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October 21, 1994

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10 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana October Vatican letter on divorce affirms tradition, halts German WASHINGTON (CNS) m The Vatica has reiterated the church's ban on Communion by divorced Catholics in invalid second marriages, forcing three German bishops to re- scind a 1993 policy that al- lowed some exceptions to the rule. But if the Vatican congrega- tion hoped to end further dis- cussion of the matter in the church, the German response dashed those hopes. The Vatican statement came in the form of a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the world's bish- ops, dated Sept. 14 and re- leased Oct. 14. It said the church cannot ignore Jesus' clear teaching on the indissolu- bility of marriage. The German prelates -- Arch- bishop Oskar Saier of Freiburg and Bishops Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Walter Kasper of Rottenburg- Stuttgart -- issued a nine-page statement Oct. 14 in which they rescinded their policy permitting some pastoral flexi- bility. But they defended the theo- logical basis of their 1993 stand and said the issue should still be considered an open question. They said that their develop- ment of a pastoral approach was not in conflict with the in- dissolubility of marriage. They expressed hope that church di- alogue will continue on the controversial issue so that a deeper ?'theologically and pas- torally responsible answer" will be found. Just two days before the Vatican letter came out, the Canon Law Society of America, meeting in Atlanta, unani- mously approved a resolution establishing a task force to "study pastoral options for the Christian initiation and sacra- mental reconciliation of those who are in irregular mar- riages." The society's resolution ad- dressed the issue of millions of baptized Catholics barred from Communion by an irregular second marriage. But it also highlighted an- other pastoral-canonical issue that comes up increasingly in the United States: the obstacle faced by many adults who wish to become Catholic but are barred from joining the church because of an irregular mar- riage. The Vatican letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the doctri- nal congregation, and ap- proved by Pope John Paul II. It was titled, "Concerning the Re- ception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics." It said, "In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the church affirms that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the preceding marriage was valid." "If the divorced are remar- ried civilly, they find them- selves in a situation that objec- tively contravenes God's law," it added. "Consequently, they cannot receive holy Commu- nion as long as this situation persists." It cited the passage from Mark's Gospel where Jesus says anyone who divorces his or her spouse and marries again commits adultery. The Vatican called on pas- tors to give "special attention" to "the difficulties and suffer- ings of those faithful in irregu- lar marriage situations." Such people "are not ex- cluded from ecclesial commu- nion," it said. It added that the church "is concerned to accom- pany them pastorally and in- vite them to share in the life of the church in the measure that is compatible with the disposi- tions of the divine law, from "vhich the church has no power to dispense." But it said a divorced Catholic can enter a valid mar- riage only if the church, through its courts, finds the first marriage null. It rejected private, nonjudicial solutions. Catholics in invalid second marriages who continue to live together as husband and wife cannot receive Communion, it said. To receive Communion, such couples must separate or, if separation is impossible, go to confession and "take on them- selves the duty to live in com- plete continence, that is, by ab- stinence from the acts proper to married couples," the letter said. Archbishop William H. Keeler of Baltimore, president of the U.S. National Confer- ence of Catholic Bishops, said the letter "reflects the constant teaching of the church." "With the congregation, I want to clearly state that this teaching is not'a punishment or a discrimination' against those who are divorced or re- married. They are our brothers and sisters, and we wish to 'ac- company them pastorally,' to use the congregation's phrase," he said. Archbishop Keeler issued his statement Oct. 14 at the Vati- can, where he was attending the world Synod of Bishops. "The permanence of mar- riage is a difficult teaching, as our Lord indicated when he presented it. Yet it is in fidelity to the teachings of Jesus -- es- pecially the most difficult -- that we are offered the way to find him," the archbishop said. He encouraged divorced Catholics in invalid second marriages to work within the church to find a way of read- mission to Holy Communion. He said the letter offered "sen- sitive and practical advice" to such couples. "They can and should re- main faithful to Mass and prayer. They are encouraged to meditate on the Word of God in the Scriptures and to practice works of charity and justice. They should be actively in- volved in the Christian forma- tion of their children," he said. In Denver, Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, a member of the doctrinal congregation, said the nature of ment was "clarifying than judgmental." "It seeks to include divorced Catholics, wherever rather than to separate demn," he said. Several European ficials contacted from Catholic News some Catholics in riages unapproved church are receiving nion despite the Officials in Netherlands, Spain gium said the situatio part of local church though in some cases volves priests who munion on an after lengthy Catholics in invalid' marriages. Some situations il Catholics in invalid riages who simply go munion without