Amoris Laetitia

Below is a list of scholarly resources related to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. It is intended to be comprehensive in its scope, not focused on pushing any particular conclusion.

This list will be updated occasionally. If you know of any resource that is missing, please let me know through the Contact tab. I apologize for any typographical errors. I am indebted to many for assistance in compiling or having translated texts, but to some more than others. Nobody but myself is responsible, however, for what is on this page.

-Eamonn Clark, STL, June 11, 2022

Resources for Study and Consultation

The following are some resources which help to demonstrate and explain the history of the important set of questions surrounding the indissolubility of marriage, the administration of the Eucharist, and closely connected issues. The list is not exhaustive but includes at least the most significant sources directly related to the topic. (Parallel references to the Eastern Code of Canon Law and in general references to the fontes have been omitted.)

The content covers Amoris Laetitia itself, councils, catechisms, the Fathers, scholastic sources, contemporary literature, and more.

Amoris Laetitia (and directly related texts)

Amoris Laetitia, Chapter VIII

291.  The Synod Fathers stated that, although the Church realizes that any breach of the marriage bond “is against the will of God”, she is also “conscious of the frailty of many of her children”.311 Illumined by the gaze of Jesus Christ, “she turns with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives by giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community in which they live and work”.312 This approach is also confirmed by our celebration of this Jubilee Year devoted to mercy. Although she constantly holds up the call to perfection and asks for a fuller response to God, “the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm”.313 Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.

292.  Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society. Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way. The Synod Fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage.314

Gradualness in pastoral care

293.  The Fathers also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage”.315 On the other hand, it is a source of concern that many young people today distrust marriage and live together, putting off indefinitely the commitment of marriage, while yet others break a commitment already made and immediately assume a new one. “As members of the Church, they too need pastoral care that is merciful and helpful”.316 For the Church’s pastors are not only responsible for promoting Christian marriage, but also the “pastoral discernment of the situations of a great many who no longer live this reality. Entering into pastoral dialogue with these persons is needed to distinguish elements in their lives that can lead to a greater openness to the Gospel of marriage in its fullness”.317 In this pastoral discernment, there is a need “to identify elements that can foster evangelization and human and spiritual growth”.318

294.  “The choice of a civil marriage or, in many cases, of simple cohabitation, is often not motivated by prejudice or resistance to a sacramental union, but by cultural or contingent situations”.319 In such cases, respect also can be shown for those signs of love which in some way reflect God’s own love.320 We know that there is “a continual increase in the number of those who, after having lived together for a long period, request the celebration of marriage in Church. Simply to live together is often a choice based on a general attitude opposed to anything institutional or definitive; it can also be done while awaiting more security in life (a steady job and steady income). In some countries, de facto unions are very numerous, not only because of a rejection of values concerning the family and matrimony, but primarily because celebrating a marriage is considered too expensive in the social circumstances. As a result, material poverty drives people into de facto unions”.321 Whatever the case, “all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel. These couples need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly”.322 That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26): he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to bring her to the full joy of the Gospel.

295.  Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth”.323 This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life”.324

The discernment of “irregular” situations 325

296.  The Synod addressed various situations of weakness or imperfection. Here I would like to reiterate something I sought to make clear to the whole Church, lest we take the wrong path: “There are two ways of thinking which recur throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement… The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart… For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous”.326 Consequently, there is a need “to avoid judgements which do not take into account the complexity of various situations” and “to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition”.327

297.  It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves. Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion. Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest. As for the way of dealing with different “irregular” situations, the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support: “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them”,328 something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

298.  The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self-giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”.329 There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”.330 Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family. It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family. The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place “by adequately distinguishing”,331 with an approach which “carefully discerns situations”.332 We know that no “easy recipes” exist.333

299.  I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. They are baptized; they are brothers and sisters; the Holy Spirit pours into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practised in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted. Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel. This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important”.334

300.  If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”, 335 the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.336 Priests have the duty to “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. Useful in this process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people who are preparing for marriage. A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God which is not denied anyone”.337 What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which “guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church. For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it”.338 These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours. When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard.

Mitigating factors in pastoral discernment

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”,339 or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision”.340 Saint Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well;341 in other words, although someone may possess all the infused moral virtues, he does not clearly manifest the existence of one of them, because the outward practice of that virtue is rendered difficult: “Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues”.342

302.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors”.343 In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”.344 For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.345 On the basis of these convictions, I consider very fitting what many Synod Fathers wanted to affirm: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases”.346

303.  Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors, we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage. Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.

Rules and discernment

304.  It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being. I earnestly ask that we always recall a teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas and learn to incorporate it in our pastoral discernment: “Although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects… In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles; and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all… The principle will be found to fail, according as we descend further into detail”.347 It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule. That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry, but would endanger the very values which must be preserved with special care.348

305.  For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”.349 Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”.350 Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.351 Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

306.  In every situation, when dealing with those who have difficulties in living God’s law to the full, the invitation to pursue the via caritatis must be clearly heard. Fraternal charity is the first law of Christians (cf. Jn 15:12; Gal 5:14). Let us not forget the reassuring words of Scripture: “Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8); “Atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged” (Dan 4:24[27]); “As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sins” (Sir 3:30). This is also what Saint Augustine teaches: “Just as, at the threat of a fire, we would run for water to extinguish it… so too, if the flame of sin rises from our chaff and we are troubled, if the chance to perform a work of mercy is offered us, let us rejoice in it, as if it were a fountain offered us to extinguish the blaze”.353

The logic of pastoral mercy

307.  In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur: “Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church”.354 A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.

308.  At the same time, from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances – psychological, historical and even biological – it follows that “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear”, making room for “the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us on to do our best”.355 I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street”.356 The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements. The Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). Jesus “expects us to stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune, and instead to enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated”.357

309.  It is providential that these reflections take place in the context of a Holy Year devoted to mercy, because also in the variety of situations affecting families “the Church is commissioned to proclaim the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the mind and heart of every person. The Bride of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who goes out to everyone without exception”.358 She knows that Jesus himself is the shepherd of the hundred, not just of the ninety-nine. He loves them all. On the basis of this realization, it will become possible for “the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst”.359

310.  We cannot forget that “mercy is not only the working of the Father; it becomes a criterion for knowing who his true children are. In a word, we are called to show mercy because mercy was first shown to us”.360 This is not sheer romanticism or a lukewarm response to God’s love, which al-ways seeks what is best for us, for “mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness which she shows to believers; nothing in her preaching and her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy”.361 It is true that at times “we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems”.362

311.  The teaching of moral theology should not fail to incorporate these considerations, for although it is quite true that concern must be shown for the integrity of the Church’s moral teaching, special care should always be shown to emphasize and encourage the highest and most central values of the Gospel,363 particularly the primacy of charity as a response to the completely gratuitous offer of God’s love. At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity.364 We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider “inadequate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy”.365

312.  This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues. Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society”.366 I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.


311. Relatio Synodi 2014, 24.

312. Ibid. 25.

313. Ibid., 28.

314. Cf. ibid., 41, 43; Relatio Finalis 2015, 70.

315. Ibid., 27.

316. Ibid., 26.

317. Ibid., 41.

318. Ibid.

319. Relatio Finalis 2015, 71.

320.  Cf. ibid.

321.  Relatio Synodi 2014, 42.

322.  Ibid., 43.

323. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 34: AAS 74 (1982), 123.

324. Ibid., 9: AAS 74 (1982), 90.

325. Cf. Catechesis (24 June 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 25 June 2015, p. 8.

326 Homily at Mass Celebrated with the New Cardinals (15 February 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 257.

327. Relatio Finalis 2015, 51.

328. Relatio Synodi 2014, 25.

329 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).

330. Ibid.

331. Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.

332. Ibid., 45.

333. Benedict XVI, Address to the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan (2 June 2012), Response n. 5: Insegnamenti VIII/1 (2012), 691.

334. Relatio Finalis 2015, 84.

335. Ibid., 51

336. This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists. In such cases, what is found in another document applies: cf. Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44 and 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1040.

337. Relatio Finalis 2015, 85.

338. Ibid., 86

339. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 33: AAS 74 (1982), 121.

340. Relatio Finalis 2015, 51.

341. Cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 65, art. 3 ad 2; De Malo, q. 2, art. 2.

342. Ibid., ad 3.

343. No. 1735.

344 . Ibid., 2352; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona (5 May 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546; John Paul II, in his critique of the category of “fundamental option”, recognized that “doubtless there can occur situations which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which have an influence on the sinner’s subjective culpability” (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia [2 December 1984], 17: AAS 77 [1985], 223).

345. Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried (24 June 2000), 2.

346. Relatio Finalis 2015, 85.

347. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, art. 4.

348. In another text, referring to the general knowledge of the rule and the particular knowledge of practical discernment, Saint Thomas states that “if only one of the two is present, it is preferable that it be the knowledge of the particular reality, which is closer to the act”: Sententia libri Ethicorum, VI, 6 (ed. Leonina, t. XLVII, 354.)

349. Address for the Conclusion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (24 October 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 26-27 October 2015, p. 13.

350. International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law (2009), 59.

351. In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

352. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1039.

353. De Catechizandis Rudibus, I, 14, 22: PL 40, 327; cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 194: AAS 105 (2013), 1101.

354. Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.

355. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038.

356. Ibid., 45.

357. Ibid., 270.

358. Bull Misericordiae Vultus (11 April 2015), 12: AAS 107 (2015): 407.

359. Ibid., 5: 402.

360. Ibid., 9: 405.

361. Ibid., 10: 406.

362. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1040.

363. Cf. ibid., 36-37: AAS 105 (2013), 1035.

364. Perhaps out of a certain scrupulosity, concealed beneath a zeal for fidelity to the truth, some priests demand of penitents a purpose of amendment so lacking in nuance that it causes mercy to be obscured by the pursuit of a supposedly pure justice. For this reason, it is helpful to recall the teaching of Saint John Paul II, who stated that the possibility of a new fall “should not prejudice the authenticity of the resolution” (Letter to Cardinal William W. Baum on the occasion of the Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary [22 March 1996], 5: Insegnamenti XIX/1 [1996], 589).

365. International Theological Commission, The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (19 April 2007), 2.

366 Bull Misericordiae Vultus (11 April 2015), 15: AAS 107 (2015), 409.




291. Patres synodales edixerunt Ecclesiam, licet omne dissolutum matrimonii vinculum censeat «Dei oppugnare voluntatem, consciam tamen esse multorum filiorum suorum fragilitatis».[311] Oculis Christi illuminata, «Ecclesia amanter incumbit in eos, qui ipsius vitam imperfecte participant, agnoscens Dei gratiam etiam eorum in vitis operari iisque animum addens benefaciendi alteriusque curae consulendi et communitati, apud quam vivunt et operam exercent, inserviendi».[312] Ceterum habitus hic corroboratur intra fines Anni Iubilaris misericordiae dicati. Etiamsi perfectionem semper irroget et in plenius responsum Deo devocet, «diligenter prompteque filios Ecclesia oportet comitetur fragiliores seu sauciato ac perdito amore dilaceratos iisdemque fiduciam ac spem reddat novam, sicuti lucem phari in portu facisve in medio populo advectae, quae eos illuminet qui de via deflectant vel tempestate quatiantur».[313] Ne obliviscamur quidem opus Ecclesiae saepe par esse actuositati valetudinarii castrensis.

291. Matrimonium christianum, quod speculum est coniunctionis Christi cum Ecclesia eius, in consortio vitae inter virum et mulierem plane perficitur, qui amore exclusivo et libera fidelitate sese mutuo tradunt, usque ad mortem obstringunt et ad vitam tradendam aperiunt, sacramento consecrati, quod ipsis gratiam tribuit sese ut Ecclesiam domesticam et fermentum novae vitae societatis constituendi. Cui insigni proposito alia vinculi genera funditus repugnant, alia autem id partim dumtaxat et per speciem perficiunt. Patres synodales edisseruerunt Ecclesiam extollere bona illa elementa illarum condicionum studere, quae de matrimonio cum eius doctrina nondum vel iam non congruunt.[314]

Gradualitas in re pastorali

293. Patres etiam peculiares perspexerunt matrimonii civilis tantum condiciones vel, salvis diversitatibus, merae etiam conviventiae, ubi, «cum magnam per vinculum publicum firmitatem adipiscitur coniunctio ac summa ipsa signatur dilectione officioque erga prolem et facultate angustias superandi, tamquam occasio in itinere ad sacramentum matrimonii videri potest».[315] Ceterum tantae est sollicitudinis quod iuvenes complures matrimonio hodie diffidunt et, munus coniugale indefinite procrastinantes, convivunt, dum alii vero obligationibus sumptis finem imponunt et novas quidem protinus instaurant. Qui «Ecclesiam communicant, misericordi foventique sollicitudine pastorali indigent».[316] Nam, Pastorum est non modo provehere matrimonium christianum, sed etiam «pastoraliter discernere casus multorum, qui id iam vivunt», ut cum his dialogum pastoralibus rationibus innisum instituant et elementa eorum vitae ostendant, quae eos promptiores in Evangelii matrimonii plenitudinem efficere valeant».[317] In pastorali opere decernendo convenit, ut «ea percipiantur, quae Evangelii nuntium atque humanum ac spiritalem profectum iuvare possint».[318]

294. «Eo quod matrimonium civile vel, aliis in casibus, mera civilis conviventia eligitur, id non fit propter praeceptionem vel recusationem sacramentalis coniugii, sed ex culturalibus accidentalibusve rationibus oritur».[319] Hoc in rerum statu signa amoris illa aestimanda sunt, quae Dei amorem quodammodo reddunt.[320] Scimus enim «numerum iugiter multiplicari eorum, qui postquam diu una simul vixerunt, efflagitant celebrationem matrimonii in ecclesia. Mera conviventia saepe eligitur ob mentem institutis et perpetuis muneribus generaliter aversam, sed etiam ob securitatem vitae adipiscendam, laborem scilicet et constantem mercedem. Aliis demum in Nationibus coniunctiones de facto, quae dicuntur, innumerae sunt non modo propter familiae matrimoniique abiecta bona, sed propterea quod matrimonium inire, socialium condicionum causa, luxus potissimum habetur et egestas rerum proinde ad coniunctiones de facto instaurandas impellit».[321] Tamen, «haec omnia in bonam partem sunt accipienda, ut occasiones captentur itineris ad plenitudinem matrimonii et familiae Evangelii sub lumine. Quibus de accipiendis patienter sagaciterque comitandis agitur».[322] Quod fecit Iesus cum Samaritana (cfr Io 4, 1-26); eam verum amorem desiderantem est adlocutus, ab universis rebus eam expediens, quae vitam eius obumbrabant, ut ad gaudium plenum Evangelii ipsam duceret.

295. Hac ratione, sanctus Ioannes Paulus II illam, quae dicitur, proponebat ‘legem gradualitatis’, conscius sibi quod homo «cognoscit, diligit et perficit morale bonum secundum incrementi eius gradus».[323] Quae vero non ad ‘gradualitatem legis’ attinet, sed ad gradualitatem libere prudenterque agendi hominum, qui obiectivas exigentias legis intellegere, perpendere atque plene perficere nequeunt. Nam, lex ipsa donum Dei est viam ostendens, donum utique pro omnibus sine exceptione, virtute gratiae experiendum, etiamsi homo quisque «pedetemptim precedit, Dei donis paulatim accedentibus necnon postulatis eius amoris cosummati et absoluti in totam vitam personalem et socialem hominis».[324]

Condiciones illegitimae, quae dicuntur, diiudicandae[325]

296. Synodus diversas fragilitatis imperfectionisve condiciones tractavit. Hac de re volumus ea hic memorare, quae universae Ecclesiae dilucide enuntianda curavimus, ne forte de via decedamus: «bina principia totam Ecclesiae historiam percurrunt: alterum excludit, alterum redintegrat […]. Inde a Concilio Hierosolymitano ac deinceps via Ecclesiae semper fuit via Iesu: via scilicet misericordiae et redintegrationis […]. Via Ecclesiae ea est quae in perpetuum neminem damnat; Dei misericordiam in omnes effundit eandem sincero corde efflagitantes […]. Nam, vera caritas semper immerita interminataque et gratuita est!».[326] Proinde, «vitandum est iudicium, quod diversarum condicionum implicationes neglegit, ac necessarium est, ut rationem consideremus, qua singuli vivunt et condicionum vitae suae causa patiuntur».[327]

297. De redintegrandis omnibus agitur et quisque adiuvandus est, ut sua ipsius ratione ecclesialem communitatem participet et se esse partem animadvertat «immeritae interminataeque et gratuitae» misericordiae. Nemo in perpetuum damnari potest, quia haec est mens Evangelii! Non modo ad coniuges disiunctos Nos convertimus illos, qui nova coniunctione vinciuntur, sed universos, quicumque eorum sit status. Ut liquet, si quis peccatum obiectivum exhibet quasi christianae rationi omnino adhaereat vel quiddam ab Ecclesiae disciplina alienum inculcare velit, exigere non potest, ut doctrinam tradat vel praedicet, et hac ratione aliquid exstat quod eum a communitate avertit (cfr Mt 18, 17); opus est, ut denuo nuntium Evangelii revocationemque ad conversionem audiat. Cui ipsi vero modus quidam inveniri potest vitae communitatis participandae, sicuti socialis actuositas vel coetus precationis vel omnia quae eiusdem consilium, Pastoris consulto iudicio, persuadeat. Quod ad quosdam status “irregulares”, qui dicuntur, attinet, Patres synodales generalem sententiam tulerunt: «Quod ad pastorale opus spectat, eos complectens, qui matrimonium civile inierunt vel divortium fecerunt vel solum convivunt, Ecclesiae est divinam disciplinam gratiae in eorum vita pandere iisdemque subvenire, ut plenitudinem Dei consilii in se adipiscantur»,[328] quod semper fieri potest virtute Spiritus Sancti.

298. Seiuncti novam experientes coniunctionem, exempli gratia, tam in variis rerum adiunctis vivere possunt, quae nec recensenda nec concludenda sunt intra saepta restrictiorum formularum, nullo aptae personali pastoralique discretioni interposito spatio. Aliud est alterum coniugium tempore novisque filiis probataque fidelitate assiduaque sollicitudine et christiana navitate corroboratum, vitii propriae condicionis conscium atque magnae difficultatis regrediendi, nisi intus praeonerato animo certitudine novarum culparum, in quas recidatur: Ecclesia enim condiciones agnoscit, in quibus «vir ac mulier gravibus de causis – verbi gratia, ob liberorum educationem – non valeant necessitati separationis satisfacere»;[329] et casus etiam est eorum, qui summopere enisi sunt, ut primum matrimonium servarent, et iniustum passi sunt repudium, vel eorum, «qui novam inierunt convivendi societatem educationis filiorum gratia atque interdum certi sua in intima conscientia sunt superius matrimonium iam irreparabiliter disruptum numquam validum fuisse».[330] Aliud autem est novum coniugium e recentiore divortio manans, omnibus additis consequentibus doloribus turbationibusque, quae sive filios sive familiam universam corripiunt, aliudve est casus eorum, qui identidem muneribus suis familiaribus defecit. Manifestum illud habeatur hoc minime esse specimen matrimonii ac familiae ab Evangelio propositum. Patres synodales Pastorum discretionem semper renuntiaverunt «opportuna dispectione»[331] faciendam oculis rerum adiuncta apte dignoscentibus[332]. Scimus utique haud «simplicia exstare remedia».[333]

299. Multorum Patrum synodalium sententias libenter suscipimus, qui asserere voluerunt «baptizatos, qui a matrimonio digressi sunt et novas civiliter inierunt nuptias, in communitates christifidelium artius includendi sunt diversis idoneis adhibitis rationibus omnique scandali occasione vitata. Ratio eorum includendorum fundamentum est ipsorum pastoralis prosecutionis, ut non modo sciant se membra esse Corporis Christi, quod est Ecclesia, sed insuper laetam etiam atque uberem experientiam consequantur. Baptizati sunt, fratres ac sorores, effusis donis gratiisque Spiritus Sancti pro bono omnium suffulti. Eorum participatio diversa per ecclesialia servitia exprimi potest, quapropter opus est discernere quaenam ex diversis formis exclusionis nunc, quae in provinciis liturgiae, rei pastoralis, institutionis atque institutorum regiminis viget, praeteriri possint. Non modo oportet animadvertant se excommunicatos non esse, sed tamquam membra viva Ecclesiae vivere et maturescere posse, eam percipientes matrem, quae eos semper recipit eosque cum affectu curat et ipsis animum addit vitae Evangeliique iter facturis. Quae integratio necessaria est etiam curae et christianae institutioni eorum filiorum, qui potiores sunt habendi».[334]

300. Si certarum condicionum varietas perpenditur, illas puta, quarum supra mentionem fecimums, intellegitur nullo modo exspectandum fuisse Synodum vel hanc Adhortationem novas normas generales canonicas promulgare posse universis casibus adiungendas. Animus tantum rursus est erigendus ut peculiares casus responsaliter personaliter pastoraliter discernantur, ex quo consequitur, «cum gradus culpae semper idem non sit»,[335] consectaria seu effectus alicuius normae non necessario semper eadem esse oportere.[336] Presbyterorum munus est «comitari eos, quorum interest, secundum viam discretionis iuxta magisterium Ecclesiae et placita Episcopi. Hoc in itinere conscientia examinata per momenta cogitationis et resipiscentiae maxime proderit. Digressi a coniuge, qui novas nuptias inierunt, quaerere debent quomodo in filios tum se gesserint, cum coniugium in discrimine versaretur; fuerintne conatus reconciliationis; quaenam deserti coniugis sit condicio; qui sint effectus novae vitae consuetudinis de reliqua familia et communitate christifidelium; quodnam iuvenibus praebeat exemplum, qui ad matrimonium ineundum se comparant. Sincera meditatio corroborare potest fidem in misericordiam Dei, quae nemini denegatur».[337] De itinerario prosecutionis discretionisque agitur, quod «hos christifideles dirigit ad plenam conscientiam obtinendam eorundem condicionis coram Deo. Colloquium cum sacerdote in foro interno recti iudicii adiuvat informationem de impedimentis ad maiorem vitae Ecclesiae participationem fovendam et de inceptis, quae eam secundent atque augeant. Et cum in ipsa lege absit gradualitas (cfr Familiaris consortio, 34), discretio haec numquam ea posthabere potest quae veritas et caritas Evangelii ab Ecclesia propositae requirunt. Quae ut fiant, confirmandae sunt necessariae condiciones humilitatis, modestiae, amoris Ecclesiae eiusque magisterii per sinceram inquisitionem voluntatis Dei et desiderium adipiscendi responsum eidem perfectius».[338] Haec forma mentis maximi est momenti ad grave vitandum periculum ne falsi nuntii praebeantur, sicuti notio, qua sacerdos quidam “exceptiones” citius concedere possit vel quidam sacramentalibus privilegiis pro beneficiis usurpare valeant. Cum aliquis responsalis verecundusque invenitur, qui sua desiderata supra bonum commune Ecclesiae ponere non postulet, et Pastor qui huius rei agnoscere gravitatem rei disputatae valet, vitatur periculum, ne peculiaris quaedam discretio ad illud cogitandum inducat Ecclesiam duplicem agendi rationem persequi.

Adiuncta extenuatia in discretione pastorali

301. Ad apte intellegendam causam, qua peculiaris discretio sive fieri potest sive facienda est in “irregularibus”, qui dicuntur, casibus quibusdam, aliqua semper ob oculos est habenda quaestio, ne umquam existimetur Evangelii postulata extenuari. Ecclesia firma mentis animaeque consideratione fulcitur adiunctisque extenuantibus dat rationem. Quapropter, iam dici non potest omnes, qui in quadam “irregulari”, quae dicitur, vivunt condicione, in statu esse peccati mortalis gratiaeque sanctificantis expertes. Ex mera legis ignorantione limites non pendent. Subiectus, quamvis prorsus sit normae conscius, magna difficultate affici potest in intellegenda «bona quae continentur norma morali»[339] vel certis in condicionibus versari, quae eum aliter agere vetant et alium consilium inire, quin in novam laberetur culpam. Sicuti Patres synodales optime locuti sunt, «quaedam interesse possunt, quae facultatem diiudicandi restringunt».[340] Sanctus Thomas Aquinas iam agnoscebat quemdam gratiam et caritatem habere posse, sed nullam vero ex virtutibus exercere,[341] ita ut, licet omnes induat morales virtutes infusas, nullam ex his liquido ostendat, quia exercitium actuum eiusdem virtutis patitur difficultatem in operando: «Aliqui sancti dicuntur quasdam virtutes non habere, in quantum patiuntur difficultatem in actibus earum, […] quamvis habitus omnium virtutum habeant».[342]

302. De his impedimentis Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae prompte loquitur: «Imputabilitas et responsabilitas cuiusdam actionis minui possunt atque adeo supprimi propter ignorantiam, inadvertentiam, violentiam, metum, consuetudines, affectiones immoderatas et alias psychicas vel sociales causas».[343] Alibi quaedam rursus referuntur quae responsabilitatem moralem imminuunt ipseque magnum tribuit pondus immaturitati affectivae, robori habituum contractorum, aegritudinis statui vel aliis elementis psychicis vel socialibus.[344] Quapropter negativum de re obiectiva iudicium haud secum fert imputabilitatem vel culpabilitatem implicatae personae.[345] Has inter persuasiones perapta existimamus quae multi Patres synodales protulerunt: «Certis in quibusdam condicionibus magnopere laborant personae de alio modo operando. […] Discretio pastoralis oportet, spectata etiam conscientia personarum recte informata, his casibus consulat. Effectus quoque ipsi operationis non necessarie omnibus in casibus iidem sunt».[346]

303. Initium sumentes a certorum impedimentorum pondere, adicere possumus personarum conscientiam operibus Ecclesiae magis implicandam esse quibusdam in condicionibus, quae rationi nostrae matrimonii obiective non adhaerent. Opus est scilicet maturationem fovere conscientiae sapientiae lumine informatae, institutae atque vigili gravique discretione Pastoris comitatae, simulque maiorem usque fiduciam gratiae suscitare. Haec autem conscientia agnoscere potest non modo statum quendam ab universali Evangelii mandato obiective dissidere; etiam sincere honesteque agnoscere poteste quod sit liberale responsum in praesenti Deo reddendum atque eadem conscientia firma quadam morali certitudine intellegere illam esse oblationem quam ipse Deus requirit inter rerum impedientium congeriem, quamvis perfectum nondum sit obiectivum exemplar. Quidquid est memoramus utique hanc discretionem dynamicam esse quae semper patere debet ad nova incrementi itinera suscipienda novasque deliberationes, quae exemplar perficere plenius sinant.

Normae et discretio

304. Pusilli animi est tantummodo considerare an alicuius personae agendi ratio legi generalive normae concinat necne, quandoquidem hoc non sufficit ut dignoscatur et habeatur plena erga Deum fidelitas in certa hominis exsistentia. Memoria teneamus, quaesumus, quod sanctus Thomas Aquinas docet quodque in discretione pastorali funditus occupemus: «Etsi in communibus sit aliqua necessitas, quanto magis ad propria descenditur, tanto magis invenitur defectus. […] In operativis autem non est eadem veritas vel rectitudo practica apud omnes quantum ad propria, sed solum quantum ad communia, et apud illos apud quos est eadem rectitudo in propriis, non est aequaliter omnibus nota. […] Et hoc tanto magis invenitur deficere, quanto magis ad particularia descenditur».[347] Verum est normas generales bonum praebere, numquam praetermittendum atque neglegendum, sed tamen intra se terminare ipsae nequeunt universa peculiaria adiuncta. Est pariter dicendum, hanc ipsam ob causam, quod ad practicam discretionem coram peculiari condicione pertinet, nullomodo ad instar normae haberi posse. Quod non modo indicem casuum intolerabilem conficeret, verum etiam ea bona in discrimen adduceret peculiari cura tuenda.[348]

305. Itaque, Pastor sibi placere non potest, leges morales solummodo imponens iis, qui in “irregularibus” condicionibus versantur, quasi si petrae sint quae in vitam personarum iaciantur. Quod attinet ad obserata corda, quae saepe etiam sub ipsis ecclesiasticis praeceptis latent, «ut super cathedram Moysis sedeant et iudicent, iactanter interdum ac leviter, difficiles casus et familias animo vulneratas».[349] Eandem sententiam protulit Commissio Theologica Internationalis: «Lex naturalis ergo proponi nequit tamquam constituta regularum series, quae a priori subiecto morali imponuntur, sed fons est inspirationis obiectivae in eius iter, praecipue personale, ad consilium ineundum».[350] Propter impedimenta vel elementa extenuantia fieri potest, ut in obiectiva peccati condicione – si quis subiective culpa careat vel eiusdem plane non sit noxius – quidam vivere possit in gratia Dei, amare possit et crescere possit quoque in vita gratiae et caritatis, huic proposito opem ferente Ecclesia.[351] Discretio quidem iuvare debet ad semitas possibiles reperiendas, unde Deo respondeatur ac per limites proficeatur. Si omnia alba atrave esse credimus, aditum gratiae et incrementi quandoque intercludimus itineraque sanctificationis infringimus, quae vero gloriam Deo reddunt. Commonefacimus «parvum gressum magna inter humanae vitae limites gratiorem Deo esse posse quam vitam extrinsecus incorruptam eorum, qui dies degunt haud maioribus difficultatibus occurrentes».[352] Certa pastoralis cura ministorum et communitatum facere non potest quin hanc rem ipsi sibi sumat.

306. Quibuscumque in rerum adiunctis coram illis, qui difficultatem patiuntur ad legem divinam plene vivendam, adhortatio celebranda est, ut viam caritatis currant. Praeceptum primum christianorum caritas fraterna est (cfr Io 5,12; Gal 5,14). Ne obliviscamur quidem Scripturarum promissum: «Ante omnia mutuam in vosmetipsos caritatem continuam habentes, quia caritas operit multitudinem peccatorum» (1 Pe 4, 8); «Peccata tua eleemosynis redime et iniquitates tuas misericordiis pauperum» (Dan 4,24); «Ignem ardentem exstinguit aqua, sic eleemosyna expiat peccata» (Sir 3,30). Quae etiam sanctus Augustinus ipse docet: «Sicut ergo, si periclitaremur incendio, ad aquam utique curreremus, quo posset exstingui, […] ita si de nostro foeno aliqua peccati flamma surrexit et propterea conturbamur, data occasione misericordissimi operis, tamquam de oblato fonte gaudeamus, ut inde illud quod exarserat opprimatur».[353]

Misericordiae pastoralis ratio

307. Ad pravam quamque enarrationem vitandam, illud admonemus, nullo pacto Ecclesiam a proponendo matrimonii specimine recedere debere, Dei scilicet consilio omni in eius granditate: «Iuvenes baptizati fovendi sunt, ne morentur pro divitiis, quas eorum consiliis amoris sacramentum matrimonii adicit, praesidio innitentes, quod a gratia Christi accipunt ac facultate vitae Ecclesiae plene communicandae».[354] Ignavia cordis vel universae relativismi formae vel immodicus pudor in eo proferendo haberi possunt tamquam defectus fidelitatis Evangelio et defectus quoque amoris Ecclesiae erga eosdem iuvenes. Singularium adiunctorum perceptio numquam luminis plenioris virtutis fert obumbrationem neque deminutionem illorum, quae Iesus hominibus ponit. Hodie pastorali sollicitudini de dissolutis coniugiis opus pastorale matrimonia corroborandi praestat, ut hac via discidia praecaveantur.

308. Tamen, nostra ex conscientia ponderis excusationum – quae scilicet ad rem psychologicam, historicam et etiam biologicam pertinere possunt – consequitur «nihil deminuto evangelici exemplaris bono, personarum incrementi evenientia itinera misericorditer ac patienter esse sectanda, quae in dies adolescunt», et locum dandum «misericordiae Domini, quae nos compellit quam maximum ad bonum faciundum».[355] Eos intellegimus, qui destrictiorem malunt operam pastoralem, incertitudini nullo dato loco. Sincero autem corde Iesum credimus proclivem ad bonum velle Ecclesiam, quod Spiritus in fragilitatem spargit; Matrem scilicet quae, cum suam doctrinam obiectivam plane manifestat, tum «a bono, quantum potest, non recedit, quamvis periculum adeat ne viae sordibus inquinetur».[356] Pastores, qui christifidelibus integrum Evangelii exemplar et doctrinam Ecclesiae irrogant, eosdem quoque adiuvare debent, ut rationem sumant miserationis erga debiles atque persecutiones vel acerbiores intolerantioresque vitent sententias. Evangelium ipsum ex nobis poscit, ne iudicemus neque condemnemus (cfr Mt 7,1; Lc 6,37). Iesus «praestolatur nos a tectis propriis vel communitatis quaerendis praesidiis recedere, quae nobis permittunt, ut a laqueo humanae scaenae distemus et in veram existentiam aliorum prorsus ingredi consentientes, vim lenitudinis noverimus. Quae cum facimus, vita nobis praeclare usque complicatur».[357]

309. Opus Providentiae est quod hae cogitationes tempore Anni Iubilaris explicentur misericordiae addicti, quia etiam diversissimis in casibus ad familiam pertinentibus «Ecclesia missionem habet Dei misericordiae nuntiandae, cordis scilicet micantis Evangelii, cui per eam sive animus sive mens ipsa uniuscuiusque est adipiscenda. Sponsa Christi morem Filii Dei sibi assumit, qui omnibus nullo excerpto occursat».[358] Probe scit ipsum Iesum Pastorem centum, non autem nonaginta novem ovium praeberi. Quas omnes quaerit. Hac ex conscientia fieri poterit, ut «ad omnes, sive credentes sive a fide remotos, balsamum misericordiae pervenire possit, Regni Dei signum quod iam stat nobiscum».[359]

310. Illud oblivisci non possumus: «Misericordia non modo actum Patris est, sed ratio fit, qua veri eius filii recognoscuntur. Vocamur prorsus ad vivendum de misericordia, quia in nosmet primos misericordia adhibita est».[360] Non agitur de amoena invitatione vel de debili responso prae Dei amore, qui homines semper provehere vult, quia «epistylium Ecclesiae vitam sustinens misericordia est. Omnia eiusdem pastoralis actuositatis oporteret indulgenti pietate praecingatur, qua credentes appellat; nihil nuntii testimoniique eius mundo egere potest misericordia».[361] Revera nonnumquam «tamquam observatores gratiae, non autem adiutores nos gerimus. Ecclesia autem non portorium, sed paterna est domus illa, ubi unicuique una cum laboriosa eius vita locus patet».[362]

311. Theologiae moralis doctrina has considerationes sibi sumere nullo modo praetermittere debet, quoniam, licet verum sit integritatem doctrinae moralis Ecclesiae curari oportere, peculiari semper studio Evangelii summa praecipuaque bona extollenda sunt ac fovenda,[363] primatus praesertim caritatis, quae gratuitae divini amoris operationi respondet. Quandoque locum in re pastorali interminato amori Dei dare multi constat.[364] Complures misericordiae imponimus condiciones, quam certo sensu ac vera significatione viduamus, quod pessimum iter est ad Evangelium diluendum. Verum est, exempli gratia, misericordiam haud submovere iustitiam et veritatem, nobis tamen in primis confitendum est misericordiam plenitudinem esse iustitiae atque clarissimam veritatis Dei manifestationem. Semper igitur convenit existimare «imparem notionem quamlibet theologicam quae ad ultimum in dubium ipsius Dei omnipotentiam, nominatim eius misericordiam, devocet».[365]

312. Haec conspectum nobis praebent ac signa, quae nos quominus algidam explicemus rem moralem et quasi e mensa scriptoria edictam de maximis disputandis argumentis impediunt et nos potius in rerum adiunctis collocant discretionis pastoralis misericordi amore refertae atque ad intellegendum, ad ignoscendum, ad comitandum, ad sperandum ac praesertim ad suscipiendum iugiter se comparat. Ratio haec est, quae in Ecclesia semper polleat oportet, ut «cor reseratum experiatur illis, qui in diversissimis suburbiis existentialibus vivunt».[366] Christifideles in angustiis modo versantes exhortamur, ut fidenter colloquium instituant cum pastoribus suis vel cum laicis Domino deditis. In quibus vero haud semper corroborabuntur opiniones ac desiderata eorum, sed lumen certe accipient, quo magis intellegant quae ad seipsos pertinent et invenire valeant iter propriae maturationis. Et pastores Ipsi exhortamur, ut eos animi affectione et aequanimiter audiant et sincere cupiant uniuscuiusque cor, angoribus cumulatum, ingredi et intellegere mentes, necnon eos adiuvent, quo melius vivant et locum suum in Ecclesia reperiant.

[311] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 24.

[312] Ibid., 25.

[313] Ibid., 28.

[314] Ibid., 41.

[315] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 27.

[316] Ibid., 26.

[317] Ibid., 41.

[318] Ibid.

[319] Relatio finalis, 2015, 41.

[320] Cfr ibid.

[321] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 42.

[322] Ibid., 43.

[323] Adhortatio apostolica Familiaris consortio (22 novembris 1981), 34: AAS 74 (1982), 123.

[324] Ibid., 9: AAS 74 (1982), 90.

[325] Cfr Catechesis (24 iunii 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 25 iunii 2015, p. 8.

[326] Homilia in Eucharistia cum Cardinalibus nuper electis celebrata habita (15 februarii 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 257.

[327] Relatio finalis, 2015, 51.

[328] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 25.

[329] Ioannes Paulus II, Adhortatio ap. Familiaris consortio (22 novembris 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. His in adiunctis permulti, scientes et accipentes facultatem convivendi ‘tamquam frater et soror’, quam Ecclesia iisdem praebet, animadvertunt quod, destitutis consuetudinibus quibusdam intimae necessitudinis, «bonum fidei non raro in discrimen vocari et bonum prolis pessumdari possunt» (Conc. Oecum. Vat. II, Const. past. Gaudium et spes, 51).

[330] Ioannes Paulus II, Adhortatio ap. Familiaris consortio (22 novembris 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186.

[331] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 26.

[332] Cfr Ibid., 45.

[333] Benedictus XVI, Sermo in VII Occursum Mundialem Familiarum, Mediolani (2 Iunii 2012), responsum 5: Insegnamenti VIII, 1 (2012), 691.

[334] Relatio finalis, 2015, 84.

[335] Ibid., 51.

[336] Quod constat etiam quoad disciplinam sacramentalem, cum discretio comprobare possit in peculiaribus adiunctis gravem deesse culpam: adiungitur hic quae alibi argui: cf. Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 novembris 2013), 44. 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1038. 1040.

[337] Relatio finalis, 2015, 85.

[338] Ibid., 86.

[339] Ioannes Paulus II, Adhort. ap. Familiaris consortio (22 Novembris 1981), 33: AAS 74 (1982), 121.

[340] Relatio finalis 2015, 51.

[341] Cfr Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 65, a. 3, ad 2; De malo, q. 2, a. 2.

[342] Ibid., ad 3.

[343] N. 1735.

[344] Cfr ibid., n. 2352; Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Decl. Iura et bona de euthanasia (5 Maii 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546. Ioannes Paulus II, notionem ‘optionis fundamentalis’ impugnans, concedebat quod «sine dubio condiciones esse possunt admodum implicatae et obscurae, quod ad rem psychologicam attinet, quae ad ‘imputabilitatem’ subiectivam peccantis habent momentum» (Adhort. ap. Reconciliatio et paenitentia [2 Decembris 1984], 17: AAS 77 [1985], p. 223).

[345] Cfr Pontificium Consilium de Legum Textibus, Declaratio de facultate admittendi ad sacram Communionem repudiatos a coniugio, qui novas nuptias inierunt (24 iunii 2000), 2.

[346] Relatio finalis 2015, 85.

[347] Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 94, a. 4.

[348] Ad scientiam generalem normae et ad scientiam peculiarem practicae discretionis spectans, sanctus Thomas Aquinas asserere pergit quod «si alteram solum contingat ipsum habere, magis debet habere hanc, scilicet notitiam particularium, quae sunt propinquiora operationi»: Sententia libri Ethicorum, VI, 6 (ed. Leonina, t. XLVII, 354).

[349] Allocutio in fine XIV Coetus Generalis Ordinarii Synodi Episcoporum habita (24 Octobris 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 25-26 Octobris 2015, p. 13.

[350] Quaerere ethicam universalem: novus legis naturalis intuitus (2009), 59.

[351] Quibusdam in casibus esse etiam potest subsidium Sacramentorum. Quapropter, «sacerdotibus memoramus confessionale esse non debere aulam tormenti, sed locum Dominicae misericordiae» (Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium [24 Novembris 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). Dicimus pariter Eucharistiam «non esse praemium perfectorum, sed debilium munificum remedium et alimoniam» (ibid., 47: 1039).

[352] Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 Novembris 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038-1039.

[353] De catechizandis rudibus, I, 14 (22): PL 40, 327; cfr Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 Novembris 2013), 193: AAS 105 (2013), 1101.

[354] Relatio Synodi, 2014, 26.

[355] Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 Novembris 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 1038.

[356] Ibid., 45: AAS 105 (2013), 1039.

[357] Ibid., 270: AAS 105 (2013), 1128.

[358] Bulla Misericordiae Vultus (11 Aprilis 2015), 12: AAS 107 (2015), 407.

[359] Ibid., 5: 402.

[360] Ibid., 9: 405.

[361] Ibid., 10: 406.

[362] Adhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 Novembris 2013), 47: AAS 105 (2013), 1040.

[363] Cfr ibid., 36-37: AAS 105 (2013), 1035.

[364] Fortasse propter scrupulum post desiderium magnum fidelitatis erga veritatem abditum, sacerdotes quidam a paenitentibus propositum resipiscentiae omnibus fugatis umbris adeo exigunt, ut misericordia in iustitiam mere suppositive puram inquirendam evanescat. Proinde, est operae pretium recordari praecepti sancti Ioannis Pauli II, qui novum lapsum quamquam praevisum «nullomodo praeiudicare genuinitatem propositi» affirmavit (Epistula ad Cardinalem Villelmum W. Baum pro schola de foro interno a Paenitentiaria Apostolica instituta [22 Martii 1996], 5: Insegnamenti, XIX/1 [1996], p. 589).

[365] Commissio Theologica Internationalis, De spe salutis pro pueris qui sine baptismo pereunt (19 Aprilis 2007), 2.

[366] Bulla Misericordiae Vultus (11 Aprilis 2015), 15: AAS 107 (2015), 409.

Interview with Pope Francis (flight from Philadelphia to Rome), September 27, 2015

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well but we want to know just before the synod, if your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution of the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called ‘Catholic divorce?’ Thank you.

Pope Francis: I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the method, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path. (Continuing with the third question) The document…I don’t remember the third but you correct me.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro: The question was on the notion of Catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?

Pope Francis: This was called for by the majority of the synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there’s an appeal, there’s the appeal then another appeal. It never ends. The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Pope Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it’s not something essential to the process. The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have time or the possibility to do it. The synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It’s doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn’t a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness, or, there are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn’t free. Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: ‘you have to get married.’ In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings,” eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some (marriages) work out, but there’s no freedom and then things go wrong little by little and they separate (and say) ‘I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation’ and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them.

Cases of nullity, you have, you can find (the reasons) on the Internet, there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” What is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the synod, that the solution for these people is that they can receive communion. That’s not the only solution (being asked). What the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem. In the instrumentum laboris, there are many (problems to be addressed). For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. ‘Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.’ ‘But do you believe it?’ the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there’s a preparation for eight years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! Four times…Something isn’t right. It’s something the synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things. There are many problems, they’re all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris.” But, I like that you asked the question about ‘Catholic divorce.’ That doesn’t exist. Either it wasn’t a marriage, and this is nullity – it didn’t exist. And if it did, it’s indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.

Interview with Pope Francis, Flight from Lesbos to Rome, April 18, 2016 (the same day as the official presentation – but not publication – of the text of Amoris Laetitia)

Question: After the questions on immigration, one on the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia: some say that nothing has changed with regard to the rules on access to the sacraments for the divorced and civilly remarried, and that the law, pastoral praxis and obviously the doctrine remain the same; then there are those who say that much has changed and that there are many new openings and possibilities. Are there new concrete possibilities that did not exist before the publication of the exhortation, or not?

Pope Francis: “I could say ‘yes’, but it would be too brief an answer. I recommend to you to read the presentation by Cardinal Schönborn, who is a great theologian. He is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and he knows the doctrine of the Church well. In that presentation your question will be answered.”

Question: A complementary question. It is not clear why you wrote the famous Note in Amoris Laetitia on the problem of the divorced and remarried – note 351. Why is something so important included in a short note? Did you foresee opposition or did you want to say that the point was not that important?

Pope Francis: “One of the last Popes, speaking in the Council, said that there were two Councils: Vatican II, which took place in St. Peter’s Basilica, and the ‘media Council’. When I convoked the first Synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was whether divorced and remarried Catholics would have access to communion. And since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and also made me rather sad, because I thought, ‘do you not realise that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realise that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? The family is the basis of society. Do you not realise that the young don’t want to marry? Don’t you realise that the falling birth rate in Europe is something to cry about? Don’t you realise that the lack of work or the little work available means that a mother has to get two jobs and her children grow up alone? These are the big problems. I don’t remember the footnote, but for sure if it’s something general in a footnote it’s because I spoke about it, I think, in Evangelii Gaudium.

Abp. Victor Manuel Fernández, “Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia: What Remains After the Storm?Medellín, vol. 43 (2017), 449-468 (English trans. Andrew Guernsey)

After several months of intense activity by sectors that oppose the novelties of the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia – minorities, but hyperactive ones – or of strong attempts to disguise them, the war seems to have reached a stalemate. It is now worth pausing to acknowledge that which is concretely what Francis leaves to us as an irreversible novelty.


If one is interested to know how the Pope himself interprets what he wrote, the answer is very explicit in his commentary on the guidelines of the Bishops of the Buenos Aires Region. After discussing the possibility that the divorced in a new union live in continence, they say that “in other, more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible.” They then add that nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. AL 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351) (Bishops of the Pastoral Region of Buenos Aires, “Criterios básicos para la aplicación del capítulo VIII de Amoris laetitia” [Basic criteria for the application of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia], Buenos Aires, September 5, 2016, 6))

Francis immediately sent them a formal letter stating that “the document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia.” But it is important to note that he adds: “There are no other interpretations” (Letter from the Holy Father to Mons. Sergio Alfredo Fenoy, Delegate of the Pastoral Region of Buenos Aires, September 5, 2016) Therefore, it is unnecessary to expect another response from the Pope.

It could be called into question that the pope would clarify his interpretation in a letter to a group of bishops. But, in fact, this has happened other times. To give an example, let us recall an incident about the interpretation of Vatican Council I. The German bishops responded to Chancellor Bismark, who argued that a Roman centralism had been defined that weakened episcopal authority. With their response, they rejected that interpretation of the Council. Pius IX endorsed the interpretation of those Bishops with a letter (March 12, 1875) and with the consistory of March 15, 1875 (DH 3112-3117). In a footnote to Lumen Gentium 27 the letter of Pius IX to the German Bishops is quoted, whereby its hermeneutical authority is confirmed.

Obviously, a letter from the Pope does not have the same weight as an Encyclical, but, as we see, it can have a great practical, decisive importance to explain the correct interpretation of a text of greater weight. If the Pope has received a unique charism in the Church in the service of the correct interpretation of the divine Word – the charism given to Peter to bind and to loose and to confirm his brethren in faith – this cannot exclude his ability to interpret the documents he himself wrote.


St. John Paul II’s proposal to the divorced in a new union to live in perfect continence, as a requirement to make access to Eucharistic communion possible, was already an important novelty. Many resisted this step. Still some today do not accept this proposal because they believe it leads to relativism. On the other hand, we must note a later novelty in the language of Benedict XVI. While Pope John Paul II asked them to “assume the commitment to live in full continence” (FC 84), Benedict XVI proposed to them, more delicately, “to commit themselves” to live “as brother and sister” (SC 29b).

Francis recognizes the possibility of proposing perfect continence to the divorced in a new union, but admits that there may be difficulties in practicing it (cf. footnote 329). Footnote 364 gives a place to administering the sacrament of Reconciliation to them even when new falls are foreseeable. There, Francis calls into question priests who “demand of penitents a purpose of amendment so lacking in nuance that it causes mercy to be obscured by the pursuit of a supposedly pure justice” (AL 312). And there he takes up an important statement of St. John Paul II, who held that even the anticipation of a new fall “should not prejudice the authenticity of the resolution” (Letter to Cardinal W. Baum, 03/22/1996, quoted in the footnote.). Against this cautious precision of St. John Paul II, some seem to demand a kind of strict control of what others do in intimacy. We must heartily congratulate those who manage to live in perfect continence, enriching their daily cohabitation in various ways. But that does not imply ignoring that others have serious difficulties in achieving this.

When the need to avoid scandal is spoken about, we must note that this only happens when people “flaunt” their situation as if it were correct (cf. AL 297). Otherwise, scandal would also be given when the first marriage has been declared null, since probably many who see them go to confession and communion do not know about the annulment. For that matter, neither could they know whether they live as brother and sister or not. The objective fault is not “manifest” insofar as it cannot be confirmed from the outside, and all deserve the benefit of the doubt. Let us leave this matter – in fact, unverifiable – to the intimacy of the discernment of the member of the faithful with his pastor.

The great resistance that this issue provokes in some groups indicates that this question, beyond its importance in itself, breaks a rigid mental structure, very concentrated in issues of sexuality, and it forces them to broaden their perspectives. This is why Francis asks pastors to help the faithful “to treat the weak with the logic of compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements.” (AL 308).


Amoris Laetitia brings back a teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the application of the general principles: “The more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter uncertainty” (AL 304). Francis does not affirm that general moral laws cannot provide for all situations, nor that they are incapable of impeding the decision of conscience. On the contrary, he says that “[they] set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected.” However, “in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations” (AL 304). It is the formulation of the norm that cannot provide for everything, not the norm itself. And this applies not only to positive laws, but even to our way of formulating the natural law in its various expressions. In this line, the International Theological Commission, within the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, stated: “Natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making a decision” (International Theological Committee, “In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law,” Rome, 2009, 59.).

The absolute norm in itself does not admit exceptions, but that does not imply that its succinct formulation must be applied in every sense and without nuances in all situations. “Thou shalt not kill” does not admit exceptions. However, it raises this question: should taking life in self-defense be included within the term “killing” prohibited by the norm? Should taking food from others to feed a hungry child be included within the term “stealing” prohibited by the norm? No one would doubt that it is legitimate to ask whether these concrete cases are actually included within the narrow formulations of the negative precepts “Thou shalt not kill” or “Thou shalt not steal.”

For this reason, it is also licit to ask if the acts of a more uxorio cohabitation should always fall, in its integral meaning, within the negative precept of “fornication”. I say, “in its integral meaning,” because it is not possible to hold that those acts in each and every case are gravely immoral in a subjective sense. In the complexity of particular situations is where, according to St. Thomas, ‘uncertainty increases.’ Indeed, it is not easy to describe as an ‘adulteress’ a woman who has been beaten and treated with contempt by her Catholic husband, and who received shelter, economic and psychological help from another man who helped her raise the children of the previous union, and with whom she had new children and cohabitates for many years.

The question is not whether that woman does not know that cohabitation with that man does not correspond with objective moral norms. It is more than that. Some claim to simplify the matter in this way, by saying that, according to Francis, “The subject may not be able to be in mortal sin because, for various reasons, he is not fully aware that his situation constitutes adultery.” (This is what Claudio Pierantoni stated in a recent conference, very critical of Amoris Laetitia in Rome on April 22, 2017.) And they question him that it makes no sense to speak about discernment if “the subject remains indefinitely unaware of his situation” (Ibid.). But Francis explicitly said that “more is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule” (AL 301). The issue is much more complex and includes at least two basic considerations. First, if a woman who knows the existence of the norm can really understand that not abandoning that man – of whom she cannot now demand a total and permanent continence – is truly a very grave fault against the will of God. Second, if she truly can, at this point, make the decision to abandon that man. This is where the limited formulation of the norm is incapable of stating everything.

In any event, the specific and principal proposal of Francis, in line with the Synod, is not concerning the considerations on the formulation of the norm. Why then is this question part of his proposal? Because he calls for much attention to the language that is used to describe weak persons. For him, offensive expressions such as “adulterer” or “fornicator” should not necessarily be deduced from the general norms when referring to concrete persons.

But his emphasis is rather on the question of the possible diminution of responsibility and culpability. Forms of conditioning can attenuate or nullify responsibility and culpability against any norm, even against negative precepts and absolute moral norms. This makes it possible not always to lose the life of sanctifying grace in a “more uxorio” cohabitation.


Francis considers that even knowing the norm, a person “may be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, ‘factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision’” (AL 301). He speaks of subjects who “are not in a position to understand, value or fully practice the objective requirements of the law” (AL 295). In another paragraph he reaffirms: “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently.” (AL 302).

He also recalls that John Paul II recognized that in certain cases “for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (FC 84; AL 298). Let us note that St. John Paul II recognized that “they cannot”. Benedict XVI was even more forceful in saying that in some cases “objective circumstances are present which make the cohabitation irreversible, in fact.” (SC 29b).

This becomes particularly complex, for example, when the man is not a practicing Catholic. The woman is not in a position to oblige someone to live in perfect continence who does not share all her Catholic convictions. In that case, it is not easy for an honest and devout woman to make the decision to abandon the man she loves, who protected her from a violent husband and who freed her from falling into prostitution or suicide. The “serious reasons” mentioned by Pope John Paul II, or the “objective circumstances” indicated by Benedict XVI are amplified. But most important of all is the fact that, by abandoning this man, she would leave the small children of the new union without a father and without a family environment. There is no doubt that, in this case, the decision-making power with respect to sexual continence, at least for now, has serious forms of conditioning that diminish guilt and imputability. Therefore, they demand great care when making judgments only from a general norm. Francis thinks especially of “the situation of families in dire poverty, punished in so many ways, where the limits of life are lived in an excruciating way” (AL 49). In the face of these families, it is necessary to avoid “imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned” (ibid.).


The Pope, faithful to the real and limited possibilities which the Synod opened – and even against the proposals of progressive moralists – has preferred to maintain the distinction between objective sin and subjective guilt. Therefore, although it can be held with all clarity and forcefulness that sexual relations for the divorced in a new union constitute an objective situation of habitual grave sin, this does not imply that there necessarily exists grave sin in a subjective sense, that is to say, grave guilt that takes away the life of the sanctifying grace:

The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. (AL 301).

It is already widely accepted – even in the Catechism – that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).

For Francis, however, it is not the concrete circumstances that determine objective morality. That forms of conditioning can diminish culpability does not mean that what is objectively evil may become objectively good. Suffice it to read the following sentence: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace” (AL 305). That is to say, it remains an “objective situation of sin”, because there remains the Gospel’s clear proposal on marriage, and this concrete situation does not objectively reflect that. Francis, like the Synod, maintains the existence of objective truths and universal norms, and has never defended subjectivism or relativism. God’s plan is a marriage understood as an indissoluble union, and this point was not placed in doubt either in the Synod or in his pontificate.


On the other hand, Francis has never claimed that anyone can receive communion if he is not in the grace of God. But, as we have just seen, for someone to be deprived of sanctifying grace, it is not always enough that a serious objective fault exists. Therefore, there can be a path of discernment, open to the possibility of receiving the nourishment of the Eucharist.

This is only possible if a different way of thinking about the consequences of the norm is accepted. This does not admit exceptions with regard to the objective evaluation starting from an absolute moral precept, but he allows a discernment with regard to its disciplinary derivations. Although the norm is universal, however, “since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a norm need not always be the same” (AL 300). “This is  also  the  case  with  regard  to  sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists” (AL footnote 336).

The question that arises is the following: Can this be discerned in pastoral dialogue? The Pope says yes, and that is what opens the way to a change in discipline. Francis’ great novelty is in allowing that a pastoral discernment in the realm of the “internal forum” can have practical consequences in the manner of applying the discipline. The general canonical norm is maintained (cf. AL 300), although it cannot be applied in some cases as a consequence of a path of discernment. In this discernment, the conscience of the concrete person plays a central role with regard to his real situation before God, his real possibilities, and his limits. That conscience, accompanied by a pastor and enlightened by the guidelines of the Church, is capable of an assessment that gives rise to a judgment, sufficient to discern regarding the possibility of access to communion.

Does this imply that a judgment can be given about one’s own state of grace? St. John Paul II stated that “the judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience.” (“De gratiae statu, ut patet, iudicium solum ad singulos homines spectat, cum de conscientiae aestimatione agatur”: EdE 37b.) But it must be clarified that it is only a certain moral security, the only thing which someone can obtain before approaching to receive communion. It is never a certainty, however much one may be unaware of having violated a commandment. The Council of Trent defined that, looking at ourselves, we cannot be certain about our state of grace (cf. Session VI, chapter 9). We speak, then, of that minimal “moral security” that the person can obtain after a process of personal and pastoral discernment, which should not be based only on a single general norm.

Up to now, discernment about an attenuated culpability did not allow for removing consequences at the external or disciplinary level. The disciplinary consequences of the norm remained unaltered, because they were based only on an objective fault against an absolute norm. Francis proposes to go one step further. It is true that the general norm is not purely a discipline, but it is related to a theological truth, such as the union between Christ and the Church which is reflected in marriage. But sometimes “undue conclusions from  particular theological considerations” (AL 2) are derived when they are translated into a rigid discipline that admits no discernment whatsoever. This is the point where Francis makes a change with respect to the previous praxis.


Is this change possible and acceptable? Can Francis accept what was taught by St. John Paul II and yet open a door that was closed? Yes, because an evolution in the Church’s understanding of her own doctrine and its disciplinary consequences is possible. Let us look at some historical examples.

In 1832, Pope Gregory XVI, in Mirari vos, had said that it is an “absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather delirium, that freedom of conscience is to be claimed and defended for all men” (MV 15). In the Syllabus of Pius IX (1864) religious freedom is condemned as one of the principal “errors.” But in the following century, the Second Vatican Council substantially modified these very firm ideas (cf. DH 2-3). A similar evolution occurred on the issue of the possibility of salvation outside of the Catholic Church. We recall also the case of slavery: Pope Nicholas V allowed the king of Portugal to take slaves. Then, in 1455 the Bull Romanus Pontifex reaffirmed this. And this is not a secondary issue, since it has to do with the inalienable dignity of the human person. (With respect to this subject of the evolution in the understanding of the doctrine, the examples can be taken into account which are given in: Thomas Rausch, ”Doctrine at the service of the pastoral mission of the Church,” La Civiltà Cattolica, v. 3981, May 14, 2016; pp. 223-236.) As of those changes in the understanding of doctrine, there were, as a consequence, various changes in discipline.

However, some hold that these comparisons are not convincing, and insist that any evolution should be carried out in the same line as what was said previously by the Church. It would be a kind of magisterial “fixism.” But, precisely in the examples mentioned above, it can be seen that the evolution did not take place “in the same line” as before, at least not on the question in itself. Between allowing slavery and not allowing it in any case, there is an immense evolution. There is only Continuity in the general doctrine about human dignity, but not in the precise point in question, where the Church really evolved in its understanding. In the same way, between affirming that only a Catholic can be saved and holding that there is a possibility of salvation outside the Church, there is no continuity with regard to the question in itself. It is obvious that the Church grows into a better reception of the proposal of the Gospel, in a more complete vision and in new ways of applying what has been taught. But some have an enormous difficulty in admitting that something similar can occur in questions related to sexuality.


The fact is that even in the praxis related to the disciplinary treatment given to the divorced in a new union, there have already been major changes over the last century. Let us recall that, with the same arguments with which it is not accepted that they may not receive communion, a long time ago “the prohibition against funerals and any public funeral service” was also applied to them (Francisco Elizari, Pastoral de los divorciados [Pastoral Care of the Divorced], Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 31-32.). This changed without all the beliefs that supported that praxis falling away.

Based on reasons that remain standing, the previous Code of Canon Law (1917) sustained a discipline which the current Code (1983) does not maintain: “If, spurning the admonition of the Ordinary, they stay in the illicit relationship, they are to be excommunicated according to the gravity of the deed or struck with personal interdict” (Canon 2336). This indicates the possibility of changes in the disciplinary practice that do not necessarily make the great beliefs that supported the previous praxis fall away, but the possible practical consequences of the general norm are considered in another way.

Amoris Laetitia gives rise to a new change, which does not imply a contradiction with the previous teaching, but a harmonious evolution and a creative continuity. The prestigious philosopher and specialist in the thought of St. John Paul II – Rocco Buttiglione – has explained it very well:

John Paul II, however, does not want at all to nullify the role of the subjective conscience. The objective aspect of the act determines the goodness and the seriousness of the act. The subjective aspect of the action determines the level of responsibility of the agent … Pope Francis sets himself on the ground, not of the justification of the act, but of the subjective attenuating circumstances that diminish the agent’s responsibility. This is precisely the balance of Catholic ethics and distinguishes the realistic ethics of St. John Paul II from the objectivistic ethics of some of Pope Francis’s opponents. … Familiaris Consortio, moreover, when it formulates the rule, does not tell us that it does not tolerate exceptions for a proportionate reason. The rule that no one who is not in grace God ought to receive Eucharist by its very nature does not tolerate exceptions. Whoever receives the Body and the Blood of Christ unworthily eats and drinks his own condemnation. The rule according to which persons in God’s grace are excluded from communion as the canonical penalty for the counter-witness which they have given, however, may be subject to exceptions, and this is exactly what Amoris Laetitia tells us. (Rocco Buttiglione, L’Approccio Antropologico di San Giovanni Paolo II e quello Pastorale di Papa Francesco [The Anthropological Approach of St. John Paul II and Pastoral Care of Pope Francis])

It would be fitting to clarify Buttiglione’s expression “for the counter-witness they have given” by saying: “because their situation does not objectively correspond with the good that the general norm proposes.”


Once again, we may say that this does not imply watering down an objective value. What Francis suggests is the situation of a person who, in dialogue with the pastor, does not present the intimate acts of a more uxorio cohabitation as subjectively moral, that is to say, as the object of a personal choice that legitimates them. It only presents them as difficult to avoid in their concrete circumstances, even if they are sincerely willing to grow in this point. Circumstances can diminish culpability, but not transform an act, immoral by virtue of its object, into an act that one may justifies as a choice. In fact, the same Amoris Laetitia, rejects the attitude of someone who “flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal” (AL 297). Therefore, it is clear that Francis does not admit that that act is justifiable as a “personal choice”.

Amoris Laetitia refers to people aware of the severity of their situation, but with “great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins” (AL 298). That culpability is diminished, because the capacity for a decision is strongly conditioned, does not mean presenting one’s situation as a personal plan consistent with the Gospel. That is why discernment is not closed, but “is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized” (AL 303). This, according to an authentic understanding of the “law of gradualness” (AL 295), invites us to respond better to God each time by trusting in the help of His grace.

If the act remains objectively immoral and does not lose its objective gravity, then it is not possible that it can be “chosen” with conviction, as if it were part of the Christian ideal. Still less could it be held that, by this “choice of life”, it becomes subjectively moral. It is another very different thing is to propose, as Francis does, that in a context of attenuated culpability one seeks to respond to the will of God with a greater commitment, possible in the context of that situation. For example, with a greater generosity towards the children, or with the decision to assume as a couple a more intense commitment for the common good, or with a maturation in familial dialogue, or with the development of mutual gestures of more frequent and intense charity, etc. These attempts can be objects of a “personal choice”, and they are examples of that “possible good” that can be realized within the limits of the situation itself (cf. EG 44-45, AL 308). They are expressions of the “via caritatis”, to which “those who have difficulties in living God’s law to the full” (AL 306) can always turn. Staying on this path, conscience is also called to recognize “what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God … the commitment which God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits” (AL 303).

It is not that everything is the same, or that now “nothing matters”. The need to avoid concealing the seriousness of the situation explains why the Pope sets some firm limits on the proposed discernment. For example, it excludes the case of “a new union arising from a recent divorce” or “the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family” (AL 298). At the same time, he asks that people be guided so that they may sincerely recognize their own truth, especially in relation to “how they acted towards their children” or with the abandoned spouse (cf. AL 300). There are limits that discernment should not exceed, particularly when the recognition of the other is at stake, or when there is still little clarity about the situation itself. The Gospel is not reduced, let alone its demands of charity, but it is incarnated in the concrete possibilities of human complexity.


In the discussions about Amoris Laetitia, some hold that the Pope claims to grant to people’s conscience a power to create the truth and the norms at its whim. With this argument, these opponents of Francis try to force others to assume a determinate logic, from which there is no way out. The Gospel is thus subjected to a kind of theological and moral mathematics. Once that mental structure is adopted, there is no choice but to accept all the logic and consequences of that manner of using reason. It is a death-trap.

It is not the logic that Francis proposes for the shepherds of this time (cf. AL 296. 312). In addition, he rejects the pretension of “those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance” (EG 40). He recognizes the value of reason to reflect on the Gospel, and appreciates the dialogue between faith and reason. But this does not imply canonizing “a” reason, a determinate manner of reasoning, a philosophy to which the Gospel and the whole Church must submit. The Gospel is not enclosed in a philosophy because “Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults” (EG 39).

If a determinate manner of using reason is absolutized, only those who possess this mental structure will be able to interpret doctrine and revelation, and they would place themselves even above the pope. The supernatural vision of the Church and the Petrine ministry would thus be lost. Someone has said that this is an “intellectual Pelagianism”, because a determinate reason occupies the place of the Gospel and of the action of the Spirit in his Church. The Scriptures would serve only to illustrate the logic proper to “that” reason, administered by an oligarchic group of ethicists.

Anyway, let us remember what Francis says about the importance of conscience; for example, in the following texts:

We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them (AL 37).

…Individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage (AL 303).

However, Francis does not indicate that the conscience of each member of the faithful should be left completely free to its own judgement. What he asks for is a process of discernment accompanied by a pastor. It is a “personal and pastoral” discernment (AL 300), which also takes very seriously “the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the Bishop” (ibid.) and supposes a “properly formed” conscience (AL 302). It is not a conscience that pretends to create the truth as it pleases, or to adapt it to its desires. On the part of the pastor, it “never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being”, nor “an undue reticence in proposing that ideal” (AL 307). Some priests may be questioned who tend to fall into irresponsible or hasty discretion, causing confusion. The Pope does not ignore these risks that must be avoided (cf. AL 300). Each local Church will find the right balance through the experience, dialogue and guidance of the Bishop.

Francis’s proposal is very demanding. It would be easier or more convenient to apply norms in a rigid and universal way, to pretend that everything is “black and white” (AL 305), or to start with some general beliefs and draw fixed conclusions without taking into account the complexity of reality and the concrete life of persons. But this comfortable rigidity can be a betrayal of the heart of the Gospel: “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.” (AL 311).


Although the question of the possible access to the communion for some divorcees in a new union has caused much commotion, the Pope intended – unsuccessfully – that this move be made in a discreet manner. Therefore, after developing the presuppositions of this decision in the body of the document, the application to communion for the divorced in new union was made explicit in the footnotes.

This caution is explained by the fact that what Francis considers “central” are the chapters of Amoris Laetitia ”devoted to love” (AL 6), where he proposes for us a beautiful task in order to stimulate “the growth, strengthening and deepening of conjugal and family love” (AL 89). He asks us to carry on “before anything else a pastoral care of the marriage bond, assisting couples not only to deepen their love but also to overcome problems and difficulties” (AL 211), a pastoral care that encourages communion, generous dedication, the bonds of tenderness and mutual belonging.

For, ultimately “marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace” (AL 134). It would be very good for us to work more intensely in this line, in the face of a world darkened by the comfortable and superficial individualism that weakens and destroys these bonds.


BUTTIGLIONE, Rocco. L’Approccio Antropologico di San Giovanni Paolo II e quello Pastorale di Papa Francesco [The Anthropological Approach of St. John Paul II and the Pastoral Care of Pope Francis].

ELIZARI, Francisco. Pastoral de los divorciados [Pastoral Care of the Divorced]. Madrid: Paulinas, 1980.

FERNÁNDEZ,  Víctor  Manuel.  El  programa  del  Papa   Francisco.¿Adónde nos quiere llevar? [The program of Pope Francis. Where does he want to lead us?] Buenos Aires: San Pablo, 2014.

GATTI, Guido. Ética cristiana y educación moral.[Christian ethics and moral education] Madrid: CCS, 1988.

BISHOPS OF THE BUENOS AIRES PASTORAL REGION. Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. Buenos Aires, September 5, 2016.

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMITTEE. In search of a universal ethics: New perspective on the natural law. Rome, 2009.

