Spanish bishop: Pope says he will not change Communion rule

Amid widespread reports that Pope Francis might open the door to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, a Spanish bishop says the Pope told him that this scenario is not possible.

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain said that during his ad limina visit to the Vatican earlier this year, the Holy Father told him that “the Pope cannot change” what Jesus Christ has instituted.

The question of Communion for the divorced and remarried has surfaced due to an address given by Germany’s Cardinal Walter Kasper to a group of cardinals earlier this year. Some have speculated that the Church will change its teachings, which do not acknowledge a second civil marriage unless the first has received an annulment, or a Church recognition that the marriage had never been valid in the first place.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. The Pope is, in his own words, “a faithful son of the Church”. Honestly, I don’t even think most “liberal Catholics” really think divorce and remarried Catholics will be admitted to Communion. I think they are merely whipping up expectations so that, when the traditional praxis is maintained, massive dissent can follow in its wake, just like what happened with Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul VI upheld the constant teaching of the Church, but their was such a storm of protest, even among the clergy, that very few priests have been willing to teach the sinfulness of contraception since. In much the same way, I think, many “liberal Catholics” are hoping to silence the pastors of the Church on this issue and to institute a “turn a blind eye” policy where the divorced and remarried begin receiving Communion even without permission while our pastors look on afraid to say anything from the pulpit about it. Honestly, someone who habitually uses birth control, with no intention of stopping, ought not to receive absolution or communion either, nevertheless they do, each and every week. So too might be the hopes of the “liberals”.

Great to read, I hope this ends up being true :slight_smile:

The divorced re-married already receive communion despite warnings to the contrary. Contraception is one thing, but I seriously wonder if God will allow outright and widespread sacrilege tacitly approved by His ordained. The possible consequences of that make me shudder.

I do think that Scripture can and does need to be interpreted in light of better historical understanding.

In Christ’s time, a woman who was divorced or “put away” by her husband, was ruined. She was worthless as a commodity (which is how women were viewed at that tme,) While the divorced husband was free so to speak, to marry another (have children, receive a dowrey from the family and so forth,) the woman had no means of support and was shunned by her family. She was in an even worse state than the poor widow, leaving her no option but to beg or turn to prostitution.

In Christ’s time, He showed extraordinary mercy towards women. He elevated them to a human status never before demonstrated. It was scandalous This is why in part, I believe that he was truly the Son of God.

When Christ spoke of marriage, He was not speaking of marriage as we engage in it today. Marriage today, is an entirely different institution. I believe that if the Pope decides to address the institution of marriage as we understand it today, he can address the realities we face today as well, in the light of Christ’s goodness and example of mercy.

You’re probably right, especially in the English Masses. In the Spanish Masses, half of the congregation doesn’t receive, so apparently they know the rules better.

Well, I’ll have to disagree with some of that. Marriage is a sacrament, which is how Christ understood it, how He instituted it, and it is how the Catholic Church lives it today. That is not how much of America understands it, of course, but that it is to their great loss and it demands greater outreach and evangelization from us. There is such thing as legitimate development of doctrine, but development does not, indeed, cannot, mean undercutting and dissolving the basic truth of the Gospel. The pope’s job is to proclaim the Catholic faith in light of contemporary cultural conditions–not to change the faith to meet a wounded culture’s desperation for legitimization of its various disorders.

I’m not sure how “better historical understanding” changes any of that. If anything, what you rightly suggested about the ease of divorce in near-eastern Jewish culture made Christ’s refusal to recognize divorce even more radical than it seems to us today. In that case, perhaps we should take a little more heart in our proclamation of the indissolubility of marriage…

This is a really good way of putting it :thumbsup:

No, I am saying that Christ’s admonition against divorce was to protect women from the injustice it caused them to suffer.

Furthermore, Marriage was not originally considered a sacrament by the early Church.

In today’s Catholic definition of marriage, there are marriages that are deemed non-saramental through the process of annulment. Marriage is only truly sacramental, when the partners make it so. Many marriages do not contain the necessary ingredients to be sacramental due to such factors as immaturity, lack of free consent, insufficient understanding of what marriage is, mental illness, etc. I think that in most cases where a divorce occurs, there is probably sufficient cause to grant an annulment.

Currently, an annulment is a lengthy, detailed process in which the marriage is anayzed by people who have never even met the people in question. Does anyone really know the real details of a marriage more than the couple itself? Perhaps instead of church-granted
annulments, the Church will someday allow the people themselves to determine in good faith, whether their marriage was sacramental or not. Or maybe there will be a more intimate process, like meeting with the parish priest and/or the bishop in more complicated cases.

