Monday, December 2, 2013

Church should take new approach towards question of communion for remarried divorcees

Vatican Insider
November 28, 2013

“A new approach needs to be taken with respect to the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees.” Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri is the prelate the Pope nominated Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Born in 1940, the Tuscan prelate has four decades of experience as a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps and as of the end of September he has had the task of renewing the Synod institute that will meet twice – in 2014 and 2015 – to discuss the family, after a questionnaire or consultation containing 39 questions on family issues.

In the “Evangelii Gaudium” Francis does not explicitly mention the issue of the administration of sacraments to remarried divorcees. However, he does write that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” How should these words be read?
“We should pay attention to the phrase that follows immediately after this: These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.” The Pope presents these two elements together. This means he wants these issues to be examined with prudence and therefore with attention to the Church’s doctrine. But he also wants them to be examined with boldness, which for me means “without fear”, taking individual circumstances into account.”

So will something change?
“The magisterium is not rigid; it accompanies the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is subject to continuous study and applied according to each case. The Church needs to apply Church doctrine taking the circumstances of each specific case into account. This approach does not mean making general conclusions and rules for everyone. We need to consider each case separately. Then we can develop a new way of looking at the doctrine. At the end of the day, even in the case of marriages annulments, we deal with each case separately. This is what pastoral care is all about; it is not a set framework.”

Would it be right to deduce then that the issue of the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees is open?
“The fact it has been included in the Questionnaire means it is going to be looked at and the intention is to discuss the issue without any taboos, otherwise it would not have been mentioned. This seems obvious to me.”

During the press conference held on the return flight from Rio, Francis recalled – though he did not take sides - the Orthodox practice of blessing second marriages in certain cases…
“The experience of the Orthodox Church may be helpful to us, not just in terms of synodality and collegiality, but also in the case we are talking about now. It can help illuminate the way. But now is not the time to discuss which solution is better. These are issues that will be discussed in the Synod. We have started taking a different approach to these issues in relation to the past, asking dioceses and parishes to contribute information and ideas – the basis of this new approach – and this will help us a great deal. The experiences of other Churches such as the Eastern Churches will also be helpful. As you said, the Pope himself made reference to Orthodox practice.”

Is the questionnaire you sent out a survey?
“No, it’s not and it is important to stress this. It’s not a survey as we understand it today, nor is it a referendum. The idea came from a desire to find out about people’s individual and collective experience, directly from them, in order to gather statistical data, reflections and thoughts. This way bishops will get a clear picture of the situation without having to refer to books or sociological studies. Our questionnaire is much more than just a sociological study. It is also an ecclesiastical and spiritual reflection and the questions are open…”

Can you explain what is new about this two-phase Synod which will involve two meetings on the same issue but one year apart?
“It is a new approach that responds to the Pope’s new way of doing things and responds in some ways to the dynamics of the Second Vatican Council. Francis wants a dynamic and permanent synod, not as a structured entity but as an action, as osmosis between the centre and the periphery. And he wants it to be applied to all issues, in order to get suggestions from local Churches. The 15-member Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat will gain in importance and this means the Pope will also be able to consult a permanent council on aspects of Church government.”

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