PopeWatch: Frieburg

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And so it begins.  The diocese of Frieburg, Germany is first off the mark in implementing what I suspect will be called the “Franciscan Reforms” (whether such “reforms” are approved of by the Pope or not):

The Vatican warned bishops on Tuesday not to reform faster than Pope Francis, after a German diocese said that some divorced and remarried Catholics would now be allowed to receive communion and other sacraments.


The teaching of the Church is quite clear in this area as noted by then Cardinal Ratzinger:

3. Aware however that authentic understanding and genuine mercy are never separated from the truth(4), pastors have the duty to remind these faithful of the Church’s doctrine concerning the celebration of the sacraments, in particular, the reception of the Holy Communion. In recent years, in various regions, different pastoral solutions in this area have been suggested according to which, to be sure, a general admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion would not be possible, but the divorced and remarried members of the faithfus could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorised according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflexion and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.

In some places, it has also been proposed that in order objectively to examine their actual situation, the divorced and remarried would have to consult a prudent and expert priest. This priest, however, would have to respect tueir eventual decision to approach Holy Communion, without this implying an official authorisation.

In these and similar cases it would be a matter of a tolerant and benevolent pastoral solution in order to do justice to the different situations of the divorced and remarried.

4. Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline. It falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei.

With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ(5), the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists(6).

This norm is not at all a punishment or a discrimination against the divorced and remarried, but rather expresses an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion: “They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and his Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage”(7).

The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.

Whether the teaching will stay clear will be decided at the  Extraordinary Synod on the Family and Marriage which will be held a year from now in Rome.  I think between now and then Pope Francis will discover that not only the diocese of Freiburg will take upon itself the task of rewriting Church teaching, and that the Church will quickly enter a period of chaos rather like that which existed during the pontificate of Paul VI, a fresh and raw memory for those of us who had the misfortune to live through that period.  I hope I am wrong.  We shall see.

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  1. “The archdiocese of Freiburg in Germany issued a guidebook on Monday for priests ministering to remarried Catholics that spelled out a way for them to express remorse for their failed first marriage and receive communion and other sacraments.”

    It is called an annulment or the vow to live as brother and sister. The problem with divorce is the broken vow. Now, to accept a liar’s vow is problematic. “Til death do us part” was changed into “til the death of the marriage do us part” which is not part of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. If Pope Francis accepts this secular excuse for adultery, the Pope will have excommunicated all of the faithful. I do not put any money in the collection unless the priest tells me something true about God. Thanks be to God, the newer priests are orthodox and faithful and I have beautiful priests.

  2. I can just see that image of the lightning bolt that struck St. Peter’s … shining a flickering light on the pale faces of Mr and Mrs Luther.
    the Reformation seems to be advancing

  3. This Is about distortion, fabrication, and omission.

    It is not reform.

    This is another denial of 2,000 years of Church teaching handed down to us from the Apostles who were personally baptized/instructed, in accordance with Christ’s promise, by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

    Mattew 19:3-9; Mark 10:1-12: The man unites with his wife and the two become one. What God has joined let no man put asunder. Christ states, “I tell you” that any man who divorces his wife for any reason other than infidelity/unchastity commits adultery if he marries some other woman.

    Or, it is, “That was then. This is now.” The modernist heresy: that objective truth teachings of the Church are not etrenal but may be altered to satisfy the whims succeeding ages/generations/social media.

    Because Evangelists Matthew and Mark were “suggesting” when they quoted Jesus regarding divorce/remarriage constituting adultery.

    “Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms.” – Timothy Dolan

    Oh, what the . . . “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” Ancient St. John Chrysostom

  4. I suspect that the prohibition against divorce/remarriage/no-communion will be, in fact, upheld by the Church authorities, but on a practical level, totally ignored by pretty much everyone except a few die-hards. Rather like the whole contraception affair. The catechism and a few pro-lifers says its wrong, but pretty much everyone does it anyway, most catholic physicians prescribe it, NFP classes hard to find, and the bishop don’t want to deal with it.

  5. We’ll have to see how it goes, and it’ll be a while before anything is known. These synods prepare a report, but then the report has to be revised and issued by Rome. the 2012 synod’s document still hasn’t come out, so one assumes it’ll be a good long time before we see anything out of this one.

    Obviously, there’s really no wiggle room for the Church to change practice here. If someone has remarried outside the Church, he’s living in adultery and unless he seeks absolution and intends not to continue to commit adultery, he can’t receive the sacraments.

    Of course, as with so many other moral issues, a lot of rank and file Catholics ignore this and simply receive anyway, and many priests tacitly approve of such arrangements. I had an aunt who’s priest advised her to go get married in a Protestant ceremony rather than waiting for an in process annulment. That was twenty years ago, and nothing has changed since that I can see though some of the younger priests are more willing to actually teach what the Church teaches. That’s the big generation effect that we’re still only seeing the beginning of. In the modern world, there’s no reason for men who don’t believe what the Church teaches to become priests. So while the priests being ordained now are smaller in number, they seem to be in the main very solid compared to those we were getting in the post V2 period.