RAUSCH, Thomas. La dottrina al servizio della missione pastorale della Chiesa. [Doctrine in the Service of the Pastoral Mission of the Church] La Civiltà Cattolica, v. 3981 (14 de mayo; 2016); pp. 223-236.

SCANNONE, Juan Carlos. Discernir y acompañar en actitud teologal de misericordia. Reflexiones sobre la exhortación apostólica Amoris Laetitia. [To discern and accompany in a theological attitude of mercy. Reflections on the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia] Stromata, v. 72 (2016); pp. 1-12.

SPADARO, Antonio. Conversation with Cardinal Schönborn about Amoris Laetitia. La Civiltà Cattolica, v. 3986 (May 14, 2016); pp. 130-152.

Bishops of Buenos Aires’ Guidelines (Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia):

“Dear priests,

We have received with joy the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which calls us, above all, to encourage the growth of love between spouses and to motivate young people to opt for marriage and a family. These are important issues that should never be disregarded or overshadowed by other matters. Francis has opened several doors in pastoral care for families and we are called to take advantage of this time of mercy with a view to endorsing, as a pilgrim Church, the richness offered by the different chapters of this Apostolic Exhortation.

We will focus for now on chapter VIII, since it refers to the “guidelines of the bishop” (300) in order to discern the possibility of access to the sacraments of the “divorced who have entered a new union”. We deem it convenient, as Bishops of the same Pastoral Region, to agree on some minimal criteria. We present them without prejudice to the authority that each Bishop has in his own Diocese to clarify, complete or restrict them.

1) Firstly, we should remember that it is not right to speak of giving “permission” for access to the sacraments, but rather of a discernment process under the guidance of a pastor. This is a “personal and pastoral discernment” (300).

2) In this journey, the pastor should emphasize the fundamental proclamation, the kerygma, so as to foster or renew a personal encounter with the living Christ (cf. 58).

3) Pastoral accompaniment is an exercise of the via caritatis. It is an invitation to follow “the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and integration” (296). This itinerary calls for the pastoral charity of the priest who welcomes the penitent, listens to them attentively and shows them the maternal face of the Church, at the same time as accepting their righteous intention and goodwill in placing their whole life under the light of the Gospel and in practising charity (cf. 306).

4) This path does not necessarily end with receiving the sacraments, but may lead to other ways of achieving further integration into the life of the Church: a more active presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, or giving time to church activities etc. (cf. 299).

5) Whenever feasible, and depending on the specific circumstances of a couple, and especially when both partners are Christians walking together on the path of faith, the priest may suggest a decision to live in continence. Amoris Laetitia does not ignore the difficulties arising from this option (cf. footnote 329) and offers the possibility of having access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation if the partners fail in this purpose (cf. footnote 364, recalling the teaching that Saint John Paul II sent to Cardinal W. Baum, dated 22 March, 1996).

6) In other, more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained, the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. If it comes to be recognized that, in a specific case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes they would incur a subsequent wrong by harming the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351). These sacraments, in turn, dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.

7) But we have to avoid understanding this possibility as an unlimited access to the sacraments, as if all situations warrant it. The idea is to properly discern each case. For example, special care is called for in “a new union arising from a recent divorce” or in “the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family” (298). Also, when there is a sort of justification or ostentation of the person’s situation “as if it were part of the Christian ideal” (297). In these difficult cases, we should be patient companions, looking for ways of integrating them (cf. 297, 299).

8) It is always important to guide people to stand before God with their conscience, and for this the “examination of con­science” proposed by Amoris laetitia 300 is very helpful, specifically in relation to “how did they act towards their children” or the abandoned partner. Where there are unresolved injustices, providing access to sacraments is particularly scandalous.

9) It may be right for eventual access to sacraments to take place privately, especially where situations of conflict might arise. But at the same time, we have to accompany our communities in their growing understanding and welcome, without this implying creating confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissoluble marriage. The community is an instrument of mercy, which is “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (297).

10) Discernment is not closed, because it “is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can ena­ble the ideal to be more fully realized” (303), according to the “law of gradualness” (295) and with confidence in the help of grace.

Above all, we are pastors. This is why we would like to welcome the following words of the Pope: “I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen [to the faithful] with sensitivity and seren­ity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church” (312).

With love in Christ,

The Bishops of the Area”

Pope Francis’ reply to the Bishops of Buenos Aires (published in L’Osservatore Romano, September 5, 2016, along with the Guidelines):

Querido hermano:

Recibí el escrito de la Región Pastoral Buenos Aires “Criterios básicos para la aplicación del capítulo VIII de Amoris laetitia”. Muchas gracias por habérmelo enviado; y los felicito por el trabajo que se han tomado: un verdadero ejemplo de acompañamiento a los sacerdotes… y todos sabemos cuánto es necesaria esta cercanía del obispo con su clero y del clero con el obispo. El prójimo “más prójimo” del obispo es el sacerdote, y el mandamiento de amar al prójimo como a sí mismo comienza, para nosotros obispos, precisamente con nuestros curas.

El escrito es muy bueno y explícita cabalmente el sentido del capitulo VIII de Amoris laetitia. No hay otras interpretaciones. Y estoy seguro de que hará mucho bien. Que el Señor les retribuya este esfuerzo de caridad pastoral.

Y es precisamente la caridad pastoral la que nos mueve a salir para encontrar a los alejados y, una vez encontrados, a iniciar un camino de acogida, acompañamiento, discernimiento e integración en la comunidad eclesial. Sabemos que esto es fatigoso, se trata de una pastoral “cuerpo a cuerpo” no satisfecha con mediaciones programáticas, organizativas o legales, si bien necesarias. Simplemente: acoger, acompañar, discernir, integrar. De estas cuatro actitudes pastorales la menos cultivada y practicada es el discernimiento; y considero urgente la formación en el discernimiento, personal y comunitario, en nuestros Seminarios y Presbiterios.

Finalmente quisiera recordar que Amoris laetitia fue el fruto del trabajo y la oración de toda la Iglesia, con la mediación de dos Sínodos y del Papa. Por ello les recomiendo una catequesis completa de la Exhortación que ciertamente ayudará al crecimiento, consolidación y santidad de la familia.

Nuevamente les agradezco el trabajo hecho y los animo a seguir adelante, en las diversas comunidades de las diócesis, con el estudio y la catequesis de Amoris laetitia.

Por favor, no se olviden de rezar y hacer rezar por mí. Que Jesús los bendiga y la Virgen Santa los cuide.



Cardinals Burke, Brandmüller, Caffarra, Meisner. “Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia” (also referred to as the “Five Dubia,” initially submitted September 19, 2016)

1. A Necessary Foreword

The sending of the letter to His Holiness Pope Francis by four cardinals derives from a deep pastoral concern.

We have noted a grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the Church. We have noted that even within the episcopal college there are contrasting interpretations of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

The great Tradition of the Church teaches us that the way out of situations like this is recourse to the Holy Father, asking the Apostolic See to resolve those doubts, which are the cause of disorientation and confusion.

Ours is, therefore, an act of justice and charity.

Of justice: With our initiative, we profess that the Petrine ministry is the ministry of unity, and that to Peter, to the Pope, belongs the service of confirming in the faith.

Of charity: We want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel all ambiguity.

We have also carried out a specific duty. According to the Code of Canon Law (349) the cardinals, even taken individually, are entrusted with the task of helping the Pope to care for the universal Church.

The Holy Father has decided not to respond. We have interpreted his sovereign decision as an invitation to continue the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect.

And so we are informing the entire people of God about our initiative, offering all of the documentation.

We hope that no one will choose to interpret the matter according to a “progressive/conservative” paradigm. That would be completely off the mark. We are deeply concerned about the true good of souls, the supreme law of the Church, and not about promoting any form of politics in the Church.

We hope that no one will judge us unjustly, as adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy. What we have done and are doing derives from the deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope, and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra

Cardinal Joachim Meisner

2. The Letter of the Four Cardinals to the Pope

To His Holiness Pope Francis

and for the attention of His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller

Most Holy Father,

Following the publication of your apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting, above all in regard to Chapter VIII. Moreover, the media have emphasized this dispute, thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation among many of the faithful.

Because of this, we the undersigned, but also many bishops and priests, have received numerous requests from the faithful of various social strata on the correct interpretation to give to Chapter VIII of the exhortation.

Now, compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility and desiring to implement ever more that synodality to which Your Holiness urges us, with profound respect, we permit ourselves to ask you, Holy Father, as supreme teacher of the faith, called by the Risen One to confirm his brothers in the faith, to resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to the dubia that we attach the present letter.

May Your Holiness wish to bless us, as we promise constantly to remember you in prayer.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra

Cardinal Joachim Meisner

Rome, September 19, 2016

3. The Dubia

Doubt No. 1:

It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance, and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?

Question 1 makes particular reference to Amoris Laetitia, 305, and to Footnote 351. While Note 351 specifically speaks of the sacraments of penance and Communion, it does not mention the divorced and civilly remarried in this context, nor does the main text.

Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 84, already contemplated the possibility of admitting the divorced and civilly remarried to the sacraments. It mentions three conditions:

  • The persons concerned cannot separate without committing new injustices (for instance, they may be responsible for the upbringing of their children);
  • They take upon themselves the commitment to live according to the truth of their situation, that is, to cease living together as if they were husband and wife (more uxorio), abstaining from those acts that are proper to spouses;
  • They avoid giving scandal (that is, they avoid giving the appearance of sin so as to avoid the danger of leading others into sin).

The conditions mentioned by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and by the subsequent documents recalled will immediately appear reasonable once we remember that the marital union is not just based on mutual affection and that sexual acts are not just one activity among others that couples engage in.

Sexual relations are for marital love. They are something so important, so good and so precious that they require a particular context, the context of marital love. Hence, not only the divorced living in a new union need to abstain, but also everyone who is not married. For the Church, the Sixth Commandment — “Do not commit adultery” — has always covered any exercise of human sexuality that is not marital, i.e., any kind of sexual relations other than those engaged in with one’s rightful spouse.

It would seem that admitting to Communion those of the faithful who are separated or divorced from their rightful spouse and who have entered a new union in which they live with someone else as if they were husband and wife would mean for the Church to teach by her practice one of the following affirmations about marriage, human sexuality and the nature of the sacraments:

  • A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married. However, people who are not married can under certain circumstances legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy.
  •  A divorce dissolves the marriage bond. People who are not married cannot legitimately engage in sexual acts. The divorced and remarried are legitimate spouses and their sexual acts are lawful marital acts.
  • A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married. People who are not married cannot legitimately engage in sexual acts, so that the divorced and civilly remarried live in a situation of habitual, public, objective and grave sin. However, admitting persons to the Eucharist does not mean for the Church to approve their public state of life; the faithful can approach the Eucharistic table even with consciousness of grave sin, and receiving absolution in the sacrament of penance does not always require the purpose of amending one’s life. The sacraments, therefore, are detached from life: Christian rites and worship are on a completely different sphere than the Christian moral life. 

Doubt No. 2:

After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?

The second question regards the existence of so-called intrinsically evil acts. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, claims that one can “qualify as morally evil according to its species … the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behavior or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.”

Thus, the encyclical teaches that there are acts that are always evil, which are forbidden by moral norms that bind without exception (“moral absolutes”). These moral absolutes are always negative, that is, they tell us what we should not do. “Do not kill.” “Do not commit adultery.” Only negative norms can bind without exception.

According to Veritatis Splendor, with intrinsically evil acts no discernment of circumstances or intentions is necessary. Uniting oneself to a woman who is married to another is and remains an act of adultery, that as such is never to be done, even if by doing so an agent could possibly extract precious secrets from a villain’s wife so as to save the kingdom (what sounds like an example from a James Bond movie has already been contemplated by St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo, q. 15, a. 1). John Paul II argues that the intention (say, “saving the kingdom”) does not change the species of the act (here: “committing adultery”), and that it is enough to know the species of the act (“adultery”) to know that one must not do it.

Doubt No. 3:

After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?

In Paragraph 301, Amoris Laetitia recalls that: “The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.” And it concludes that “hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”

In its “Declaration,” of June 24, 2000, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts seeks to clarify Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion.” The Pontifical Council’s “Declaration”argues that this canon is applicable also to faithful who are divorced and civilly remarried. It spells out that “grave sin” has to be understood objectively, given that the minister of the Eucharist has no means of judging another person’s subjective imputability.

Thus, for the “Declaration,” the question of the admission to the sacraments is about judging a person’s objective life situation and not about judging that this person is in a state of mortal sin. Indeed, subjectively he or she may not be fully imputable or not be imputable at all.

Along the same lines, in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37, St. John Paul II recalls that “the judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience.” Hence, the distinction referred to by Amoris Laetitia between the subjective situation of mortal sin and the objective situation of grave sin is indeed well established in the Church’s teaching.

John Paul II, however, continues by insisting that “in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved.” He then reiterates the teaching of Canon 915 mentioned above.

Question 3 of the Dubia, hence, would like to clarify whether, even after Amoris Laetitia, it is still possible to say that persons who habitually live in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, such as the commandment against adultery, theft, murder or perjury, live in objective situations of grave habitual sin, even if, for whatever reasons, it is not certain that they are subjectively imputable for their habitual transgressions.

Doubt No. 4:

After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?

In Paragraph 302, Amoris Laetitia stresses that on account of mitigating circumstances “a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.” The Dubia point to the Church’s teaching as expressed in John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, according to which circumstances or good intentions can never turn an intrinsically evil act into one that is excusable or even good.

The question arises whether Amoris Laetitia, too, is agreed that any act that transgresses against God’s commandments, such as adultery, murder, theft or perjury, can never, on account of circumstances that mitigate personal responsibility, become excusable or even good.

Do these acts, which the Church’s Tradition has called bad in themselves and grave sins, continue to be destructive and harmful for anyone committing them in whatever subjective state of moral responsibility he may be?

Or could these acts, depending on a person’s subjective state and depending on the circumstances and intentions, cease to be injurious and become commendable or at least excusable?

Doubt No. 5:

After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?

Amoris Laetitia, 303, states that “conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God.” The Dubia ask for a clarification of these affirmations, given that they are susceptible to divergent interpretations.

For those proposing the creative idea of conscience, the precepts of God’s law and the norm of the individual conscience can be in tension or even in opposition, while the final word should always go to conscience that ultimately decides about good and evil. According to Veritatis Splendor, 56, “on this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept.”

In this perspective, it will never be enough for moral conscience to know “this is adultery,” or “this is murder,” in order to know that this is something one cannot and must not do.

Rather, one would also need to look at the circumstances or the intentions to know if this act could not, after all, be excusable or even obligatory (Question 4 of the Dubia). For these theories, conscience could indeed rightfully decide that, in a given case, God’s will for me consists in an act by which I transgress one of his commandments. “Do not commit adultery” is seen as just a general norm. In the here and now, and given my good intentions, committing adultery is what God really requires of me.  Under these terms, cases of virtuous adultery, lawful murder and obligatory perjury are at least conceivable.

This would mean to conceive of conscience as a faculty for autonomously deciding about good and evil and of God’s law as a burden that is arbitrarily imposed and that could at times be opposed to our true happiness.

However, conscience does not decide about good and evil. The whole idea of a “decision of conscience” is misleading. The proper act of conscience is to judge and not to decide. It says, “This is good.” “This is bad.” This goodness or badness does not depend on it. It acknowledges and recognizes the goodness or badness of an action, and for doing so, that is, for judging, conscience needs criteria; it is inherently dependent on truth.

God’s commandments are a most welcome help for conscience to get to know the truth and hence to judge verily. God’s commandments are the expression of the truth about our good, about our very being, disclosing something crucial about how to live life well. Pope Francis, too, expresses himself in these terms, when, in Amoris Laetitia, 295: “The law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception.”

Pope Francis: Audience with the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the Judicial Year (January 29, 2021)

Dear brothers and sisters,

I should speak standing up, but you know that sciatica is a somewhat bothersome guest. I apologise and I will speak seated.

I am glad to meet you on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year. I greet you all warmly: the dean, Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, whom I thank for his words, the prelate auditors, the officials and the collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

I would like to link to last year’s address, in particular the theme that affects a good part of the decisions of the Rota in recent times: on the one hand, a lack of faith, which does not enlighten the conjugal union as it should – my predecessor Benedict XVI had already denounced this publicly on three occasions – and on the other, the fundamental aspects of this union which, in addition to the union between man and woman, include the birth and gift of children and their upbringing.

We know that the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota, in harmony with papal teaching, has illustrated the hierarchy of the good features of marriage that by clarifying that the figure of the bonum familiae goes well beyond the reference to the causes of nullity; despite the fact that in the past there was a certain opening to a hypothetical cause of nullity connected to the bonum familiae. This possibility was appropriately closed, thus strengthening the theological figure of the family, inasmuch as an effect of marriage as prefigured by the Creator. For my part, I have not failed to recommend that the bonum familiae not be seen in a negative way, almost as if it were to be regarded as one of the causes of nullity. Indeed, it is always and in any case the blessed fruit of the conjugal pact; it cannot be extinguished in its entirely with the declaration of nullity, as being a family cannot be considered a suspended good, inasmuch as it is the fruit of the divine plan, at least in terms of the offspring generated. Spouses with children granted by God are that new reality we call the family.

Faced with a marriage that must legally be declared null and void, the party who is not willing to accept this measure is nevertheless unum idem with the children. Therefore, the relevant question must be taken into account: what will happen to the children and the party who does not accept the declaration of annulment? So far everything has seemed obvious, but unfortunately it is not. It is necessary, therefore, that statements of principle be followed by adequate proposals of fact, always remembering that “the family is the foundation of society and it remains the most suitable structure for ensuring for people the integral good necessary for their continuing development” (Address to the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe, 1 June 2017). Consequently, we are called to identify the path that leads to choices congruent with the affirmed principles. We are all aware of how difficult it is to move from principles to facts. When we talk about the integral good of people, we need to ask ourselves how this can be achieved in the many situations in which children find themselves.

The new sacramental union, which follows on from the declaration of nullity, will certainly be a source of peace for the spouse who has requested it. However, how can it be explained to children that, for example, their mother, abandoned by their father and often without the intention of contracting another matrimonial bond, may receive the Eucharist with them on a Sunday, whereas their father, living with them or awaiting the declaration of nullity of marriage, cannot receive the Eucharist? On the occasion of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and in the Ordinary Assembly in 2015, the Synod Fathers, reflecting on the theme of the family, posed themselves these questions, thus making themselves aware that it is difficult, at times impossible, to offer answers. However, the concerns of the Synod Fathers and the maternal care of the Church in the face of so much suffering have found a useful pastoral instrument in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia. In this document, clean indications are given so that no-one, especially the young or the suffering, be left alone or treated as a means of blackmail between divided parents (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, 241). As you know, the “Amoris laetitia Year of the Family” will begin this coming 19 March. With your work, you too are making a valuable contribution to this ecclesial journey with families for the family.

Dear judges, in your judgments you do not fail to bear witness to this apostolic concern of the Church, considering that the integral good of the person demands not to remain inert in the face of the disastrous effects that a decision on matrimonial annulment may involve. Your Apostolic Tribunal, like other Tribunals of the Church too, is asked “to make the procedure in cases of nullity more accessible and less time consuming, and, if possible, free of charge” (ibid., 244). The Church is mother and you, who have an ecclesial ministry in a sector as vital as judicial activity, are called to open up the horizons of this difficult, but not impossible, pastoral area which relates to the concern for children as innocent victims of many situations of rupture, divorce of new civil unions (cf. ibid., 245). It is a question of exercising your mission as judges as a service filled with pastoral sense, that can never be lacking in the delicate decision on the nullity or otherwise of a conjugal union. Often the declaration of matrimonial nullity is thought of as a cold act, a mere “legal decision”. But it is not, and cannot be thus. The judgments of the ecclesiastical judge cannot dispense with the memories, made up of light and shade, that mark the life, not only of the two spouses but also of the children. Spouses and children constitute a community of people, which is always and certainly identified with the good of the family, even when this has disintegrated.

We must not tire of devoting all our attention and care to the family and to Christian marriage: here you invest a large part of your concern for the good of the particular Churches. May the Holy Spirit, whom you invoke before every decision to be made on the truth of marriage, enlighten you and help you not to forget the effects of such acts: first and foremost the good of the children, their peace or, on the contrary, the loss of joy in the face of separation. May prayer – judges must pray a lot! – and common effort highlight this human reality, which is often painful: a family that splits up and another that, as a result, is formed, undermining the unity that was the joy of the children in the previous union.

I take this opportunity to exhort every bishop – constituted by Christ the Father, Shepherd and Judge in his own Church – to be increasingly open to the challenge of this issue. It is a matter of tenaciously pursuing and completing a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral path, aimed at not leaving to the sole intervention of the civil authorities the faithful who suffer as a result of judgments they suffer rather than accept. The imagination of charity will foster evangelical sensitivity in the face of family tragedies whose protagonists cannot be forgotten. It is more urgent than ever that the Bishop’s collaborators, in particular the judicial vicar, family pastoral workers and especially parish priests, should endeavour to exercise that diaconate of protection, care and the accompaniment of the abandoned spouse and possibly of the children, who suffer the decisions, albeit just and legitimate, of matrimonial nullity.

These, dear sisters and brothers, are the considerations that I would like to bring to your attention, in the certainty that you will find people ready to share them and make them your own. I express my appreciation to each one of you in particular, in the confidence that the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, an authoritative manifestation of the Church’s juridical wisdom, will continue to carry out consistently its not easy munus in the service of the divine plan for marriage and the family. Invoking the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon you and upon your work, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing. And I also ask you, please, to pray for me.

And I would not like to end today without a more familiar comment among us, because our dear Dean will, in a few months, be 80 years young, and will have to leave us. I would like to thank him for the work he has done, which is not always clearly understood. Above all, I would like to thank Msgr. Pinto for the tenacity he had in carrying out the reform of matrimonial processes: one single judgment, then the short trial, which was like a novelty, but it was natural because the bishop is the judge.

I remember that, shortly after the promulgation of the short trial, a bishop called me and said: “I have this problem: a girl wants to get married in the Church; she was already married some years ago in the Church, but she was forced to get married because she was pregnant… I did everything, I asked a priest to act as judicial vicar, another to play the part of defender of the bond… And the witnesses, the parents say that yes, it was forced, that the marriage was null. Tell me, Your Holiness, what shall I do?”, the bishop asked me. And I asked: “Tell me, do you have a pen to hand?” – “Yes” – “Sign. You are the judge, no fuss”.

But this reform, especially the short trial, has encountered, and still encounters, a lot of resistance. I must confess that after its promulgation I received many letters, I don’t know how many, but a lot. Almost all of them were lawyers who were losing their clients. And there is the problem of money. In Spain they say: “Por la plata baila el mono”: the monkey dances for money. The saying is clear. And sadly, also this: in some dioceses I have encountered resistance on the part of the judicial vicar who, perhaps, lost a certain standing with this reform, because he realised that the judge was not him, but the bishop.

I thank Mgr Pinto for his courage and also for the strategy of pursuing this way of thinking, of judging, up to the unanimous vote, which gave me the opportunity to sign [the Document].

