Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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The German Bishops and Divorce

December 2nd, 2013 · 5 Comments

Pope Benedict’s contra Germanos

The German Bishops have decided to put into effect a policy that Cardinal Gerhard Müller of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not like.

From what I understand, the Germans bishops will allow Catholics who have divorced and remarried to receive communion without an declaration of nullity of the previous marriage. They will allow this if the Catholic is convinced that the previous marriage was in fact invalid, but its invalidity cannot be proved in a canonical court.

This could happen because the previous spouse has disappeared, or refuses to cooperate, or the process of a trial would be too emotionally painful.

Müller says allowing remarried Catholics to receive communion without a declaration of nullity would cause confusion. He is certainly right in that.

If a person leaves his spouse, and then tries to take another spouse, he commits adultery, according to the words of Jesus. But if the first union was not a true marriage, then the following marriage is a true marriage, and is not adulterous.

The Church, for good reasons, has added the requirement that an objective, outside judge examine the circumstances, on the principal that nemo judex in causa sua – no one should judge his own case.

But this legal principal has to take second place to the good of souls, and a person may be truly convinced that the previous marriage was no marriage at all, but is unable to prove it in a church court. Should he be denied the sacraments?

On the other hand, would allowing each person to decide in effect make the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage a dead letter?

I suspect that with much waffling and obscuring of issues Francis will allow the German bishops to do what they have decided to do (and in fact are doing already), all the while claiming that nothing has changed.

Hans “King” Kung has put his two cents in - which is more than his opinion is worth..

Tags: Germany · Pope Benedict · Pope Francis

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 caroline // Dec 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I suspect many of us could come up with anecdotal evidence that what the German bishops are now allowing has been happening for quite a while and not only in Gerrmany. I have a friend who…etc.

  • 2 Vickie // Dec 3, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Given the weakness of human nature, this change is just another blow to the traditional family and keeping your promises. It is more drift from the real. As in I am really bound by my vows. How can you trust anyone at all if at any time they can claim, I really did not mean it, I take it back.

  • 3 Anonymous // Dec 4, 2013 at 12:34 am

    “Hans ‘King’ Kung has put his two cents in - which is more than his opinion is worth..”


    Brilliant, Lee, simply brilliant.

  • 4 Father Michael K // Dec 4, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Caroline, as a cleric, I can indeed confirm that this goes on unofficially. Often the priest of a big parish doesn’t know. The couple make their own decision and “feel in their conscience” that everything is fine.

  • 5 Mary // Dec 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    An icon restoration puts a visual element to what “They” are doing to the Church.

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