talking a priest, they added. The officials said are no reliable figures the situation. But they think the practice wa s; spread because most remarried Catholics stopped going "For pastoral can't ask a person munion line if he is a and remarried Father Wilfried tary to Cardinal neels gium. Invalidly married European Catholics routinely receive comm00 ROME (CNS) m Catholics in second marriages considered invalid by the church are going to Communion in violation of church law in several Euro- pean countries, said European Catholic officials. In some cases it involves priests who give Communion on an individual basis after lengthy discussion with the people involved, they said. In other cases Catholics in invalid remarriages simply go to Communion without prior consultation, they added. The officials said that there are no reliable figures, but they do not think the practice was widespread because most divorced and remarried Catholics have stopped going to church. "For pastoral reasons, you can't ask a person on the Com- munion line if he is a divorced and remarried Catholic," said Father Wilfried Brieven, secre- tary to Cardinal Godfried Dan- heels of Malines-Brussels, Bel- gium. The cardinal is president of the Belgian bishops' confer- ence. Church officials in Austria, the Netherlands and Spain also said that reception of Communion by Catholics in in- valid second marriages was a de facto situation in their coun- tries Catholic News Service con- ducted a spot check of officials after the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is- sued an Oct. 14 letter to the world hierarchy reaffirming that divorced Catholics in in- valid second marriages cannot receive Communion. Before publication of the Vatican letter, three German dioceses established policies in 1993 that publicly tolerated the reception of Communion by such Catholics who, after con- sultation with a priest, decided in good conscience that their first marriage was invalid even though a church annulment had not been granted. However, on Oct. 14 the three bishops dropped the pol- icy because of the Vatican let- ter lut defended its theological basis and asked to keep the question open. The three German dioceses were the only ones in Europe known to have a written policy tolerating the reception of Communion in such circum- stances. Church officials in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands said that some priests, acting on their own, have been giving Communion to invalidly re- married Catholics. The reasoning often follows that of the German bishops in I I MILLER & MILLER "A family name you can trust" 424-9274 I [ ..... I__ . their 1993 position. "The German bishops' rea- sons are good and responsible, and the view is shared by many priests. But it is not the official policy" in the Nether- lands, said Henry Degen, a permanent deacon and mar- riage tribunal judge in the Dio- cese of 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. Many Dutch priests say that "if people are convinced of the nullity of their first marriage but can't prove it," they can go to Communion, said Degen. "The bet solution is for peo- ple to seek annulment or sepa- ration "procedures through church courts," he said. The Dutch diocese receives about 100 annulment cases a year, but "this is only 10 per- cent of the divorced Catholics," he said. From 50 percent to 60 per- cent of the'cases result in an annulment, he added. In the Netherlands, there are approximately 28,000 di- vorces per year and 90,000 marriages. In Austria there is a "dls- creet way of acting" in which the person in the invalid mar- riage receives Communion in another parish church after many conversations with a priest, said Eric Leitenberger, spokesman for the Vienna Archdiocese. Work with divorced-and-re- married Catholics is a "deeply felt" Austrian church issue be- cause there is a high percent- age of divorce and many Catholics remarry outside the church, he added. Many dioceses have organi- zations for divorced-remarried Catholics in which the mem- bers provide mutual support, but none of these groups has a policy favoring Communion for invalidly married Catholics, said Leitenberger. Belgian Father Brieven said that the divorce rate is rising among Belgium's heavily Catholic population and may be as high as 33 percent of marriages. "Most no longer their religion," but some who go to Coral without getting an he said. Although there is no church policy munion for invalidly i Catholics, "norma Catholic morals it is that the ultimate thi! well:formed church teaching into Father Brieven said. Father Juan Camino, secretary ish bishops' doctrinal sion, said that the remarried Catholics first marriages is on but it is still a lem" in Spain. Some Catholics in tion "who don't teaching" go to said. "I don't know of who consciously gives ( nion," to invalidl Catholics, Camino said. VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a message marking World Food Day, Oct. 16, Pope John Paul II urged the international community to protect unconta. minated water supplies from misuse and waste. He said that when it comes to natural resources, people are morally bound to help reduce "exaggerated self-interest" in favor of a sense of sharing. The papal message was writ- ten in the pope's name by the Vatican secretary of state, Car- dinal Angelo Sodano. World Food Day, promoted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Or- ganization, focused on the im- portance of water. "Because everyone must have access to uncontaminated water supplies, the interna- tional community is called to cooperate in protecting this precious resource from misuse and reckless pope's message said. According to the Agriculture water scarcity 300 million people world, and the pected to increase the next 30 years. countries face a lem, including most East and Southern the Middle East. Pope urges nations to protect uncomtaminated water su