied further.”
Here ends the thought of Benedict XVI on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, which he wanted to reiterate with the republication of this essay from 1998.
The first is the possible expansion of the canonical recognition of the nullity of marriages celebrated “without faith” by at least one of the spouses, although baptized.
The second is the possible recourse to a decision “in the internal forum” to receive communion by a divorced and remarried Catholic if the lack of recognition of the nullity of his previous marriage (because of a verdict held to be erroneous or because of the impossibility of proving its nullity in procedural form) were to contrast with his firm conviction of conscience that that marriage was objectively null.
And, he writes, the ecclesiastical tribunals that should ascertain whether or not a marriage is valid do not always function well. Sometimes the processes “last an excessive amount of time.” In some cases "they conclude with questionable decisions. "In still others “mistakes occur.”
In these cases, therefore – the pope recognizes –, “it seems that the application of ‘epikeia’ in the internal forum is not automatically excluded,” meaning a decision of conscience.
Others maintain that exceptions are possible here in the internal forum, because the **juridical forum does not deal with norms of divine law, but rather with norms of ecclesiastical law. **