Pope Benedict's thought on communion for divorced and remarried couples

“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. **

I truly believe that it is a significant modern phenomenon … “a sacrament celebrated without faith”. We know that many parents begin to take their faith more seriously when their children begin to receive the sacraments in primary school and that then becomes the first opportunity for the Church to catechise those who drifted away from the faith in youth. The sad reality is that a lot of couples marrying in the Church are already sexually active and have adopted contraception etc. It is most often not the event of the wedding where they begin questioning these practices but down the track as more contact with the Church is made because of the childrens faith development.

Officially recognising (somehow) these numerous occasions of “a sacrament celebrated without faith”… hopefully will lead to greater emphasis on the sexual teachings of the Church in the years prior to the wedding day of young Catholics.

The Church has faced so many internal scandals over the last generation, that we must acknowledge that impact on the faith of this generation.

It will be an interesting couple of weeks of the synod. I really look forward to something positive coming from it that will mean that my children have a better chance of experiencing the beauty of a loving, faithfilled Catholic marriage.

I hope to see a call for better marriage prep, starting from an earlier age, and definitely before people marry in the Church!, so that this problem is gradually eradicated rather than simply dealt with after the fact.

I think that laypeople should use their talents to support this, as well.

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