The dual judgment. You mentioned Pope Lambertini, a great man of the liturgy, of canon law, of common sense, even of a sense of humour, but unfortunately he had to introduce the dual judgment because of economic problems in some dioceses. But back to the truth: the judge is the bishop. He must be helped by the judicial vicar, he must be helped by the promoter of justice, he must be helped, but he is the judge, he cannot wash his hands of this. To return to this, which is the Gospel truth.

I would also like to thank Msgr. Pinto for his enthusiasm in teaching catechesis on this subject. He goes around the world teaching this: he is an enthusiastic man, but enthusiastic in every tone, because he has a bad temper too! It’s a negative way – let’s say – of enthusiasm. But he will have time to correct himself… we all do! I would like to thank him! I interpret the applause as applause for his bad temper.

Thank you very much, Msgr. Pinto! Thank you!

Sacred Scripture

Genesis 2:22-25 (The Creation of the Woman)

Exodus 16 (Manna and Quail)

Numbers 11 (Fire and Quail)

Leviticus 20:10 (Adultery is Punished by Death)

Deuteronomy 22:22-25 (Adultery is Punished by Death); 24:1-4 (Permission for Divorce)

Ezra 10:1-6 (Jews Told to Divorce Foreign Wives)

Malachi 2:16 (God Hates Divorce)

Matthew 5:27-32 (Adultery and Divorce); 7:6 (Pearls Before Swine); 7:7-12 (Sufficient Grace Given for Virtue); 7:13-14 (The Narrow Gate) 7:15-23 (True and False Prophets and Disciples); 10:32-33 (Acknowledging Christ) 10:34-39 (Christ, Division, and Detachment from Relatives); 14:1-12 (John the Baptist and Herod); 19:3-12 (Moses and Divorce)

Mark 10:1-12 (Moses and Divorce)

Luke 16:18 (Adultery and Divorce)

John 4:16-18 (The Woman at the Well); 6:25-71 (The Bread of Life Discourse); 8:1-11 (The Woman Caught in Adultery)

Romans 3:8 (Consequentialism Condemned); 7:1-6 (Marriage, Adultery, and Grace)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Rejection of the Adulterous from the Community); 7:10-15 (Divorce and Remarriage); 10:15 (Sufficient Grace to Resist Temptation) 11:23-32 (Unworthy Reception of the Eucharist)

Ephesians 5:25, 32 (Christ, the Church, and Marriage)

Codex Iuris Canonici (1983 and 1917 Western Codes of Canon Law)

1983 CIC 18. Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation.

1917 CIC 17. Laws that establish a penalty, or that restrict the free exercise of a right, or that contain an exception to the law, are subject to strict interpretation.

1983 CIC 213. The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the Word of God and the sacraments.

1917 CIC 682. Laity have the right of receiving from the clergy, according to the norm of ecclesiastical discipline, spiritual goods and especially that aid necessary for salvation.

1983 CIC 842 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times and are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them. §2. Pastors of souls and other members of the Christian faithful, according to their respective ecclesiastical function, have the duty to take that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, attentive to the norms issued by competent authority.

1983 CIC 912. Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion.

1917 CIC 853. Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion.

1983 CIC 889 §2. To receive Confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

1983 CIC 915. Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.

1917 CIC 855 §1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they have caused]. §2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal.

1983 CIC 916. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

1917 CIC 856. No one burdened by mortal sin on his conscience, no matter how contrite he believes he is, shall approach Holy Communion without prior sacramental confession; but if there is urgent necessity and a supply of ministers of confession is lacking, he shall first elicit an act of perfect contrition.

1983 CIC 1006. This sacrament [the anointing of the sick] is to be conferred on the sick who at least implicitly requested it when they were in control of their faculties.

1983 CIC 1007. The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin.

1983 CIC 1108. §1 Only those marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who, in the presence of two witnesses, assists, in accordance however with the rules set out in the following canons, and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112 §1, 1116 and 1127 §§2 – 3.

1983 CIC 1130. For a grave and urgent cause, the local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated secretly.

Councils (Ecumenical and Synodal/Local)

Elvira (305-6), c. 9: “Also a baptized woman who leaves a baptized husband on the ground of his adultery and marries again, is to be prohibited from marrying; if she marry, she is not to be received into communion until the husband, whom she has left be departed out of this life, unless perchance extremity of sickness demand it be given to her.”

Arles (314), c. 10: “Concerning those young men who are Christians who apprehend their wives in adultery and are forbidden to marry, we decree that, as far as it is possible, counsel be given them not to take other wives while their own, though guilty of adultery, are still living.”

Ibid., c. 24: “We decree that, in so far as it is possible, a man who has dismissed his wife be forbidden as something unlawful to marry another woman while his first wife is still alive. But whoever should do this shall be cut off from Catholic communion.”

Ancyra (314), c. 20: “If the wife of anyone has committed adultery or if any man commit adultery it seems fit that he shall be restored to full communion after seven years passed in the prescribed degrees [of penance].”

Neocaesarea (315), c. 2: “If a woman shall have married two brothers, let her be cast out [i.e. of communion] until her death. Nevertheless, at the hour of death she may, as an act of mercy, be received to penance, provided she declare that she will break the marriage, should she recover. But if the woman in such a marriage, or the man, die, penance for the survivor shall be very difficult.”

Ibid., c. 3: “Concerning those who fall into many marriages, the appointed time of penance is well known; but their manner of living and faith shortens the time.”

Ibid., c. 7: “A presbyter shall not be at the nuptials of persons contracting a second marriage; for, since the digamist is worthy of penance, what kind of a presbyter shall he be, who, by being present at the feast, sanctioned the marriage?”

Apostolic Canons (late 4th century), c. 48: “If a layman divorces his own wife, and takes another, or one divorced by another, let him be suspended.”

Carthage (419), c. 102: “It seemed good that according to evangelical and apostolic discipline a man who had been put away from his wife, and a woman put away from her husband should not be married to another, but so should remain, or else be reconciled the one to the other; but if they spurn this law, they shall be forced to do penance, covering which case we must petition that an imperial law be promulgated.”

Vannes (465), c. 2: “Those also who have abandoned their wives, except for the cause of fornication, as the Gospel says, without proof of adultery, and have married others, we decree are to be excommunicated, lest the sins overlooked through our indulgence entice others to the license of error.”

Hertford (672), c. 10: “Only a legitimate marriage is permitted to anyone; let no one commit incest. No man may abandon his wife except, as the holy gospel teaches, for the cause of fornication. But if anyone have expelled his wife united to him in legitimate marriage, if he will rightly to be a Christian, he is not to unite himself with another woman but let him remain single or be reconciled to his own wife.”

Trent (1545-63), Session VI, c. 18: “If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.”

Ibid., Session XIII, c. 6: “If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burthened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if anyone shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.”

Ibid., Session XXIV, c. 2: “If any one saith, that it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that this is not prohibited by any divine law; let him be anathema.”

Ibid., c. 4: “If any one saith, that the Church could not establish impediments dissolving marriage; or that she has erred in establishing them; let him be anathema.”

Ibid., c. 5: “If any one saith, that on account of heresy, or irksome cohabitation, or the affected absence of one of the parties, the bond of matrimony may be dissolved; let him be anathema.”

Ibid., c. 7: “If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught, and doth 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; and that both, or even the innocent one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage, during the lifetime of the other; and, that he is guilty of adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband; let him be anathema.”

Ibid., c. 12: “If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.”

Diamper (1599), Decree III: “Wherefore, it is not permitted to give this Sacrament [the Eucharist] to public sinners, until they will have given up their sins, such as are public sorcerers, prostitutes, the publicly cohabiting, and those who publicly profess hatreds without reconciliation.”

Zamostia (1720): “Lest occasion be given to some scandal or loss of good name, the Holy Eucharist is not to be denied to the unworthy sinner because of some secret sin, above all, if the priest giving Communion will have received news of it from the confession of the sinner himself, seeking publicly the Eucharist. Heretics, schismatics, the excommunicated, the interdicted, public criminals, the openly infamous, as also prostitutes, the publicly cohabiting, major usurers, fortune-tellers, and other evil-doing men of the same kind, however, are not to be admitted to the reception of this Sacrament, according to the precept of Christ: ‘Do not give the Holy to dogs.’”

Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884): “Title iv., ii: Of matrimony. Catholics who marry before a sectarian minister are excommunicated. Mixed marriages are not to be contracted unless promises are given that the Catholic party is in no danger of perversion, and will strive to convert the non-Catholic party. Also that all the children born of the union are to be brought up Catholics. No dispensation from these promises can be given.”

Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes #47-52 (1962-5): “47. The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. Hence Christians and all men who hold this community in high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which men today find help in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which parents are assisted in their lofty calling. Those who rejoice in such aids look for additional benefits from them and labor to bring them about.

Yet the excellence of this institution is not everywhere reflected with equal brilliance, since polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society. Finally, in certain parts of the world problems resulting from population growth are generating concern.

All these situations have produced anxiety of consciences. Yet, the power and strength of the institution of marriage and family can also be seen in the fact that time and again, despite the difficulties produced, the profound changes in modern society reveal the true character of this institution in one way or another.

Therefore, by presenting certain key points of Church doctrine in a clearer light, this sacred synod wishes to offer guidance and support to those Christians and other men who are trying to preserve the holiness and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value.

48. The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.(1) All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love “are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.(2)

Christ the Lord abundantly blessed this many-faceted love, welling up as it does from the fountain of divine love and structured as it is on the model of His union with His Church. For as God of old made Himself present(3) to His people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Savior of men and the Spouse(4) of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He abides with them thereafter so that just as He loved the Church and handed Himself over on her behalf,(6) the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.

Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother.(6) For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.(7) By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.

As a result, with their parents leading the way by example and family prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.

As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness. Widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation, should be esteemed by all.(8) Families too will share their spiritual riches generously with other families. Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church,(9) and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all men Christ’s living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another.

49. The biblical Word of God several times urges the betrothed and the married to nourish and develop their wedlock by pure conjugal love and undivided affection.(10) Many men of our own age also highly regard true love between husband and wife as it manifests itself in a variety of ways depending on the worthy customs of various peoples and times.

This love is an eminently human one since it is directed from one person to another through an affection of the will; it involves the good of the whole person, and therefore can enrich the expressions of body and mind with a unique dignity, ennobling these expressions as special ingredients and signs of the friendship distinctive of marriage. This love God has judged worthy of special gifts, healing, perfecting and exalting gifts of grace and of charity. Such love, merging the human with the divine, leads the spouses to a free and mutual gift of themselves, a gift providing itself by gentle affection and by deed, such love pervades the whole of their lives:(11) indeed by its busy generosity it grows better and grows greater. Therefore it far excels mere erotic inclination, which, selfishly pursued, soon enough fades wretchedly away.

This love is uniquely expressed and perfected through the appropriate enterprise of matrimony. The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and a ready will. Sealed by mutual faithfulness and hallowed above all by Christ’s sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in mind, in bright days or dark. It will never be profaned by adultery or divorce. Firmly established by the Lord, the unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of wife and husband, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love. The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice.

Authentic conjugal love will be more highly prized, and wholesome public opinion created about it if Christian couples give outstanding witness to faithfulness and harmony in their love, and to their concern for educating their children also, if they do their part in bringing about the needed cultural, psychological and social renewal on behalf of marriage and the family. Especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed in the dignity, duty and work of married love. Trained thus in the cultivation of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to enter a marriage of their own after an honorable courtship.

50. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18) and “Who made man from the beginning male and female” (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: “Increase and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.

Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfil their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church’s teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice,(12) married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate. Among the couples who fulfil their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.(13)

Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.

51. This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased. As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain. But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered.

To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life. But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love.

For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life. Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.(14)

All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men.

52. The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity. But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, it needs the kindly communion of minds and the joint deliberation of spouses, as well as the painstaking cooperation of parents in the education of their children. The active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation. The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account.

Children should be so educated that as adults they can follow their vocation, including a religious one, with a mature sense of responsibility and can choose their state of life; if they marry, they can thereby establish their family in favorable moral, social and economic conditions. Parents or guardians should by prudent advice provide guidance to their young with respect to founding a family, and the young ought to listen gladly. At the same time no pressure, direct or indirect, should be put on the young to make them enter marriage or choose a specific partner.

Thus the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family. Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote their authentic nature, to shield public morality and to favor the prosperity of home life. The right of parents to beget and educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded. Children too who unhappily lack the blessing of a family should be protected by prudent legislation and various undertakings and assisted by the help they need.

Christians, redeeming the present time(13) and distinguishing eternal realities from their changing expressions, should actively promote the values of marriage and the family, both by the examples of their own lives and by cooperation with other men of good will. Thus when difficulties arise, Christians will provide, on behalf of family life, those necessities and helps which are suitably modern. To this end, the Christian instincts of the faithful, the upright moral consciences of men, and the wisdom and experience of persons versed in the sacred sciences will have much to contribute.

Those too who are skilled in other sciences, notably the medical, biological, social and psychological, can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family along with peace of conscience if by pooling their efforts they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favoring a proper regulation of births.

It devolves on priests duly trained about family matters to nurture the vocation of spouses by a variety of pastoral means, by preaching God’s word, by liturgical worship, and by other spiritual aids to conjugal and family life; to sustain them sympathetically and patiently in difficulties, and to make them courageous through love, so that families which are truly illustrious can be formed.

Various organizations, especially family associations, should try by their programs of instruction and action to strengthen young people and spouses themselves, particularly those recently wed, and to train them for family, social and apostolic life.

Finally, let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another(16) in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life,(17) by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again.(18)”


Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas (mid-13th century): “THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT: ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.’ After the prohibition of murder, adultery is forbidden. This is fitting, since husband and wife are as one body. ‘They shall be,’ says the Lord, ‘two in one flesh.’ Therefore, after an injury inflicted upon a man in his own person, none is so grave as that which is inflicted upon a person with whom one is joined. Adultery is forbidden both to the wife and the husband. We shall first consider the adultery of the wife, since in this seems to lie the greater sin, for a wife who commits adultery is guilty of three grave sins, which are implied in the following words: ‘So every woman that leaveth her husband, . . . first, she hath been unfaithful to the law of the Most High; and secondly, she hath offended against her husband; thirdly, she hath fornicated in adultery, and hath gotten her children of another man.’ First, therefore, she has sinned by lack of faith, since she is unfaithful to the law wherein God has forbidden adultery. Moreover, she has spurned the ordinance of God: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’ And also she has sinned against the institution or Sacrament. Because marriage is contracted before the eyes of the Church, and thereupon God is called, as it were, to witness a bond of fidelity which must be kept: ‘The Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth whom thou hast despised.’ Therefore, she has sinned against the law of God, against a precept of the Church and against a Sacrament of God. Secondly, she sins by infidelity because she has betrayed her husband: ‘The wife hath not power of her own body: but the husband.’ In fact, without the consent of the husband she cannot observe chastity. If adultery is committed, then, an act of treachery is perpetrated in that the wife gives herself to another, just as if a servant gave himself to another master: ‘She forsaketh the guide of her youth, and hath forgotten the covenant of her God.’ Thirdly, the adulteress commits the sin of theft in that she brings forth children from a man not her husband; and this is a most grave theft in that she expends her heredity upon children not her husband’s. Let it be noted that such a one should encourage her children to enter religion, or upon such a walk of life that they do not succeed in the property of her husband. Therefore, an adulteress is guilty of sacrilege, treachery and theft. Husbands, however, do not sin any less than wives, although they sometimes may salve themselves to the contrary. This is clear for three reasons. First, because of the equality which holds between husband and wife, for ‘the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife.’ Therefore, as far as the rights of matrimony are concerned, one cannot act without the consent of the other. As an indication of this, God did not form woman from the foot or from the head, but from the rib of the man. Now, marriage was at no time a perfect state until the law of Christ came, because the Jew could have many wives, but a wife could not have many husbands; hence, equality did not exist. The second reason is because strength is a special quality of the man, while the passion proper to the woman is concupiscence: ‘Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel.’ Therefore, if you ask from your wife what you do not keep yourself, then you are unfaithful. The third reason is from the authority of the husband. For the husband is head of the wife, and as it is said: ‘Women may not speak in the church, . . . if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.’ The husband is the teacher of his wife, and God, therefore, gave the Commandment to the husband. Now, as regards fulfillment of their duties, a priest who fails is more guilty than a layman, and a bishop more than a priest, because it is especially incumbent upon them to teach others. In like manner, the husband that commits adultery breaks faith by not obeying that which he ought. WHY ADULTERY AND FORNICATION MUST BE AVOIDED Thus, God forbids adultery both to men and women. Now, it must be known that, although some believe that adultery is a sin, yet they do not believe that simple fornication is a mortal sin. Against them stand the words of St. Paul: ‘For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.’ And: ‘Do not err: neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind shall possess the kingdom of God.’ But one is not excluded from the kingdom of God except by mortal sin; therefore, fornication is a mortal sin. But one might say that there is no reason why fornication should be a mortal sin, since the body of the wife is not given, as in adultery. I say, however, if the body of the wife is not given, nevertheless, there is given the body of Christ which was given to the husband when he was sanctified in Baptism. If, then, one must not betray his wife, with much more reason must he not be unfaithful to Christ: ‘Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid!’ It is heretical to say that fornication is not a mortal sin. Moreover, it must be known that the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ not only forbids adultery but also every form of immodesty and impurity. There are some who say that intercourse between married persons is not devoid of sin. But this is heretical, for the Apostle says: ‘Let marriage be honorable in all and the bed undefiled.’ Not only is it devoid of sin, but for those in the state of grace it is meritorious for eternal life. Sometimes, however, it may be a venial sin, sometimes a mortal sin. When it is had with the intention of bringing forth offspring, it is an act of virtue. When it is had with the intent of rendering mutual comfort, it is an act of justice. When it is a cause of exciting lust, although within the limits of marriage, it is a venial sin; and when it goes beyond these limits, so as to intend intercourse with another if possible, it would be a mortal sin. Adultery and fornication are forbidden for a number of reasons. First of all, because they destroy the soul: ‘He that is an adulterer, for the folly of his heart shall destroy his own soul.’ It says: ‘for the folly of his heart,’ which is whenever the flesh dominates the spirit. Secondly, they deprive one of life; for one guilty of such should die according to the Law, as we read in Leviticus (xx. 10) and Deuteronomy (xxii. 22). Sometimes the guilty one is not punished now bodily, which is to his disadvantage since punishment of the body may be borne with patience and is conducive to the remission of sins; but nevertheless he shall be punished in the future life. Thirdly, these sins consume his substance, just as happened to the prodigal son in that ‘he wasted his substance living riotously.’ ‘Give not thy soul to harlots in any point; lest thou destroy thyself and thy inheritance.’ Fourthly, they defile the offspring: ‘The children of adulterers shall not come to perfection, and the seed of the unlawful bed shall be rooted out. And if they live long they shall be nothing regarded, and their last old age shall be without honour.’ And again: ‘Otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy.’ Thus, they are never honored in the Church, but if they be clerics their dishonor may go without shame. Fifthly, these sins take away one’s honour, and this especially is applicable to women: ‘Every woman that is a harlot shall be trodden upon as dung in the way.’ And of the husband it is said: ‘He gathereth to himself shame and dishonor, and his reproach shall not be blotted out.’ St. Gregory says that sins of the flesh are more shameful and less blameful than those of the spirit, and the reason is because they are common to the beasts: ‘Man when he was in honour did not understand; and he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.’”

Roman Catechism (1570): “We should, in the next place, carefully examine whether our consciences be defiled by mortal sin, which has to be repented of, in order that it may be blotted out before Communion by the remedy of contrition and confession. The Council of Trent has defined that no one conscious of mortal sin and having an opportunity of going to confession, however contrite he may deem himself, is to approach the Holy Eucharist until he has been purified by sacramental confession.”

Ibid.: “Not only did God institute marriage; He also, as the Council of Trent declares, ‘rendered it perpetual and indissoluble.’ What God hath joined together, says our Lord, let not man separate. Although it belongs to marriage as a natural contract to be indissoluble, yet its indissolubility arises principally from its nature as a Sacrament, as it is the sacramental character that, in all its natural relations, elevates marriage to the highest perfection. In any event, dissolubility is at once opposed to the proper education of children, and to the other advantages of marriage. . . The selfsame testimony of Christ our Lord easily proves that the marriage tie cannot be broken by any sort of divorce. For if by a bill of divorce a woman were freed from the law that binds her to her husband, she might marry another husband without being in the least guilty of adultery. Yet our Lord says clearly: Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another committeth adultery. Hence it is plain that the bond of marriage can be dissolved by death alone, as is confirmed by the Apostle when he says: A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die she is at liberty; let her marry whom she will, only in the Lord; and again: To them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband; and if she depart that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. To the wife, then, who for a just cause has left her husband, the Apostle offers this alternative: Let her either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Nor does holy Church permit husband and wife to separate without weighty reasons. Lest, however, the law of Matrimony should seem too severe on account of its absolute indissolubility, the advantages of this indissolubility should be pointed out. The first (beneficial consequence) is that men are given to understand that in entering Matrimony virtue and congeniality of disposition are to be preferred to wealth or beauty, a circumstance that cannot but prove of the very highest advantage to the interests of society at large. In the second place, if marriage could be dissolved by divorce, married persons would hardly ever be without causes of disunion, which would be daily supplied by the old enemy of peace and purity; while, on the contrary, now that the faithful must remember that even though separated as to bed and board, they remain none the less bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, they are by this very fact rendered less prone to strife and discord. And even if it sometimes happens that husband and wife become separated, and are unable to bear the want of their partnership any longer, they are easily reconciled by friends and return to their common life. The pastor should not here omit the salutary admonition of St. Augustine who, to convince the faithful that they should not consider it a hardship to receive back the wife they have put away for adultery, provided she repents of her crime, observes: Why should not the Christian husband receive back his wife when the Church receives her? And why should not the wife pardon her adulterous but penitent husband when Christ has already pardoned him? True it is that Scripture calls him foolish who keepeth an adulteress; but the meaning refers to her who refuses to repent of her crime and quit the disgraceful course she has entered on. From all this it will be clear that Christian marriage is far superior in dignity and perfection to that of Gentiles and Jews.”

St. Robert Bellarmine’s Long Catechism (1598), ***

Baltimore Catechism (1891), vol. 4 (“An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism”), #130: ‘…Protestant religions have not holy doctrines if we examine them closely. They teach, for example, that faith without good works will save us, and thus take away the motives for doing good; that marriage is not binding for life – the husband and wife may for some causes separate, or get a divorce, and marry again. This would leave the children without the care of their proper parents, sometimes, without a home, and nearly always without religious instruction. The same persons might separate again and marry another time, and thus there would be nothing but confusion and immorality in society.’

