09 October 2014, The Tablet

Calls for quicker annulments and welcome of gays

Some bishops want to make the annulment of marriages quicker and easier while avoiding the creation of "a kind of Catholic divorce," the Vatican has said.

Participants at the Vatican's Synod on the Family were in "clear consensus on the need to simplify annulments without arriving at a kind of Catholic divorce," Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told a press conference on Thursday.

The issue of whether the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion has been a recurrent theme at this week's discussions, with liberal and conservative bishops in opposing positions. Swifter annulments would allow more couples to remarry with the blessing of the Catholic Church.

Fr Lombardi said that while there was "affirmation that marriage can only be between a man and a woman", participants said those in difficult situations such as gay couples must be welcomed in the Church and treated with respect.

Participants have stressed that it was important to use language that avoids giving the impression of "moral judgment" over those in irregular living situations.

Fr Thomas Rosica, another spokesman for the Vatican, recalled one bishop who said that "same-sex marriage cannot be equated to marriage between a man and a woman" added that "at the same time their dignity should be respected and they should be treated with compassion and sensitivity".

Discussing the situation of Catholics who cannot receive Communion, Fr Lombardi said that there were various inventions on the value of "spiritual Communion" as "something informal but very significant, valued by those who cannot accept the sacrament".

Other forms of receiving a blessing such as at prayer meetings were to be encouraged among those who cannot take part in Communion, some participants said.

One bishop told how one devout divorced and remarried Catholic whom he knew eventually received permission to receive Communion after many years, Fr Rosica said. It meant so much to him that he asked for the letter to be buried with him in his coffin.

Other bishops said that the problem of divorced could be addressed by more "solid" preparation for marriage, which they said was at times "rushed".

"A need for greater preparation for marriage, especially among the young," was called for, along with "an adequate emotional education", the Vatican said in a statement.


  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99