  6. it is a sin to re marry but Jesus never did say that people were not allowed to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist…at least as far as I know….

  7. This Pope will be the end of any truth in the Catholic Church. What IS the faithful to do now ? I’ve prayed and prayed but something in my spirit is fearful of this Pontiff.

  8. “Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline.”

    Especially in the East. This led to the rather curious wording used by the Council of Trent, “If any one says, that the Church has erred, in that she has taught, and does teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties… let him be anathema.” (Sess XXIV c 7) In this way, they avoided anathematizing those Greek Fathers who had taught that marriage could be dissolved for adultery (and on other grounds, too), but who had not condemned the Latins for holding to the contrary opinion.

  9. If this situation in Germany were something new, the responsibility could be placed at the feet of Pope Francis. However, while this particular German diocese has recently made this ‘pastoral decision’ (and already challenged by Francis’ Vatican to do nothing before the Extraordinary Synod), this is not a new problem for the Church nor caused by Pope Francis. It began in German dioceses in the 1990’s during the ministry of Blessed John Paul. It was this earlier ‘crisis’ that then Cardinal Ratzinger was addressing as head of the Congregation of the Faith.

    It arose once again in Austria during the ministry of Pope Benedict, led by the former Vicar General of Vienna.

    Marriage and family are fundamental theological givens. It has been researched and discovered that the way of cultures to non belief is by way of the breakdown of marriage and the family. The breakdown of marriage and family has long been happening and is not a recent phenomenon.

    The decision to make marriage and family (with the various pastoral questions arising from this-such as the real pastoral care of the divorced and remarried) I believe first arose within the conclave. This explains his mentioning of the issue in the plane interview after World Youth Day. Certainly it must have been discussed at the recent sessions of the Council of Cardinals (the G 8)

    What I find as very hopeful is that the upcoming synod is an Extraordinary Synod. The last Extraordinary Synod in 1985, under the headship of Blessed John Paul and the guidance of the then Cardinal Ratzinger, gave us the core issue of Vatican II: ” the Church as communion is the sacrament of salvation of the world” . It also gave a ” canonical” form to the 16 documents of the Council, with the four ( on Divine Revelation, on the Liturgy, on the Mystery of the Church, and on the Church in the modern world) as the four key texts that both ground and interpret the rest of the documents. Finally, the Extraordinary Synod called for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is this Extraordinary Synod as well as the teachings of John Paul and Benedict that will really prevent the Church from the confusion and chaos of the 60’s and 70’s people rightly fear.

    Now a new Extraordinary Synod has been called on the subject of marriage and family. Have we not been attempting to remain faithful to Our Lord in the face of the sexual revolution, of vast social and cultural forces shaking both marriage and family life? This Extraordinary Synod will wrestle with these profound realities and give us, as did its predecessor, a firm foundation and sense of mission and direction.

  10. Yeah, I think people need to beware of suddenly attributing every example of deviation within some parish or diocese to Pope Francis. We had exactly these same problems under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and we even saw people selectively quoting those popes to support what they were doing (as well as saying they were waiting for the ever-anticipated “liberal pope” to fix everything.)

    So the behavior on the ground is very much in continuity with what came before. Yes, some of these dissident Catholics are going to announce they’re fans of Francis, but they’re simply doing that as gloss to defend what they were already going.

    It’ll take a while to see if Francis’s style is causing drift in the levels of catechesis and obedience in the Church, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it at this point. Francis does a few things that make liberals happy, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest that he’s not himself quite sound. And we have a lot of things in place now (such as the new catechism) which serve as bulwarks against the kind of confusion that reigned during the 70s when people were running around claiming that everything had changed and there was little with which to rebut them.

  11. I think it’s far more likely that Pope Francis is reacting to this — and in pretty quick fashion, for Rome — than that it has anything at all to do with Pope Francis.

    The danger is that, as in this post, people will look at these “reforms” and think they come from the pope and are okay.

  12. “Everyone with opportunity to observe it knows that the Fuehrer can only with great difficulty order from above everything he intends to carry out sooner or later … it is the duty of every single person to attempt, in the spirit of the Fuehrer, to work towards him. Anyone making mistakes will come to notice it soon enough. But the one who works correctly towards the Fuehrer along his lines and towards his aims will in future as previously have the finest reward of one day suddenly attaining the legal confirmation of his work.”

    Werner Willikens, State Secretary in the Prussian Agriculture Ministry, 21 February 1934. Quoted in Ian Kershaw “Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris” (1998) p.529.

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