Ibid., #284: “Q. Can the bond of Christian marriage be dissolved by any human power? A. The bond of Christian marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power. ‘Dissolved’ – that is, can married persons ever – for any cause – separate and marry again; that is, take another husband or wife while the first husband or wife is living? Never, if they were really married. Sometimes, for good reason, the Church permits husband and wife to separate and live in different places; but they are still married. Sometimes it happens, too, that persons are not really married although they have gone through the ceremony and people think they are married, and they may think so themselves. The Church, however, makes them separate, because it finds they are not really married at all – on account of some impeding circumstance that existed at the time they performed the ceremony. These circumstances or fact that prevent the marriage from being valid are called ‘Impediments to Marriage.’ Some of them render the marriage altogether null, and some only make it unlawful. When persons make arrangements about getting married they should tell the priest every circumstance that they think might be an impediment. Here are the chief things they should tell the priest – privately, if possible. Whether both are Christians and Catholics; whether either has ever been solemnly engaged to another person; whether they have ever made any vow to God with regard to chastity, the religious life, or the like; whether they are related and in what degree; whether either was ever married to any member of the other’s family – say sister, brother, or cousin, etc.; whether either ever was a  godparent in Baptism for the other or for any of the other’s children; whether either was married before, and what proof can be given of the death of the first husband or wife; whether they really intend to get married; whether they are of lawful age; whether they are in good health or suffering from some sickness that might prevent their marriage, etc. They should also state whether they live in the parish, and how long they have lived in it. They should give at least three weeks’ notice before their marriage, except in special cases of necessity. They should not presume to make final arrangements and invite friends before they have made arrangements with their pastor; because if there should be any delay on account of impediments it would cause them great inconvenience. Let me take an example of a fact that would render the marriage invalid or null though the persons performing the ceremony might not be aware of it. Suppose a woman’s husband went to the war, and she heard after a great many years that he had been killed in battle, and she, believing her first husband to be dead, married another man. But the report of the first husband’s death turns out to be false, and after a time he returns. Then the Church tells the woman – and she knows it now herself – that the second marriage was invalid, that is, no marriage, because it was performed while the first husband was still living. She must leave the second man and go back to her husband. You see in that case the Church was not dissolving or breaking the marriage bond, but only declaring that the woman and second man were not married from the very beginning, although they thought they were, being ignorant of the existing impediment, and the priest also being deceived performed the ceremony in the usual manner. If it ever happens, therefore, that you hear of the Church permitting persons, already apparently married, to separate and marry others, it is only when it discovers that their first marriage was invalid, and by its action it does not dissolve the bond of marriage, but simply declares that the marriage was null and void from the beginning, as you now easily understand. Thus persons might unwittingly marry with existing impediments that would render their marriage invalid or illicit. Such things, however, happen very rarely, for the priest would discover the impediments in questioning the persons about to marry. Protestants and persons outside the Catholic Church teach that the marriage bond can at times be dissolved, but such doctrines bring great evil upon society. When the father and mother separate and marry again, the children of the first marriage are left to take care of themselves, or receive only such care as the law gives them. They are left without Christian instruction and the good influence of home. Then persons who are divorced once may be divorced a second or third time, and thus all society would be thrown into a state of confusion, and there would be scarcely any such thing as a family to be found. It is bad enough at present, on account of divorces granted by the laws and upheld by Protestants; and only for the influence and good public opinion created by the teaching and opposition of the Catholic Church, it would be much worse. Again, if husbands and wives could separate for this or that fault, they would not be careful in making their choice of the person they wish to marry, nor would their motives be always holy and worthy of the Sacrament.”

Ibid., #403: “…God’s law is also called the natural law. You must be very careful not to confound the marriage laws that the Church makes with the marriage laws that the State makes. When the State makes laws contrary to the laws of God or of the Church, you cannot obey such laws without committing grievous sin. For instance, the State allows divorce; it allows persons to marry again if the husband or wife has been sentenced to imprisonment for life; it does not recognize all the impediments to marriage laid down by the Church. Such laws as these Catholics cannot comply with; but when the State makes laws which regard only the civil effects of marriage, such as refer to the property of the husband or wife, the inheritance of the children, etc., laws, in a word, which are not opposed either to the laws of God or of His Church, then you may and must obey them; for the authorities of the government are our lawful superiors, and must be obeyed in all that is not sin.”

Catechism of St. Pius X (1908): “20 Q. Who has the power to regulate impediments to marriage, to dispense from them, and to judge of the validity of Christian marriage? A. The Church alone has power to regulate impediments to marriage, to judge of the validity of marriage among Christians and to dispense from the impediments which she has placed. 21 Q. Why has the Church alone power to place impediments and to judge of the validity of marriage? A. The Church alone has power to place impediments, to judge of the validity of marriage, and to dispense from the impediments which she has placed, because the contract, being inseparable from the sacrament in a Christian marriage, also comes under the power of the Church, to which alone Jesus Christ gave the right to make laws and give decisions in sacred things. 22 Q. Can the civil authority dissolve the bonds of Christian marriage by divorce? A. No, the bond of Christian marriage cannot be dissolved by the civil authority, because the civil authority cannot interfere with the matter of the sacrament nor can it put asunder what God has joined together. 23 Q. What is a civil marriage? A. It is nothing but a mere formality prescribed by the [civil] law to give and insure the civil effects of the marriage to the spouses and their children. 24 Q. Is it sufficient for a Christian to get only the civil marriage or contract? A. For a Christian, it is not sufficient to get only the civil contract, because it is not a sacrament, and therefore not a true marriage. 25 Q. In what condition would the spouses be who would live together united only by a civil marriage? A. Spouses who would live together united by only a civil marriage would be in an habitual state of mortal sin, and their union would always be illegitimate in the sight of God and of the Church. 26 Q. Should we also get the civil marriage? A. We should perform the civil marriage, because, though it is not a sacrament, it provides the spouses and their children with the civil effects of conjugal society; for this reason, the ecclesiastical authority as a general rule allows the religious marriage only after the formalities prescribed by the civil authorities have been accomplished.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994),#1644-1651: “The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life: ‘so they are no longer two, but one flesh.’ They ‘are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.’ This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together. ‘The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection.’ Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive. By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement ‘until further notice.’ The ‘intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.’ The deepest reason is found in the fidelity of God to his covenant, in that of Christ to his Church. Through the sacrament of Matrimony the spouses are enabled to represent this fidelity and witness to it. Through the sacrament, the indissolubility of marriage receives a new and deeper meaning. It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community. Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble. Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’ the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons: ‘They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace.’”


St. John Chrysostom, “De libello repud.” (P.G., LI, 218)

Theodoretus, on I Cor., vii, 39, 40 (P.G., LXXXII, 275)

St. Ambrose, “in Luc.”, VIII, v, 18 sqq. (P.L., XV, 1855)

St. Jerome, Epist. lx (ad Amand.), n. 3 (P.L., XXII, 562)

Hermas – Shepherd, Book II, 4: “And I said to him, Sir, if anyone has a wife who trusts in the Lord, and if he detect her in adultery, does the man sin if he continue to live with her? And he said to me, As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband commits no transgression in living with her. But if the husband know that his wife has gone astray, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he also is guilty of her crime, and a sharer in her adultery. And I said to him, What then, sir, is the husband to do, if his wife continue in her vicious practices? And he said, The husband should put her away, and remain by himself.But if he put his wife away and marry another, he also commits adultery. And I said to him, What if the woman put away should repent, and wish to return to her husband: shall she not be taken back by her husband? And he said to me, Assuredly. If the husband do not take her back, he sins, and brings a great sin upon himself; for he ought to take back the sinner who has repented. But not frequently. For there is but one repentance to the servants of God. In case, therefore, that the divorced wife may repent, the husband ought not to marry another, when his wife has been put away. In this matter man and woman are to be treated exactly in the same way. Moreover, adultery is committed not only by those who pollute their flesh, but by those who imitate the heathen in their actions. Wherefore if any one persists in such deeds, and repents not, withdraw from him, and cease to live with him, otherwise you are a sharer in his sin. Therefore has the injunction been laid on you, that you should remain by yourselves, both man and woman, for in such persons repentance can take place. But I do not, said he, give opportunity for the doing of these deeds, but that he who has sinned may sin no more. But with regard to his previous transgressions, there is One who is able to provide a cure; for it is He, indeed, who has power over all.”

St. Justin Martyr – First Apology, ch. 25: “Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: Whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart before God. And, If your right eye offend you, cut it out; for it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire. And, Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, commits adultery. And, There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying. So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men. For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things? For Christ called not the just nor the chaste to repentance, but the ungodly, and the licentious, and the unjust; His words being, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. For the heavenly Father desires rather the repentance than the punishment of the sinner.”

St. Clement of Alexandria – Stromata, Book II, ch. 23: “Now that the Scripture counsels marriage, and allows no release from the union, is expressly contained in the law, ‘You shall not put away your wife, except for the cause of fornication’; and it regards as fornication, the marriage of those separated while the other is alive . . . He that takes a woman that has been put away, it is said, commits adultery; and if one puts away his wife, he makes her an adulteress, that is, compels her to commit adultery. And not only is he who puts her away guilty of this, but he who takes her, by giving to the woman the opportunity of sinning; for did he not take her, she would return to her husband.”

Origen – Commentary on Matthew,Book XIV, ch. 23: “But this also, ‘A wife is bound for so long time as her husband lives, but if her husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will, only in the Lord’, was said by Paul in view of our hardness of heart and weakness, to those who do not wish to desire earnestly the greater gifts and become more blessed.But now contrary to what was written, someeven of the rulers of the church have permitted a woman to marry, even when her husband was living, doing contrary to what was written, where it is said, ‘A wife is bound for so long time as her husband lives’, and So then if while her husband lives, she shall be joined to another man she shall be called an adulteress, not indeed altogether without reason, for it is probable this concessionwas permitted in comparison with worse things, contrary to what was from the beginning ordained by law, and written.”

Ibid., ch. 24: “But as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seem to be married to a man, while the former husband is still living, so also the man who seems to marry her who has been put away, does not so much marry her as commit adultery with heraccording to the declaration of our Saviour.”

St. Basil of Ancyra – On the True Integrity of Virginity: “Do you not understand that he who marries a wife who has been dismissed commits adultery?Even if she has been dismissed with just cause, the Scriptures say, her husband is still alive. Then why do you trouble a dismissed wife? Why do you not allow time, to her on the one side to correct the faults that were the reason for her dismissal; and on the other, time to him who dismissed her, so that in his mercy on her in her repentance, he may recover her who is a member of his own body? This you can do instead of preempting the moment of her correction and marrying the dismissed woman while her husband is still alive. Let her be, say the Scriptures. Or better still, let her return to her living spouse and be taken back by him as a spouse become even more beautiful. Or let her, as neither widow nor spouse, undergo chastisement for the sin that obliged her husband to dismiss her. But you, before even understanding the fault that has merited her dismissal and wanting the right to live with her, in an absurd way you render her even more shameless in her sin.In continuing to commit adultery with her as with a stranger, and while her husband still lives, you absurdly stimulate her tendency to sin within her married life.”

St. Jerome – Letter 55: “I find joined to your letter of inquiries a short paper containing the following words: ask him, (that is me,) whether a woman who has left her husband on the ground that he is an adulterer and sodomite and has found herself compelled to take another may in the lifetime of him whom she first left be in communion with the church without doing penance for her fault.As I read the case put, I recall the verse they make excuses for their sins. We are all human and all indulgent to our own faults; and what our own will leads us to do we attribute to a necessity of nature. It is as though a young man were to say, I am over-borne by my body, the glow of nature kindles my passions, the structure of my frame and its reproductive organs call for sexual intercourse. Or again a murderer might say, I was in want, I stood in need of food, I had nothing to cover me. If I shed the blood of another, it was to save myself from dying of cold and hunger. Tell the sister, therefore, who thus enquires of me concerning her condition, not my sentence but that of the apostle. Do you not know, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman which has a husband is bound by the law to her husband, so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress. And in another place: the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.  The apostle has thus cut away every plea and has clearly declared that, if a woman marries again while her husband is living, she is an adulteress. You must not speak to me of the violence of a ravisher, a mother’s pleading, a father’s bidding, the influence of relatives, the insolence and the intrigues of servants, household losses.A husband may be an adulterer or a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife because of his sins; yet he is still her husband and, so long as he lives, she may not marry another. The apostle does not promulgate this decree on his own authority but on that of Christ who speaks in him. For he has followed the words of Christ in the gospel: whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, commits adultery. Mark what he says: whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery. Whether she has put away her husband or her husband her, the man who marries her is still an adulterer. Wherefore the apostles seeing how heavy the yoke of marriage was thus made said to Him: if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry, and the Lord replied, he that is able to receive it, let him receive it. And immediately by the instance of the three eunuchs he shows the blessedness of virginity which is bound by no carnal tie.” (cf. Letter 77.3)

St. Ambrose – Commentary on Luke, XVI (16-18): “‘Whoever forsakes his wife and takes another, is adulterous; and to marry the woman who has been abandoned by her husband is to be adulterous.’ We must first speak, I think, of the law of marriage, in order then to deal with the prohibition of divorce. Some indeed think that all marriage is of God, especially since it is written: ‘What God has united, let man not separate him’ (Matt, XIX, 6). If, then, all marriage is of God, it is not permissible to dissolve any marriage; and how did the Apostle say, ‘If the unbelieving go away, let him go away’ (I Cor. VII, 15)? In which he was admirable: he did not wish that there should remain among the Christians a cause of divorce, and he showed that all marriage is not of God: for the Christians do not unite with the Gentiles by the authority of God, since the law forbids it. But behold Solomon’s word: ‘The fathers share in their sons their house and their goods; but it is God who will prepare man for his wife’ (Prov., XIX, 14). Read in Greek, there is no opposition; because the Greek said precisely: οἶκον καὶ ὕπαρξιν μερίζουσιν πατέρες παισίν παρὰ δὲ θεοῦ ἁρμόζεται γυνὴ ἀνδρί; harmony is indeed called assembly, the union that grants and adapts all things. There is harmony, when the pipes of an instrument grouped with order maintain the agreement of a right melody, when the whole of the strings remains adapted and tuned. Therefore, there is no harmony in a wedding where a Christian husband illegally unites with a pagan woman. So when there is marriage, there is harmony; when there is harmony, it is God who unites; when there is no harmony, there is struggle and dissension: what is not of God, since ‘God is charity’ (I Jn, IV, 8). Beware therefore of repudiating your wife: it would be to deny that God is the author of your union. Indeed, if you must tolerate and amend the morals of others, especially those of your wife. Listen to what the Lord has said: ‘To repudiate his wife is to make her adulterous’ (Matt. V 32). So indeed that it is not permissible for her to change home during her husband’s lifetime, the pleasure of sin can slip into her home. Thus the one who caused his misguidance is guilty and at fault, when the mother wife is sent away with her little ones, when, aged and with a staggering gait, she is thrown out. It is wrong to drive out the mother, to keep the children, adding to the outrage to her love the wound to her affections; more cruel, to hunt because of the mother and at the same time the children, whereas the children should rather buy in the eyes of their father the wrong of the mother. What a risk, to expose to misguidance the weak age of a teenager! How hard, to abandon old age after deflowering youth! It would be better if an emperor dismissed a veteran without paying his services, without honors, by stripping him of the command he possessed, and a farmer expelling from his field the villager exhausted by his work! What is forbidden to the subjects would be allowed with regard to a spouse? You therefore dismiss your wife as of right, without grievance, and you believe it to be permissible because human law does not forbid it; but that of God forbids it. You obey men: fear God. Listen to the law of the Lord, to which those who enact the laws defy themselves: ‘What God has united, let not man separate him.’ But it is not only a precept of heaven that is destroyed here; it’s like a work of God. Will you allow, I pray you, that during your lifetime your children depend on a father-in-law, or, their mother subsisting, live under a stepmother? Suppose the divorced woman does not marry: should she displease you when you were her husband, who keeps you faith, adulteresses? Suppose she gets married: the end where she is accusing you, and what you believe marriage is adultery. What does it matter whether you commit adultery by openly displaying your fault or by pretending to be a husband, except that it is more serious to commit the crime on principle than by stealth. But it may be said, ‘Why did Moses command to give a certificate of repudiation and to dismiss the wife’ (Matt., XIX, 7)? Whoever speaks thus is Jewish; whoever speaks thus is not a Christian; and since he objects to what was objected to the Lord, let the Lord answer him: ‘It is,’ said he, ‘for the hardness of your heart, that Moses allowed you to give a certificate of repudiation and to send away your wives; but in the beginning it was not so’ (Matt., XIX, 8). Moses, he said, allowed; it is not God who has ordained. But in the beginning there is the law of God. What is the law of God? ‘The man will leave father and mother, and he will be attached to his wife, and they will be two in one body’ (Gen., II, 24, Matth., XIX, 5). So to send back his wife is to tear his flesh, it is to share his body. But this passage shows that what was written because of human weakness was not written by God. So the Apostle says, ‘I mean? not me, but the Lord? the wife not to leave her husband’ (I Cor., VII, 10); and lower: “I say to others? me, not the Lord? if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and let him go… ‘(Ib., 12). Thus, when there is unequal marriage, he adds, ‘If the unbeliever withdraws, let him withdraw’ (Ib., 15). At the same time, the Apostle denied that the dissolution of any marriage was in the divine law; he also did not prescribe it; he did not allow abandonment; but he exonerated the abandoned. This as to the moral sense. However, since he has already published the announcement of the Kingdom of God, and having said that not a point of the Law can fall, He added: “Whoever forsakes his wife to take another, is adulterous The Apostle gives us a just warning that this is a great mystery concerning Christ and the Church (Ephesians V 32). So you find there a marriage of which no one can doubt that God has united him, since he says himself: ‘No one comes to me unless my Father, who sent me, draws him’ (Jn, VI, 44). He alone could unite such nuptials, and this is why Solomon says, in the mystical sense: ‘It is God who prepares his wife for man’ (Prov., XIX, 14). The Bridegroom is Christ, the Bride, the Church: wife by love, virgin by chastity. That he, therefore, whom God has drawn to Christ, should not be separated by persecution, diverted by debauchery; that he should not be ravaged by philosophy, corrupted by the Manichean, misled by the Arian, spoiled by the Sabellian. God has united him, that the Jew does not separate him. Adulterers are all who would adulterate the truth of faith and wisdom. ‘What is,’ he says, ‘the act of repudiation of your mother, by which I sent her away’ (Is., L, 1)? You have heard: repudiation; believe there was union. You have heard what the same man said to the people of the Jews: “For your iniquities you have been sold, and for your sins I have sent away your mother” (Ib.). Stay then, you, in the house of the Father; stay with the Bridegroom, strive to please your husband. May your intelligence, by which you have believed in God, be a strong woman, such as the one – the soul in the Church, or the Church – of which Solomon says: ‘The strong woman, who will find her? More precious than precious stones is such a woman; her husband has confidence in her’ (Prov., XXXI, 10 ssq.).”

St. Augustine – De Coniugiis Adulterinis, 1,9,9: “Neither can it rightly be held that a husband who dismisses his wife because of fornication and marries another does not commit adultery [himself]. For there is also adultery on the part of those who, after the repudiation of their former wives because of fornication, marry others. This adultery, nevertheless, is certainly less serious than that of men who dismiss their wives for reasons other than fornication and take other wives… Therefore, when we say: ‘Whoever marries a woman dismissed by her husband for the reason other than fornication commits adultery,’ undoubtedly we speak the truth. But we do not thereby acquit of this crime the man who marries a woman who was dismissed because of fornication. We do not doubt in the least that both are adulterers. We do indeed pronounce him an adulterer who dismisses his wife for cause other than fornication and marries another, nor do we thereby defend from the taint of this sin the man who dismisses his wife because of fornication and marries another.We recognize that both are adulterers,though the sin of one is more grave than that of the other. No one is so unreasonable as to say that a man who marries a woman whose husband has dismissed her because of fornication is not an adulterer, while maintaining that a man who marries a woman dismissed without the ground of fornication is an adulterer. Both of these men are guilty of adultery.”

Ibid., 2,2,4: “Therefore, while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulterous if she be found with another man. But if her husband shall have died, she has been set free from the law, so that she is not an adulterous if she has been with another man’. These words of the Apostle, so often repeated, so often inculcated, are true, living, sound, and clear. A woman begins to be the wife of no later husband unless she has ceased to be the wife of a former one. She will cease to be the wife of a former one, however, if that husband should die, not if he commit fornication.A spouse, therefore, is lawfully dismissed for cause of fornication; but the bond of chastity remains. That is why a man is guilty of adulterer if he marries a woman who has been dismissed even for this very reason of fornication.”

Ibid., On the Good of Marriage, 7: “But I marvel, if, as it is allowed to put away a wife who is an adulteress, so it be allowed, having put her away, to marry another. For holy Scripture causes a hard knot in this matter, in that the Apostle says, that, by commandment of the Lord, the wife ought not to depart from her husband, but, in case she shall have departed, to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to her husband; whereas surely she ought not to depart and remain unmarried, save from an husband that is an adulterer, lest by withdrawing from him, who is not an adulterer, she cause him to commit adultery. But perhaps she may justly be reconciled to her husband, either he being to be borne with, if she cannot contain herself, or being now corrected. But I see not how the man can have permission to marry another, in case he have left an adulteress, when a woman has not to be married to another, in case she have left an adulterer. And, this being the case, so strong is that bond of fellowship in married persons, that, although it be tied for the sake of begetting children, not even for the sake of begetting children is it loosed. For it is in a man’s power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome, neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living: and, surely, in case of an adulteress or adulterer being left, it would be possible that more men should be born, if either the woman were married to another, or the man should marry another. And yet, if this be not lawful, as the Divine Rule seems to prescribe, who is there but it must make him attentive to learn, what is the meaning of this so great strength of the marriage bond? Which I by no means think could have been of so great avail, were it not that there were taken a certain sacrament of some greater matter from out this weak mortal state of men, so that, men deserting it, and seeking to dissolve it, it should remain unshaken for their punishment. Seeing that the compact of marriage is not done away by divorce intervening; so that they continue wedded persons one to another, even after separation; and commit adultery with those, with whom they shall be joined, even after their own divorce, either the woman with a man, or the man with a woman. And yet, save in the City of our God, in His Holy Mount, the case is not such with the wife. But, that the laws of the Gentiles are otherwise, who is there that knows not; where, by the interposition of divorce, without any offense of which man takes cognizance, both the woman is married to whom she will, and the man marries whom he will. And something like this custom, on account of the hardness of the Israelites, Moses seems to have allowed, concerning a bill of divorcement. In which matter there appears rather a rebuke, than an approval, of divorce.”