What we have now is a mess.

That might be what you are saying, but it is not true. Christ Himself tells us why He is against divorce in Mark 10:

2 And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3 But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you?
4 Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away.
5 To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept.
6 But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.
7 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife.
8 And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

IOW, not b/c divorce “hurts women” (although that is bad too), but b/c God created man and woman to be joined for life and what God has brought together in marriage (making two people, one flesh) cannot be separated by man. You’ll note the complete and total absence of any suggestion that Christ is for divorces that don’t “hurt women.”

This is completely irrelevant (and incorrect). The early Church considered marriage to be indissoluble, as does the Church today. Whether or not the early Church considered marriage a Sacrament is completely beside the point.

This also is wrong. Annulment does not “deem a marriage non-sacramental” it declares the already present fact that no marriage ever existed between two people. Annulments rule on the validity of a marriage not on its sacramentality.

Again, you’re confusing validity and sacramentality. The conditions you list are impediments to marriage, not to “sacramental marriage” and result in no marriage taking place not in a natural, non-sacramental marriage taking place.

Marriage is not simply a private relationship, it is a public institution - the public institution that all others are built upon. Thus, it makes little sense to say that the couple ought to just decide for themselves whether or not they were ever married (again, annulments are not declarations about sacramentality). Besides, since when are divorcing couples known for their great ability to peaceably agree on anything? You ask if anyone knows the details of a marriage better than the couple. I ask you, is anyone less objective about the validity of a marriage than the couple?

Based on your arguement, it sounds like the Church has no business granting annulments.

I’m not sure if you’re referring to my argument, but I’ll assume you are. If I’m right, then no, the Church has every business granting annulments. Again, an annulment (“decree of nullity”) is merely a juridic recognition that no marriage ever existed between Mr. X and Mrs. Y. It doesn’t dissolve a marriage (which is impossible according to Jesus) is simply recognizes that these two people were never really married at all.

Here’s an easy case. You can’t be married to two people at once. Mr. Jones marries Miss Smith. He then, while traveling on business, meets and marries Miss Johnson. Is he really married to Miss Johnson? No. Why? Because he is already married to Miss Smith and you can’t be married to two women at once. This second “marriage” is not a real marriage at all. When Miss Johnson divorces Mr Jones she can then get an annulment from the Church which recognizes that she never married Mr Jones at all, because he wasn’t free to marry. Thus, she can marry someone else.

There can be lots of other things that prevent two people from getting married, even when they think they are so doing. These, while more subtle, are no different than the example I gave above. And in all these cases all the Church is doing is saying, “these two people were never married.” The Church isn’t retroactively ending the marriage, it is merely recognizing that the two never were really married at all, no marriage ever existed.

Why shouldn’t the Church do this?

Yes, but who supplies the information regarding the annulment process? Primarily the couple, who according to you, cannot be objective.

They provide the evidence, but do not determine the validity of the marriage.

The determination is only as good as the evidence.

If the Pope has his mind already made up on the issue, why has he called for the Synod of Bishops to discuss the issue this October ?

Shouldn’t he just call it off ?

Also, what every they come up with, won’t become public until 2015.


The Synod is meeting to discuss the family (which is in grave crisis, as you no doubt know). One purposed topic is the whole divorced and remarried and communion issue, but there are others to be discussed. The MSM is only focusing on this one thing, but it isn’t like Francis decided to call the Synod specifically to discuss changing the Church’s teaching on remarriage.

I think we should all just give up on getting married. There’s too much at stake. Too much of a risk of losing participation in Holy Communion for the rest of one’s life! What other act of love does that?

If such were the case we might do away with judges and juries in our criminal and civil courts as well as with tribunals for annulment cases. Would you be for that? Should a rape case be adjudicated solely by the rapist and the victim on the grounds that they have the best evidence as to what happened? No? I didn’t think so. It is for the petitioners to offer the best evidence at hand and for the tribunal to judge the case. These are distinct roles - both are necessary to reach a fair decision.

Besides, the current system was developed by the Church over many centuries by great thinkers. Ought we be so full of hubris as to think we suddenly know so much better?

Better still, maybe we should just give up on getting divorced and remarried. There’s no risk in “losing participation in Holy Communion” in getting married, only in habitually and publicly (and unrepentantly) having sex with someone other than your actual spouse (see the 6th and 9th Commandments). Since marriage is for life, and since the State cannot dissolve a valid marriage (nor can the Church), divorce and remarriage amounts to perpetual adultery. Maybe we’d be best to give that up instead of “getting married.”

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit