Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Pope can allow access of divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist

By José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Teología sin Censura blog
August 27, 2015

The problem of the divorced and remarried that is receiving so much attention, is not a dogmatic problem but a pastoral one. There is no dogma of faith in the Magisterium of the Church that requires one to deny Holy Communion to people who are divorced and have remarried. This issue has been studied in detail.

And we know with certainty that in the beginning, Christians followed the same conditions and customs, as regards marriage, as the habits and customs that were followed in the pagan environment (J. Duss-von Werdt in "Mysterium Salutis", IV/2, p. 411).

This situation lasted at least until the 4th century, which means that the Christians of the first centuries were not aware that Christian revelation had brought something new and specific to the cultural fact of marriage itself.

Starting in the 4th and 5th centuries, the first data on nuptial Masses in the Church of Rome appear. But such Masses were celebrated only in the case of marriages of clerics, who were neither priests or deacons (Pope Siricius: PL 13, 1141-1143; Pope Innocent I: PL 20, 473-477).

In the first ten centuries, Mass wasn't even celebrated when lay people got married. Nor in those centuries was the idea that marriage was a sacrament widespread (Schillebeeckx, "Matrimonio", Salamanca 1968, pp 173 [published in English as "Marriage" by Sheed and Ward, 1965]).

The theology of marriage as a sacrament was developed in the 11th and 12th centuries, something that appears in Peter Lombard and the Decretum Gratiani (J. Gaudemet, "El vínculo matrimonial: incertidumbre en la Alta Edad Media" in R, Metz - J. Schlick, Matrimonio y divorcio, Salamanca 1974, pp. 102-103). But both Peter Lombard and Hugh of Saint Victor put the core of marriage not in a sacramental rite but in the "union of hearts" (IV Sent., D. 28, c. 3).

All this explains why Pope Gregory II (726) responds to a query made by Saint Boniface (bishop) in which he asks the Supreme Pontiff: What should the husband whose wife is ill and therefore can not give him his conjugal dues, do?

"It would be well if he should continue as he is and practice continence. But as this is for great men, let the one who cannot be continent, remarry, but let him not stop providing financial assistance to the one who is sick and has not been excluded by some abominable offense."(PL 89, 102-103 Cf. M. Sotomayor, "Tradición de la Iglesia respecto al divorcio": Proyección 28 (1981) 55)

Without any doubt, that divorce was a recognized practice in the Church of the first ten centuries, is clearly noted in a response from Pope Innocent I to Probo (PL 20, 602-603).

Moreover, in this matter we must always remember that, in Roman law, the dissolution of marriage was perfectly admissible, as all specialists in this area have explained (D. 24. 2. 1 (Paul). Cf. A. Burdese, Diritto Privato Romano, 4th ed., 2014, p. 241).

At the same time however, it is crucial to know that, at least during the first ten centuries, the Church took Roman law as its own, and that even "the custody of the Roman legal tradition fell mostly to the Church" (Peter G. Stein, "El Derecho romano en la historia de Europa", Madrid 2001, p. 57 -- originally published in English as "Roman Law in European History" by Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999). So much so that Saint Isidore at the council of Seville in the year 619, proclaimed Roman Law as "lex mundialis" (Conc. Hisp. II, can. 1 y 3. Cf. C. Th. 5.5.2; 5.10.1). Even saying that "Roman law was the mother of all human laws" (Mon. Germ. Hist., Leges II.2, p. 156).

Because of all this, it is understood that the first document of the Magisterium forbidding the dissolution of marriage is from the 13th century (1208), by Pope Innocent III (DH 794). The doctrine of the Council of Florence (1439-1447) on indissoluble marriage, is based on the "Decree for the Armenians" (DH 1327), which is not an infallible document for the whole Church.

The doctrine of the 24th Sess. of Trent (DH 1797), is not a dogma of faith. Nor are the anathemas that follow condemnations excluding one from communion. Specifically, the dog. 7 (DH 1807) was drafted in the mildest form out of consideration for the Greeks, who abided by an opposite practice, that is, they allowed divorce, which the Council didn't want to condemn (cf. DH 1807, note).

In the dogmatic theology treatises on marriage, there isn't a unanimous teaching on this matter. Cardinal G.L. Müller, in his great volume "Dogmática" (Barcelona, 2009, p. 722), only alludes to an argument that is highly debatable, since it mentions that marriage doesn't imprint "sacramental character." But we know that this sacrament does not imprint "character" (as happens with baptism, confirmation and holy orders).

The conclusion is clear: it is not a doctrine of faith that Christian marriage is indissoluble. Therefore, it is not a definitively settled theological question. And therefore, being a "disputed issue", it falls to the Pope or to whomever the Pope chooses to make the decision, in each case, to do what is most appropriate for maintaining due respect, order and conditions of affection and love in the family.

In any case, since it isn't the Pope or the bishop or the priest who is getting married, the views of the parties concerned ought to always be taken into account above all, as they are usually the best people to see what is best for themselves and their children. The view of those directly concerned must always be borne in mind.

Because of all this, the intensity of the problems being raised with an eye to the Synod next October, is strange and hard to understand. No doubt, not just the arguments of tradition and theology (which are ignored frequently by those who argue most passionately) are being taken into account on this issue.

Isn't it suspicious and shocking that this issue, which is properly theological, is part of the political platform of the most fundamentalist parties of the die-hard Right? That's the case of quite a few Republicans in the United States. And also in a number of political parties with fundamentalist tendencies in Latin America and Europe. Why are they advocating a model of marriage and the family that they, apparently, are interested in? Are they advocating this for religious motives or out of political interest? It would be appropriate to clarify this as soon as possible.

1 comment:

  1. I think the sooner this problem in the Catholic Church is resolved, the better for all of us to accept the reforms being made, hoping that those who have gone astray would come back into the fold and, therefore, the Church would become more united and strengthened for the benefit of all.