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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Catholic Bishops to Re-examine the Catechism of Divorce

If you are a Catholic that strictly adheres to the catechism of the church, then you cannot partake in holy communion if you are divorced and remarried.  This applies to a lot of Catholics.

Some of the more connected among the faithful can arrange to obtain an annulment of their first marriage, clearing the path to remarriage and holy communion.  This, however, requires the utilization of a priest that knows how to work the "ecclesiastical tribunal".

Next month, a synod of Catholic Bishops convened by Pope Francis, will reexamine the catechism of divorce.  Although the Pontiff's position on the matter is not known, conservative church leaders are meeting the synod head-on with the publication of a book in defense of the permanence of marriage.

The Catholic divorce apologetics got underway through a proposal advanced by German Cardinal, Walter Kasper, the divorced and remarried, after a period of penance, would be able to take holy communion once again.

If you are a Catholic divorcee, this is what the Church currently and officially has to say about your situation at §2384 of the catechism:
Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law.  It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.  Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign.  Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.
The remarried Catholic divorcee is excluded from communion.  But there is an interesting, and broad, escape clause in the doctrine:
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
 In addition to the above, which a good litigator can fit to almost any circumstance, there is the possibility of an annulment, set forth at §1629 of the catechism:
For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e. that the marriage never existed.  In this case, the contracting parties are free to marry provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.
Well that certainly clears it up.  This language suggests hope for those divorced Catholics that want to remain faithful to their Church and partake in the sacraments, especially holy communion.

The conflict anticipated at the Bishops' synod pits the permanence of sacramental marriage against the erosion of marriage as a modern social institution.  Pope Francis appears to be an inclusive rather than an exclusive prelate.

Let's see what the synod produces next month on the subject.

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