Ibid., On Marriage and Concupiscence,Book I.X: “It is certainly not fecundity only, the fruit of which consists of offspring, nor chastity only, whose bond is fidelity, but also a certain sacramental bond in marriage which is recommended to believers in wedlock. Accordingly it is enjoined by the apostle: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church. Of this bond the substance undoubtedly is this, that the man and the woman who are joined together in matrimony should remain inseparable as long as they live; and that it should be unlawful for one consort to be parted from the other, except for the cause of fornication. For this is preserved in the case of Christ and the Church; so that, as a living one with a living one, there is no divorce, no separation forever. And so complete is the observance of this bond in the city of our God, in His holy mountain — that is to say, in the Church of Christ— by all married believers, who are undoubtedly members of Christ, that, although women marry, and men take wives, for the purpose of procreating children, it is never permitted one to put away even an unfruitful wife for the sake of having another to bear children. And whosoever does this is held to be guilty of adultery by the law of the gospel; though not by this world’s rule, which allows a divorce between the parties, without even the allegation of guilt, and the contraction of other nuptial engagements — a concession which, the Lord tells us, even the holy Moses extended to the people of Israel, because of the hardness of their hearts. The same condemnation applies to the woman, if she is married to another man. So enduring, indeed, are the rights of marriage between those who have contracted them, as long as they both live, that even they are looked on as man and wife still, who have separated from one another, rather than they between whom a new connection has been formed. For by this new connection they would not be guilty of adultery, if the previous matrimonial relation did not still continue. If the husband die, with whom a true marriage was made, a true marriage is now possible by a connection which would before have been adultery. Thus between the conjugal pair, as long as they live, the nuptial bond has a permanent obligation, and can be cancelled neither by separation nor by union with another. But this permanence avails, in such cases, only for injury from the sin, not for a bond of the covenant. In like manner the soul of an apostate, which renounces as it were its marriage union with Christ, does not, even though it has cast its faith away, lose the sacrament of its faith, which it received in the laver of regeneration. It would undoubtedly be given back to him if he were to return, although he lost it on his departure from Christ. He retains, however, the sacrament after his apostasy, to the aggravation of his punishment, not for meriting the reward.

Ibid., XVII: “In matrimony, however, let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love— offspring, fidelity, the sacramental bond. Offspring, not that it be born only, but born again; for it is born to punishment unless it be born again to life. Fidelity, not such as even unbelievers observe one towards the other, in their ardent love of the flesh. For what husband, however impious himself, likes an adulterous wife? Or what wife, however impious she be, likes an adulterous husband? This is indeed a natural good in marriage, though a carnal one. But a member of Christ ought to be afraid of adultery, not on account of himself, but of his spouse; and ought to hope to receive from Christ the reward of that fidelity which he shows to his spouse. The sacramental bond, again, which is lost neither by divorce nor by adultery, should be guarded by husband and wife with concord and chastity.”

Ibid., Sermon 227 (In die Paschae, IV, Ad Infantes, de Sacramentis): “What is receiving unworthily? Receiving with contempt, receiving with derision. Don’t let yourselves think that what you can see is of no account. What you can see passes away, but the invisible reality signified does not pass away, but remains. Look, it’s received, it’s eaten, it’s consumed. Is the body of Christ consumed, is the Church of Christ consumed, are the members of Christ consumed? Perish the thought! Here they are being purified, there they will be crowned with the victor’s laurels. So what is signified will remain eternally, although the thing that signifies it seems to pass away. So receive the sacrament in such a way that you think about yourselves, that you retain unity in your hearts, that you always fix your hearts up above. Don’t let your hope be placed on earth, but in heaven. Let your faith be firm in God, let it be acceptable to God. Because what you don’t see now, but believe, you are going to see there, where you will have joy without end.”

Ibid., De natura et gratia, ch. 43 (also quoted in Trent, Session 6): “God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He teaches you both to do what you can and to ask what you can not, and He helps you that you may be able.”

St. Basil of Cæsarea, “Epist. can.”, ii, “Ad Amphilochium”: “XXVI. Fornication is not wedlock, nor yet the beginning of wedlock. Wherefore it is best, if possible, to put asunder those who are united in fornication. If they are set on cohabitation, let them admit the penalty of fornication. Let them be allowed to live together, lest a worse thing happen… XXXIV. Women who had committed adultery, and confessed their fault through piety, or were in any way convicted, were not allowed by our fathers to be publicly exposed, that we might not cause their death after conviction. But they ordered that they should be excluded from communion till they had fulfilled their term of penance… XXXV. In the case of a man deserted by his wife, the cause of the desertion must be taken into account. If she appear to have abandoned him without reason, he is deserving of pardon, but the wife of punishment. Pardon will be given to him that he may communicate with the Church… XXXIX. The woman who lives with an adulterer is an adulteress the whole time. XLII. Marriages contracted without the permission of those in authority, are fornication. If neither father nor master be living the contracting parties are free from blame; just as if the authorities assent to the cohabitation, it assumes the fixity of marriage… XLVIII. The woman who has been abandoned by her husband, ought, in my judgment, to remain as she is. The Lord said, If any one leave his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, he causes her to commit adultery (Mt. 5:22); thus, by calling her adulteress, He excludes her from intercourse with another man. For how can the man being guilty, as having caused adultery, and the woman, go without blame, when she is called adulteress by the Lord for having intercourse with another man?”

Ibid., Ethica, Regula 73, c. 2: “It is not lawful for a man to put away his wife and marry another. Nor is it permitted that a man should marry a wife who has been divorced by her husband.”

St. John Chrysostom – Homiliae in Isaiam, 6.3: “I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called ‘communion,’ not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but ‘condemnation,’ ‘torment’ and ‘increase of punishment.’”

Ibid., Sermon 16 on Matthew: “Do you see not, how the commandments, so far from coming of cruelty, come rather of abounding mercy? And if on account of these you call the Lawgiver grievous, and hard to bear with; tell me which sort of command is the more toilsome and grievous, Do no murder, or, Be not even angry? Which is more in extreme, he who exacts a penalty for murder, or for mere anger? He who subjects the adulterer to vengeance after the fact, or he who enjoins a penalty even for the very desire, and that penalty everlasting? See ye not how their reasoning comes round to the very contrary? How the God of the old covenant, whom they call cruel, will be found mild and meek: and He of the new, whom they acknowledged to be good, will be hard and grievous, according to their madness? Whereas we say, that there is but one and the same Legislator of either covenant, who dispensed all meetly, and adapted to the difference of the times the difference between the two systems of law. Therefore neither are the first commandments cruel, nor the second hard and grievous, but all of one and the same providential care.”

Pope St. Leo the Great – Letter 159: “As then you say that through the disasters of war and through the grievous inroads of the enemy families have in certain cases been so broken up that the husbands have been carried off into captivity and their wives remain forsaken, and these latter thinking their own husbands either dead or never likely to be freed from their masters, have contracted another marriage under stress of loneliness, and as, now that the state of things has improved through the Lord’s help, some of those who were thought to have perished have returned, you seem, dear brother, naturally to be in doubt what ought to be settled by us about women thus joined to other husbands. But because we know it is written that a woman is joined to a man by God , and again, we are aware of the precept that what God has joined, man may not put asunder, we are bound to hold that the compact of the lawful marriage must be renewed, and after the removal of the evils inflicted by the enemy, what each lawfully had must be restored to him; and we must take every pains that each should recover what is his own….And, therefore, if husbands who have returned after a long captivity still feel such affection for their wives as to desire them to return to partnership , that, which necessity brought about, must be passed over and judged blameless and the demands of fidelity satisfied. And if any women are so possessed by love of their later husbands as to prefer to remain with them than to return to their lawful partners, they are deservedly to be branded: so that they be even deprived of the Church’s communion; for in a pardonable matter they have chosen to taint themselves with crime, showing that they have sought their own pleasure in their incontinence, when a rightful restitution could have obtained their forgiveness. Let them return then to their former state and make voluntary reparation, nor let that which a condition of necessity extorted from them be by any means turned into disgrace through evil desires; because, as those women who refuse to return to their husbands are to be held unholy, so they who return to an affection entered on with God’s sanction are deservedly to be praised.”

Recent Magisterial Documents

Zoghby, Abp. Elias. Intervention at Vatican II, September 29, 1965. Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi Vol. IV Pars III (Vatican: Typis Polyglottis, 1977), pp. 45-47 (Congregatio Generalis No. 138) 47-48 (written animadversions in French), 257-258 (Congregatio Generalis No. 141). See the reports in Giovani Caprile, Il Concilio Vaticano II, Vol. 5: Quarto Periodo 1965 (Rome: La Civiltà Cattolica, 1969), pp. 130-131, 139-140* (See also the speech of Charles Journet, September 30, 1965, in response, and Zoghby’s second address on October 4, 1965; see also Time Magazine, ***, 1966) (The famous intervention of Archbishop Zoghby suggesting the possibility that D&R could receive the sacraments under certain circumstances.*) FULL TEXT (with Cardinal Journet’s response):

“There is a problem even more agonizing than that of birth control: it is the problem of the innocent spouse who, in the prime of life and through no fault of his or her own, is left alone through the other spouse’s fault.

Shortly after entering into a marriage that seems to be happy, one of the spouses, through weakness or with premeditation, abandons the family and contracts a new union. The innocent spouse comes to his or her pastor or bishop and receives only one answer, “I can do nothing for you. Pray and be resigned to live alone and to practice continence for the rest of your life!” This solution presupposes heroic virtue, a rare faith, and an exceptional temperament. It is not, therefore, a solution that everyone can accept.

The young man or woman who had married because he or she did not feel called to perpetual continence is thus very often driven, in order not to become a bundle of nerves, to contract a new and illegitimate union outside the Church. Although up to then a practicing Catholic, he or she is henceforth doomed to be tortured in conscience. Only one choice is offered: either become an exceptional soul overnight or… perish!

We know on this subject that this solution of perpetual continence is not one for the ordinary Christian. In other words, we know that we leave these young victims without an answer. We ask them to depend on faith that works miracles; but faith that works miracles is not given to everyone. Many among us, bishops of the Church, still have to struggle hard and pray in order to obtain it.

Therefore, the question that these anguished souls are asking the council today is this: has the Church the right to answer an innocent faithful, whatever the nature of the problem that is torturing him or her, “Make the best of it; I have no solution for your case!” Or can the Church in this case offer only an exceptional solution that it knows is meant only for exceptional persons?

The Church has certainly received from Christ sufficient authority to offer all its children the means of salvation proportionate to their strength, and, of course, with the help of divine grace. Heroism, the state of perfection, has never been demanded by Christ under pain of damnation. Christ says, “If you wish to be perfect” … if you wish it!

The Church therefore cannot lack sufficient authority to protect the innocent spouse against the consequences of sins of the other spouse. It does not seem normal that perpetual continence, which belongs to the state of perfection, can be imposed, like a punishment, on the innocent spouse because the other spouse has been unfaithful.

The Eastern Churches have always been aware of having this authority, and they have always exercised it in favor of the innocent spouse.

The bond of matrimony has certainly been made indissoluble by the positive law of Christ, but, as the Gospel of Saint Matthew indicates (5:32, 19:9) “except on the grounds of adultery.” It is up to the Church to judge the meaning of this clause; even though the Church of Rome has always interpreted it in a restrictive sense, the same has not been true in the East, where the Church interpreted it, from the earliest times, in favor of the possible remarriage of an innocent spouse.

It is true that the Council of Trent in its 24th Session (Canon 7 of De Matrimonio) sanctioned the restrictive Roman interpretation. However, it is widely known that the formula adopted at that holy council in that canon has been revised intentionally so as not to exclude the Eastern tradition that followed a practice contrary to that of the Church of Rome. Credit for this is due to the Venetian orators who were well acquainted with the Greek tradition based on the interpretation of the Greek Fathers, and even of certain Western Fathers such as St. Ambrose of Milan .

We know how much the Fathers of the Eastern Church tried to dissuade widowers and widows from a second marriage, thus following the Apostle’s advice, but they have never wished to deprive the innocent spouse who has been unjustly abandoned of the right to remarry. This tradition, preserved in the East, and which was never reproved during the ten centuries of union, could be accepted again and adopted by Catholics. Progress in patristic studies has indeed brought to the fore the doctrine of the Eastern Fathers who were no less qualified exegetes or moralists than the Western ones.

Pastoral concern for sorely tried spouses has been manifested among the Western canonists in another way. By means of a subtle casuistry that sometimes borders on acrobatics, they have applied themselves to detecting all possible impediments that could vitiate the marriage contract. They have certainly done this out of pastoral concern, but the result sometimes been detrimental to souls. For instance, if it happens that after ten or twenty years of marriage a previously unsuspected impediment of affinity is discovered, it is permitted to resolve everything as if by magic. The jurists find this quite normal and natural, but we pastors must admit that it sometimes amazes and scandalizes our faithful.

Is not the tradition of the Eastern Fathers, cited above, more appropriate than these impediments to marriage for granting divine mercy to Christian spouses?

Abuses are always possible, but abuse of authority does not eliminate authority.

In this age of ecumenism and dialogue, may the Catholic Church recognize the immemorial tradition of the Eastern Church, and may theologians apply themselves to the study of this problem, in order to bring a remedy to the anguish of innocent spouses permanently abandoned by their spouses, and in order to deliver them from the danger that seriously threatens their souls.”

The response of Cardinal Journet, September 30 (the next day):

“Venerabile Patres,

Venerable Fathers,

Doctrina Ecclesiae catholicae de indissolubilitate matrimonii sacramentalis est ipsamet doctrina Domini Iesu nobis revelata, et ab ipsa Ecclesia smper servata et annuntiata. Etenum apud Marcum 10, legimus quod cum Pharisaei interrogarent Iesum: “si licet viro uxorem dimittere”, respondit eis: “Quod ergo Deus coniunxit, homo non separet”. Et addidit: “Quicumque dimiserit uxorem suam, et aliam duxerit, adulterium committit super eam. Et si uxor dimiserit virum suum, et alii nupserit, moechatur”.

The doctrine of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony is the very doctrine of the Lord Jesus revealed to us, and conserved and proclaimed by the Church Herself. Therefore, we read in Mark 10, that when the Pharisees asked Jesus: “is it licit to put away one’s wife”, He answered them: “What God has joined, let no man separate”. And He added: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if the wife puts away the husband and marries another, she commits adultery”.

Ipse apostolus Paulus expressis verbis idem docet, nominee non quidem proprio sed ipso nominee Domini (1 Cor., 7:10-11): “Iis autem, qui matrimonio iuncti sunt, praecipio non ego sed Dominus, uxorem a viro non discedere; quod si discesserit, manere innuptam, aut viro suo reconciliari. Et vir uxorem non dimittat”.

The Apostle Paul himself teaches clearly, however not in his own name but in the name of the Lord (1 Cor., 7:10-11): “To those who are married I give this command, not I but the Lord, a wife must not divorce her husband; and if she does, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband. And the husband must not divorce his wife.”

Ex his claris testimoniis, manifestatur non aliam esse doctrinam apud Matthaeum, cap. 5 et 19, ubi legitur clausula: “quicumpque dimiserit uxorem suam nisi ob fornicationem, et aliam duxerit, moechatur.”* Haec clausula potest quidem afferri ad affirmandum quod separatio, ut dicit Paulus, fit licita in casu adulterii; non autem ad concludendum quod novae nuptiae fiant licitae.

From those clear testimonies, it is manifest that no different doctrine is in Matthew 5 and 19 where we read the clause: “Whoever divorces his wife except for the cause of fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.” Therefore, this clause can lead to the affirmation that separation, as Paul says, is licit in the case of adultery: but not to the conclusion that a new marriage is licit.

Aliquae vero Ecclesiae in Oriente admiserunt divortium in casu adulterii, atque permiserunt coniugi innocenti contrahere novum matrimonium. Sed hoc evenit, datis relationibus inter Statum et Ecclesiam illo tempore vigentibus, sub influx legis civilis decernentis legitimitatem divortii et novarum nuptiarum hoc in casu. Etenim “novella Iustiniani” de diversis causis divortii, introducta est in Codicem Ecclesiae Orientalis, sic dictum “nomocanon”…

However, it is true that Churches in the East admitted of divorce in the case of adultery, and permitted the innocent partner to contract a new marriage. But this happened, given the relationship in those times between the State and the Church, under the influence of the civil law which acknowledged the legitimacy of divorce and new marriages in this case. Thus the “novella Iustiniani” about different causes of divorce, was introduced into the Code of the Easter Churches, which is called the “nomocanon”…

Ad iustificandam hanc praxim, illae Orientales Ecclesiae allegaverunt clausulam Matthaei de divortio in casu adulterii.

In order to justify this practice, those Eastern Churches used the clause from Matthew about divorce in the case of adultery.

Cum autem istae Ecclesiae admittant alias causas divortii praeter illam supra adductam, apparet quod secutae sunt in hac re modum agendi potius humanum quam evangelicum.

However if those Churches admit other reasons of divorce besides the one mentioned above, it seems that in this matter they follow human ways of acting rather than the evangelical way of acting.

Quidquid sit de usu harum Ecclesiarum, doctrina ipsa genuina Evangelii de indissolubilitate matrimonii sacramentalis semper viguit in Ecclesia catholica. Ad hanc Ecclesiam non pertinent mutare quae sunt iuris divini.

Whatever be the custom of those Churches, the genuine teaching itself of the Gospels on the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony has always been truly alive in the Catholic Church. This Church is not allowed to change what is of the Divine law.

Ecclesia tamen, cuius non est praecepto Christi non oboedire, respicit cum immensa Dei misericordia situationes infortunatas illas, quae ad vitam heroicam vocant et quae inde solis oculis humanis, non autem coram Deo, sine exitu remanent. Dixi.”

However the Church, to which it is not proper to disobey Christ’s precept, looks with the immense mercy of God on those unhappy situations, which call for heroic life and which for that reason according to human eyes, but not to the heart of God, remain without a solution. I have said it.

On October 2, 1965, Patriarch Maximos IV in La Croix:

“Archbishop Zoghby, like all Fathers of the council, enjoys full freedom to say what he thinks. And although he is our vicar in Egypt, he naturally speaks only for himself personally.

As for me, I knew about this intervention only at the time I heard it at the session of the council.

With respect to the heart of the problem, the Church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage, for, even though in certain cases the innocent spouse is sorely tried because of this law, the whole of family life would be shaken and ruined without this law. Moreover, if divorce in the strict sense were to be allowed on the grounds of adultery, nothing would be easier for less conscientious spouses than to create this cause.

The contrary practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches can be supported by a few texts by certain Fathers. But these texts are contradicted by others and do not in every case constitute a sufficiently constant and universal tradition to induce the Catholic Church to change its discipline on this point.

Nevertheless, this question, with the proper nuances, could have been brought before the council as a serious difficulty to be resolved in the dialogue with Orthodoxy. Yet, presented as it is now, without the necessary precision, it can create confusion in many minds.”

On October 4, 1965, in a new intervention at the council, Archbishop Zoghby:

“Since certain publications have attached too much importance to my last intervention at the council concerning the frequent and unfortunate particular case of the innocent spouse abandoned by his or her spouse, and since they have broadcast the text of this intervention throughout the world, I have asked to speak again in the assembly, not to retract or change what I have said, but to call to mind briefly the following:

1. The purpose of my intervention was strictly pastoral, i.e., to discover a solution to the problem of so many young spouses condemned to live alone, in forced continence, through no fault of their part.

2. I clearly affirmed in my intervention the immutable principle of the indissolubility of marriage, and I intentionally avoided using the word “divorce,” because in Catholic usage this word signifies an infraction of the immutable principle of the indissolubility of marriage.

3. This indissolubility of marriage is so deeply rooted in the tradition of Eastern and Western Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, that it could not be called into question in a conciliar intervention. In fact, Orthodox tradition has always held marriage to be indissoluble, as indissoluble as the union of Christ and His Spouse, the Church, a union that remains the “exemplary model” of the monogamic and sacramental marriage of Christians.

In Orthodox theology, divorce is simply a dispensation granted to the innocent spouse in very clearly defined cases and with a purely pastoral concern, by virtue of what the Orthodox call the “principle of economy,” which signifies “dispensation,” or better, “condescension.” This dispensation does not exclude the principle of indissolubility of marriage. It is even placed at its service, like the dispensation from valid and consummated marriages granted by the Catholic Church by virtue of the Petrine privilege. We shall not speak about the abuses, which are always possible but do not change the theological reality.

4. It is therefore a “dispensation” in favor of the innocent spouse that I was suggesting in my intervention. Referring to the traditional interpretation in the East of Saint Matthew’s texts (Chapters 5 and 19), I envisioned the possibility of adding to the grounds for a dispensation already accepted by the Catholic Church those of fornication and of permanent abandonment of one spouse by the other, to avert the peril of damnation that threatens the innocent spouse. Such a dispensation would not have the effect of placing the validity of the indissolubility of marriage in doubt any more than the other dispensations.

5. This is not a frivolous proposal. It is based on the incontestable authority of the holy Fathers and of the holy Doctors of the Eastern Churches, who cannot without rashness be accused of having yielded to political or human considerations when they interpreted the Lord’s words in the way they did.

6. It is in this perspective, in the East as in the West, of universal fidelity to the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, that the Roman Church, during the long centuries of union as well as after the separation, has not contested the legitimacy of the Eastern discipline favorable to the remarriage of the innocent spouse.

That is the meaning, the tenor of my last intervention at the council. It involves an exegetical, canonical, and pastoral problem that must not be disregarded. As to the opportuneness of accepting new grounds for a dispensation, analogous to those already introduced by virtue of the Petrine privilege, it is up to the Church to decide.”

Letter of Franjo Cardinal Seper (Prefect of the CDF) to the Heads of Episcopal Conferences, “Letter Regarding the Indissolubility of Marriage,” April 11, 1973

This Sacred Congregation, which is responsible for defending the doctrine regarding faith and morals throughout the Catholic world, has been examining with careful attention the dissemination of new opinions which seek to deny or to put in doubt the doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage constantly proposed by the Magisterium of the Church.

These opinions are widespread, not only in books and newspapers, but also beginning to circulate even in seminaries, in Catholic schools, and even in the practices in some ecclesiastical tribunals of this or that Diocese.

Furthermore, these opinions, together with other doctrinal or pastoral explanations, have been advanced here and there as a pretext to justify abuses against the current discipline regarding the administration of the Sacraments to those who live in an irregular union.

Therefore, this Sacred Dicastery examined this problem during its Plenary Meeting of 1972, and issued its mandate, approved by the Supreme Pontiff, exhorting the Bishops to attentively insure that all those entrusted with teaching religion in schools or institutes of any grade, as well as those who serve as officials in ecclesiastical tribunals, remain faithful to the doctrine of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and act in accord with this doctrine in their ecclesiastical tribunals.

Regarding the administration of the Sacraments, local Ordinaries should strive, on one hand, to encourage the observance of the discipline in force in the Church, and on the other hand, to act so that pastors of souls show particular solicitude toward those who live in an irregular union, seeking to resolve these cases through the use of the approved practices of the Church in the internal forum, as well as other just means.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ‘Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful,’ September 14, 1994

4. … 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, 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.

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.’

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.’’ In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.

5. The doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter, are amply presented in the post-conciliar period in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The Exhortation, among other things, reminds pastors that out of love for the truth they are obliged to discern carefully the different situations and exhorts them to encourage the participation of the divorced and remarried in the various events in the life of the Church. At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, ‘founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.’ The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.

6. Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching. Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine.

This does not mean that the Church does not take to heart the situation of these faithful, who moreover are not excluded from ecclesial communion. She is concerned to accompany them pastorally and invite them to share in the life of the Church in the measure that is compatible with the dispositions of divine law, from which the Church has no power to dispense. On the other hand, it is necessary to instruct these faithful so that they do not think their participation in the life of the Church is reduced exclusively to the question of the reception of the Eucharist. The faithful are to be helped to deepen their understanding of the value of sharing in the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass, of spiritual communion, of prayer, of meditation on the Word of God, and of works of charity and justice.

