02 July 2015, The Tablet

Cardinal describes how pathway for remarried divorcees would work

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has attempted to demonstrate how it would be possible theologically to allow remarried divorcees to receive the Eucharist under tightly defined conditions.

There could never be a general solution to the “thorny and complex” problem of allowing remarried divorcees to receive the Eucharist, Cardinal Kasper argued in a nine-page essay in the German theological monthly Stimmen der Zeit. Each case would have to be considered individually, he insisted, in order to ascertain full repentance of sin.

Remarried divorcees would undertake a “painful but salutary process of clarification and reorientation after the catastrophe of a divorce in a clarifying discussion process with a confessor”, Kasper suggested. The purpose of such a “penitential process” would be for the remarried divorcees to arrive at an honest appraisal of their situation and for the confessor to assess whether they could be granted absolution. The process would be overseen by the local bishop.

The cardinal said it was “theological nonsense” to oppose such a suggestion on the grounds that it meant forgiveness without repentance.

“The Sacrament of Reconciliation naturally includes repentance and the will to live according to the Gospel values in the new situation,” he pointed out.

“Not the sin but the repentant sinner is absolved. The Eucharist, which repentant sinners can then once again partake of, can give them strength to persevere on their new path. Christians in difficult situations are dependent on this source of strength which for them is the bread of life.”

It was not a case of making an exception to the law but of “appropriate and merciful application of the law”, Kasper explained. The penitential way was not a modern discovery but fully in line with Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of marriage, he underlined.

Meanwhile Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan described in an article for this week's Tablet how his archdiocese has created an office for separated Catholics, where they will be able to talk through their circumstances and be offered guidance on suitable courses of action, as well as an explanation of canonical procedures for the dissolution of a marriage.

Photo: Kasper at the Episcopalian Washington National Cathedral during a theological conference. Photo: CNS/National Cathedral

  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