The great majority of German bishops would like to see remarried divorcees being allowed to receive the Sacraments under certain specified circumstances.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who presented the findings of a special working group in the German bishops’ conference on the subject in Bonn on 22 December, described divorce and remarriage as “often the beginning of a process of alienation from the Church”.
The president of the German bishops’ conference went on: “The search for a theologically responsible and pastorally appropriate accompaniment for Catholics whose marriages have broken down and who have married again in a register office is a pressing challenge for the Church worldwide.”
The Church’s approach to those Catholics has provoked sharp and outspoken criticism both within and outside the Church, the bishops said. Even happily married, committed Catholics found the present rulings “incomprehensible and unmerciful”, particularly the fact that remarried Catholics are excluded from the Sacraments.
Only very few remarried divorcees see annulment as a solution, because they do not think that their first marriage simply never existed, the bishops said. A possible annulment of the first marriage “is only practicable for a small minority. It does not solve the problem”, they added.
“When the present pastoral approach to remarried divorcees is perceived as a scandal by committed, practising Catholics, one must seriously ask whether Scripture and tradition really reveal no other way,” the German bishops concluded, and underlined their determination to intensify their efforts for a renewed pastoral approach towards remarried divorcees.
The German bishops would like to see the findings used as guidelines in the current nationwide preparations for next October’s follow-up Synod on the Family at the Vatican.
Above: Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, coordinator of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, arrives for the opening session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring