Church in the World
Glimmer of hope for remarried divorcees
- 17 May 2008
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said it is essential to "broaden the perspective" of the Church's treatment of remarried divorcees, hinting that he could see circumstances under which they should be allowed to receive Communion, such as if they acknowledged their guilt and attempted to reconcile with family members.
Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, where one in two marriages ends in divorce, made his comments in an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse last weekend. He suggested wronged partners deserved different treatment from those who have been unfaithful. "And then there is the question of the abandoned partners who often have a far more difficult time than those who have already found new partners," he said. He said he would like to see attention distributed more evenly and the problems of "those who have no one to stand up for them in public" included.
He was mindful of the fact that the Church's treatment of divorcees has implications for their children.
"I have always been very clearly in favour of broadening the perspective to include the children of divorced parents who have been so terribly neglected, especially by society, but also by the Church," he said.
Cardinal Schönborn, whose parents separated when he was young, said he would also like to see more recognition for married couples who stayed together because they had promised to do so before God, even if it meant making great sacrifices.
"The difficult position the Church is in only comes out clearly when one considers the problems of all those concerned," he said. "True compassion lies first of all in discussing what is to blame and not promising a quick cure by means of a sacramental sticking plaster." He said that only if and when each case had been honestly appraised, which involved a period of grieving, remorse and perhaps also reconciliation, was it possible to assess, at a diocesan level, whether it made sense to allow people to receive the sacraments again.