7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissable. Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.

8. It is certainly true that a judgment about one’s own dispositions for the reception of Holy Communion must be made by a properly formed moral conscience. But it is equally true that the consent that is the foundation of marriage is not simply a private decision since it creates a specifically ecclesial and social situation for the spouses, both individually and as a couple. Thus the judgment of conscience of one’s own marital situation does not regard only the immediate relationship between man and God, as if one could prescind from the Church’s mediation, that also includes canonical laws binding in conscience. Not to recognise this essential aspect would mean in fact to deny that marriage is a reality of the Church, that is to say, a sacrament.

9. In inviting pastors to distinguish carefully the various situations of the divorced and remarried, the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio recalls the case of those who are subjectively certain in conscience that their previous marriage, irreparably broken, had never been valid. It must be discerned with certainty by means of the external forum established by the Church whether there is objectively such a nullity of marriage. The discipline of the Church, while it confirms the exclusive competence of ecclesiastical tribunals with respect to the examination of the validity of the marriage of Catholics, also offers new ways to demonstrate the nullity of a previous marriage, in order to exclude as far as possible every divergence between the truth verifiable in the judicial process and the objective truth known by a correct conscience.

Adherence to the Church’s judgment and observance of the existing discipline concerning the obligation of canonical form necessary for the validity of the marriage of Catholics are what truly contribute to the spiritual welfare of the faithful concerned. The Church is in fact the Body of Christ and to live in ecclesial communion is to live in the Body of Christ and to nourish oneself with the Body of Christ. With the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist, communion with Christ the Head can never be separated from communion with his members, that is, with his Church. For this reason, the sacrament of our union with Christ is also the sacrament of the unity of the Church. Receiving Eucharistic Communion contrary to ecclesial communion is therefore in itself a contradiction. Sacramental communion with Christ includes and presupposes the observance, even if at times difficult, of the order of ecclesial communion, and it cannot be right and fruitful if a member of the faithful, wishing to approach Christ directly, does not respect this order.

Cardinal Ratzinger, Concerning Some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1998; extracted from the third part of Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction to Volume 17 of the CDF’s series, On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried)

The Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 14 September 1994 concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful was met with a very lively response across wide sections of the Church. Along with many positive reactions, more than a few critical voices were also heard. The fundamental objections against the teaching and practice of the Church are outlined below in simplified form.

Several of the more significant objections – principally, the reference to the supposedly more flexible practice of the Church Fathers which would be the inspiration for the practice of the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, as well as the allusion to the traditional principles of epikeia and of aequitas canonica – were studied in-depth by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Articles by Professors Pelland, Marcuzzi and Rodriguez Luño, among others, were developed in the course of this study. The main conclusions of the research, which suggest the direction of an answer to the objections, will be briefly summarized here.

1. Some maintain that several passages of the New Testament suggest that the words of Jesus on the indissolubility of marriage allow for a flexible application and cannot be classified in a strictly legal sense.

Several exegetes point out critically that with regard to the indissolubility of marriage, the Magisterium cites almost exclusively one pericope – namely, Mk. 10:11-12 ­– and does not sufficiently take into account other passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the First Letter to the Corinthians. They claim that these biblical passages speak of a certain exception to the Lord’s words about the indissolubility of marriage, notably in the case of porneia (Mt. 5:32; 19:9) and in the case of separation because of the faith (1 Cor. 7:12-16). They hold that these texts should be an indication that, already in apostolic times, Christians in difficult situations had known a flexible application of the words of Jesus.

In replying to this objection, one notes that magisterial documents do not intend to present the biblical foundations of the teachings on marriage in a complete and exhaustive way. They entrust this important task to competent experts. The Magisterium emphasizes, however, that the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage is faithful to the words of Jesus. Jesus clearly identifies the Old Testament practice of divorce as a consequence of the hardness of the human heart. He refers – over and above the law – to the beginning of creation, to the will of the Creator, and summarizes his teaching with the words: ‘Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate,’ (Mk. 10:9). With the coming of the Redeemer, marriage is therefore restored to its original form intended at creation and is wrested away from human arbitrariness – above all from the whim of the husband, since for wives there really was no possibility of divorce. Jesus’ words on the indissolubility of marriage overcome the old order of the law with the new order of faith and grace. Only in this way can marriage fully become a God-given vocation to love and human dignity and the sign of the unconditional covenant of divine love, i.e., a sacrament (cf. Eph. 5:32).

The possibility of separation, which Paul discusses in 1 Cor. 7, regards marriage between a Christian and a non-baptized person. Later theological reflection has clarified that only marriages between baptized persons are a sacrament in the strict sense of the word, and that absolute indissolubility holds only for those marriages falling within the scope of Christian faith. So-called ‘natural marriage’ has its dignity from the order of creation and is therefore oriented toward indissolubility, but it can be dissolved under certain circumstances because of a higher good – which in this case is faith. This is how systematic theology correctly classified St. Paul’s reference as the privilegium paulinum, that is, the possibility of dissolving a non-sacramental marriage for the good of the faith. The indissolubility of a truly sacramental marriage remains safeguarded; it is not therefore an exception to the word of the Lord. We will come back to this later.

Extensive literature exists regarding the correct understanding of the porneia clauses, with many differing and even conflicting hypotheses. There is no unanimity among exegetes on this point. Many maintain that it refers to invalid marital unions, not to an exception to the indissolubility of marriage. In any case, the Church cannot construct her doctrine and praxis on uncertain exegetical hypotheses. She must adhere to the clear teaching of Christ.

2. Others object that the patristic tradition leaves room for a more varied praxis, which would be more equitable in difficult situations; furthermore, the Catholic Church could learn from the principle of ‘economy’ employed by Eastern Churches separated from Rome.

It is claimed that the current Magisterium relies on only one strand of the patristic tradition, and not on the whole legacy of the ancient Church. Although the Fathers clearly held fast to the doctrinal principle of the indissolubility of marriage, some of them tolerated a certain flexibility on the pastoral level with regard to difficult individual cases. On this basis Eastern Churches separated from Rome later developed alongside the principle of akribia, fidelity to revealed truth, that of oikonomia, benevolent leniency in difficult situations. Without renouncing the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, in some cases they permit a second and even a third marriage, which is distinct, however, from the sacramental first marriage and is marked by a penitential character. Some say that this practice has never been explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church. They claim that the 1980 Synod of Bishops proposed to study this tradition thoroughly, in order to allow the mercy of God to be more resplendent.

Father Pelland’s study points out the direction in which the answers to these questions can be sought. Naturally, for the interpretation of individual patristic texts, the work of historians is necessary. Because of the difficult textual issues involved, controversies will not be lacking in the future. Theologically, one must affirm the following:

a. There exists a clear consensus among the Fathers regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Since it derives from the will of the Lord, the Church has no authority over it. For this reason, from the outset Christian marriage was distinct from marriage in Roman society, even though in the first centuries there did not yet exist any canonical system. The Church in the time of the Fathers clearly excluded divorce and remarriage, precisely out of faithful obedience to the New Testament.

b. In the Church at the time of the Fathers, divorced and remarried members of the faithful were never officially admitted to Holy Communion after a time of penance. It is true, however, that the Church did not always rigorously revoke concessions in certain territories, even when they were identified as not in agreement with her doctrine and discipline. It also seems true that individual Fathers, Leo the Great being among them, sought pastoral solutions for rare borderline cases.

c. This led to two opposing developments:

– In the Imperial Church after Constantine, with the ever stronger interplay between Church and State, a greater flexibility and readiness for compromise in difficult marital situations was sought. Up until the Gregorian reform, a similar tendency was present in Gallic and Germanic lands. In the Eastern churches separated from Rome, this development progressed farther in the second millennium and led to an increasingly more liberal praxis. Today in some of these churches there are numerous grounds for divorce, even a theology of divorce, which is in no way compatible with Jesus’ words regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Without fail, this problem must be addressed in ecumenical dialogue.

– In the West, on account of the Gregorian reform, the original concept of the Church Fathers was recovered. This development came to its conclusion at the Council of Trent and was once again expressed as a doctrine of the Church at the Second Vatican Council.

On doctrinal grounds, the praxis of the Eastern churches separated from Rome cannot be taken up by the Catholic Church, as it is the result of a complex historical process, an increasingly liberal – and thus more and more removed from the words of the Lord – interpretation of several obscure patristic texts which were significantly influenced by civil law. Furthermore, the claim is incorrect that the Church simply tolerated such a praxis. Admittedly, the Council of Trent did not pronounce any explicit condemnation. The medieval canonists, however, consistently spoke of the praxis as improper. Furthermore, there is evidence that groups of Orthodox believers who became Catholic had to sign a profession of faith with an explicit reference to the impossibility of a second marriage.

3. Many propose to allow exceptions to the Church’s norm on the basis of the traditional principles of epikeia and aequitas canonica.

Certain marriage cases, it is said, cannot be handled in the external forum. Some claim that the Church should not simply rely on juridical norms, but on the contrary ought to respect and tolerate the conscience of the individual. They say that theological notions of epikeia and aequitas canonica could serve to justify, from moral theology as well as juridically, a decision of conscience at variance from the general norm. Especially regarding the question of receiving the sacraments, they claim that the Church should take some steps forward and not just issue prohibitions to the faithful.

The contributions made by Professor Marcuzzi and Professor Rodríguez Luño throw light on his complex problem. To this end, there are three areas of inquiry which clearly need to be distinguished from each other:

a. Epikeia and aequitas canonica exist in the sphere of human and purely ecclesiastical norms of great significance, but cannot be applied to those norms over which the Church has no discretionary authority. The indissoluble nature of marriage is one of these norms which goes back to Christ Himself and is thus identified as a norm of divine law. The Church cannot sanction pastoral practices – for example, sacramental pastoral practices – which contradict the clear instruction of the Lord.

In other words, if the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception.

b. However the Church has the authority to clarify those conditions which must be fulfilled for a marriage to be considered indissoluble according to the sense of Jesus’ teaching. In line with the Pauline assertion in 1 Cor. 7, she established that only two baptized Christians can enter into a sacramental marriage. She developed the legal concept of the Pauline privilege and the Petrine privilege. With reference to the porneia clauses in Matthew and in Acts15:20, the impediments to marriage were established. Furthermore, grounds for the nullity of marriage were identified with ever greater clarity, and the procedural system was developed in greater detail. All of this contributed to delineating and articulating more precisely the concept of the indissolubility of marriage. One can say that, in this way, the Western Church also made allowance for the principle of oikonomia, but without touching the indissolubility of marriage as such. The further juridical development of the 1983 Code of Canon Law was in this same direction, granting probative force to the declarations of the parties. Therefore, according to experts in this area, it seems that cases in which an invalid marriage cannot be shown to be such by the procedural are practically excluded.

Since marriage has a fundamental public ecclesial character and the axiom applies that nemo iudex in propria causa (no one is judge in his own case), marital cases must be resolved in the external forum. If divorced and remarried members of the faithful believe that their prior marriage was invalid, they are thereby obligated to appeal to the competent marriage tribunal so that the question will be examined objectively and under all available juridical possibilities.

c. Admittedly, it cannot be excluded that mistakes occur in marriage cases. In some parts of the Church, well-functioning marriage tribunals still do not exist. Occasionally, such cases last an excessive amount of time. Once in a while they conclude with questionable decisions. Here it seems that the application of epikeia in the internal forum is not automatically excluded from the outset. This is implied in the 1994 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which it was stated that new canonical ways of demonstrating nullity should exclude ‘as far as possible’ every divergence from the truth verifiable in the judicial process (cf. No. 9). Some theologians are of the opinion that the faithful ought to adhere strictly even in the internal forum to juridical decisions which they believe to be false. Others maintain that exceptions are possible here in the internal forum, because the juridical forum does not deal with norms of divine law, but rather with norms of ecclesiastical law. This question, however, demands further study and clarification. Admittedly, the conditions for asserting an exception would need to be clarified very precisely, in order to avoid arbitrariness and to safeguard the public character of marriage, removing it from subjective decisions.

4. Some accuse the current Magisterium of reversing the doctrinal development of the Council and of substituting a pre-conciliar view of marriage.

Some theologians claim that at the new magisterial documents having to do with questions of marriage are based on a naturalistic, legalistic concept of marriage. Attention is given to the contract between the spouses and to the ius in corpus. It is claimed that the Council overturned this static understanding and described marriage in a more personalistic way as a covenant of love and life. Thus it would have opened up possibilities for resolving difficult situations more humanely. Thinking further along this line, some scholars pose the question of whether or not one could speak of the death of the marriage, if the personal bond of love between the spouses no longer exists. Others resurrect the old question of whether or not the Pope would have the capability of dissolving marriage in such cases.

Yet anyone who attentively reads the more recent statements of the Church will note that their central assertions are based on Gaudium et spes and that they further develop the teaching contained therein in a thoroughly personalist line, in the direction indicated by the Council. However, it is inappropriate to set up a contradiction between the personalist and juridical views of marriage. The Council did not break with the traditional concept of marriage, but on the contrary developed it further. When, for example, it is continually pointed out that the Council substituted the broader and theologically more profound concept of covenant for the strictly legal concept of contract, one must not forget that within covenant, the element of contract is also contained and indeed placed within a broader perspective. The fact that marriage reaches well beyond the purely juridical realm into the depths of humanity and into the mystery of the divine, has always been indicated by the word ‘sacrament,’ although often it has not been pondered with the same clarity which the Council gave to these aspects. Law is not everything, but it is an indispensable part, one dimension of the whole. Marriage without a juridical dimension which integrates it into the whole fabric of society and the Church simply does not exist. If the post-Conciliar revision of canon law included the realm of marriage, this is not a betrayal of the Council, but the implementation of its mandate.

If the Church were to accept the theory that a marriage is dead when the two spouses no longer love one another, then she would thereby sanction divorce and would uphold the indissolubility of marriage only in word, and no longer in fact. Therefore, the opinion that the Pope could potentially dissolve a consummated sacramental marriage, which has been irrevocably broken, must be considered erroneous. Such a marriage cannot be dissolved by anyone. At their wedding, the spouses promise to be faithful to each other until death.

Further study is required, however, concerning the question of whether non-believing Christians – baptized persons who never or who no longer believe in God – can truly enter into a sacramental marriage. In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Code states that only a ‘valid’ marriage between baptized persons is at the same time a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055, § 2). Faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament; what remains to be clarified is the juridical question of what evidence of the ‘absence of faith’ would have as a consequence that the sacrament does not come into being.

5. Many argue that the position of the Church on the question of divorced and remarried faithful is overly legalistic and not pastoral.

A series of critical objections against the doctrine and praxis of the Church pertain to questions of a pastoral nature. Some say, for example, that the language used in the ecclesial documents is too legalistic, that the rigidity of law prevails over an understanding of dramatic human situations. They claim that the human person of today is no longer able to understand such language, that Jesus would have had an open ear for the needs of people, particularly for those on the margins of society. They say that the Church, on the other hand, presents herself like a judge who excludes wounded people from the sacraments and from certain public responsibilities.

One can readily admit that the Magisterium’s manner of expression does not seem very easy to understand at times. It needs to be translated by preachers and catechists into a language which relates to people and to their respective cultural environments. The essential content of the Church’s teaching, however, must be upheld in this process. It must not be watered down on allegedly pastoral grounds, because it communicates the revealed truth.

Certainly, it is difficult to make the demands of the Gospel understandable to secularized people. But this pastoral difficulty must not lead to compromises with the truth. In his Encyclical Veritatis splendor,John Paul II clearly rejected so-called pastoral solutions which stand in opposition to the statements of the Magisterium (cf. ibid. 56).

Furthermore, concerning the position of the Magisterium as regards the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful, it must be stressed that the more recent documents of the Church bring together the demands of truth with those of love in a very balanced way. If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (Jn.8:32).

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (24 June, 2000): “Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who Are Divorced and Remarried

The Code of Canon Law establishes that “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (can. 915). In recent years some authors have sustained, using a variety of arguments, that this canon would not be applicable to faithful who are divorced and remarried. It is acknowledged that paragraph 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, issued in 1981, had reiterated that prohibition in unequivocal terms and that it has been expressly reaffirmed many times, especially in paragraph 1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, and in the Letter written in 1994 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Annus internationalis Familiae. That notwithstanding, the aforementioned authors offer various interpretations of the above-cited canon that exclude from its application the situation of those who are divorced and remarried. For example, since the text speaks of “grave sin”, it would be necessary to establish the presence of all the conditions required for the existence of mortal sin, including those which are subjective, necessitating a judgment of a type that a minister of Communion could not make ab externo; moreover, given that the text speaks of those who “obstinately” persist in that sin, it would be necessary to verify an attitude of defiance on the part of an individual who had received a legitimate warning from the Pastor. Given this alleged contrast between the discipline of the 1983 Code and the constant teachings of the Church in this area, this Pontifical Council, in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments declares the following:

1. The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: “This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself.”

This text concerns in the first place the individual faithful and their moral conscience, a reality that is expressed as well by the Code in can. 916. But the unworthiness that comes from being in a state of sin also poses a serious juridical problem in the Church: indeed the canon of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches that is parallel to can. 915 CIC of the Latin Church makes reference to the term “unworthy”: “Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist” (can. 712). In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.

2. Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (cfr. can. 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance.

The phrase “and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable. The three required conditions are:

a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability;

b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.

c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.

Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – “to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses” (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo.

3. Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.

The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.

4. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.

5. The Church reaffirms her maternal solicitude for the faithful who find themselves in this or other analogous situations that impede them from being admitted to the Eucharistic table. What is presented in this Declaration is not in contradiction with the great desire to encourage the participation of these children in the life of the Church, in the many forms compatible with their situation that are already possible for them. Moreover, the obligation of reiterating this impossibility of admission to the Eucharist is required for genuine pastoral care and for an authentic concern for the well-being of these faithful and of the whole Church, being that it indicates the conditions necessary for the fullness of that conversion to which all are always invited by the Lord, particularly during this Holy Year of the Great Jubilee.

John Paul II, encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17, 2003), AAS 95 (2003) 433-455

37. The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion [c. 915]. AAS 95: 458

Cardinal Ratzinger’s Memorandum, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” 2004

6. When ‘these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,’ and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, ‘the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it’ (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ Declaration ‘Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics’ [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (Pope Benedict XVI, February 22, 2007)

29. If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church’s pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved. The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2-12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.

When legitimate doubts exist about the validity of the prior sacramental marriage, the necessary investigation must be carried out to establish if these are well-founded. Consequently there is a need to ensure, in full respect for canon law, the presence of local ecclesiastical tribunals, their pastoral character, and their correct and prompt functioning. Each Diocese should have a sufficient number of persons with the necessary preparation, so that the ecclesiastical tribunals can operate in an expeditious manner. I repeat that ‘it is a grave obligation to bring the Church’s institutional activity in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful.’ At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but ‘a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful.’ Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God’s law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church’s established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.

Given the complex cultural context which the Church today encounters in many countries, the Synod also recommended devoting maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honouring. The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.

Miscellaneous (Older texts)

The Didache, ch. 14: “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”

Gratian – C.18, c. XXIII, q. 7 “The passage of Gregory must be regarded as completely contrary to the sacred canons and even to evangelical and apostolic doctrine.”(cf. Pope St. Gregory II, Ad Varias Bonifatii consultationis, epistula III: “As to what a man shall do if his wife is unable through illness to allow him his marital rights, it would be better if he remained apart and practiced continence. But since this is practicable only in the case of men of high ideals, the best course if he is unable to be continent would be for him to marry. Nevertheless, he should continue to support the woman who is sick, unless she has contracted the disease through her own fault.” However, it is possible Gregory was speaking of marriage ratum-et-tantum, which would easily solve the difficulty.)

Peter Lombard – IV Sent., dist. xxxiii, 3

St. Albert the GreatCommentary on Matthew ch. 5 (p. 94-100), ch. 19 (127-9); Commentary on Luke ch. 16 (p. 210); Commentary on Mark ch. 10 (p. 108-15)

Ibid., Commentary on the Sentences, IV

St. Thomas AquinasCommentary on Matthew, Book V, Lectio 7 (trans. Fr. Paul M. Kimball): And it hath been said. Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. After having fulfilled the prohibitive precepts of the Law, the Lord now fulfills the permissive precepts of the Law. And this part is divided into two parts. Firstly, He fulfills the Law as to the permissive precepts, which pertain to God, and secondly, He fulfills those which pertain to one’s neighbor, where it is said, You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye. The first part is divided into two sections. In the first section, He fulfills the permissive precept concerning the bill of divorce, and in the second section, another which is concerning an oath, where it is said, Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, thou shalt not forswear thyself. In the first section He does two things: firstly, He relates the words of the Law, and secondly, He relates their fulfillment, where it is said, But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, etc.

He says, therefore, It hath been said. Whosoever shall put away his wife, etc. This precept is found in Deut. 24, 1. Here there is a question. If someone shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce.

This is the precept, but there is a permission to put away one’s wife. Certainly Moses permitted this, but he did not command it. Now permission is multiple, namely: permission of concession, when lawful things are allowed, as for example, a monk is allowed by his abbot to visit his father; permission of dispensation, when things which are not lawful become lawful through a dispensation, as for example, a monk is permitted by dispensation to eat meat with others; permission of indulgence, when something lawful is permitted whose opposite is better, as for example, the permission of the Apostle for second marriages and yet continence of widowhood is better (and according to this you resolve what is said in the Gloss, namely, that the Apostles commanded second marriages, meaning that they permitted them: or it is a command if you do not wish to be continent, otherwise it would not oblige as a precept); permission of forbearance, as when God permits some evils to occur, although He always produces some good; and permission of tolerance, when some evil tolerated, lest it become worse, as is the case here. Whosoever shall put away his wife. Is not the inseparability of marriage from the law of nature? But is this, also, what was in the Mosaic law through dispensation: let him give her a bill of divorce, in which the reasons for the divorce were written? Or [the reason for the bill] is otherwise, according to Josephus. or it is thus according to Augustine, namely, that the reason why the bill was written was in order to cause a delay, so that the husband might be dissuaded by the counsel of the notaries to refrain from his purpose of divorce. According to Jerome on this passage, the reason for permission being given for divorcing a wife was the avoidance of wife-murder.

But was it lawful for the divorced wife to remarry? But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery. But there is a question: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for the cause of fornication? And it seems that it is not lawful, because evil ought not to be returned for evil. I answer, saying that the Lord allowed a man to put away his wife on account of fornication as a punishment for the one who was unfaithful. But is one bound by the precept to do this?

I answer that the putting away of a wife guilty of fornication was prescribed in order that the wife’s crime might be corrected. But can a man put her away on his own judgment? he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery, because the man that shall marry her is supervenient to marriage.

Ibid., Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 77, a. 6-8; Q. 94, a. 6; Q. 154, a. 2, a. 8; III, Q. 40, a. 3-4, a. 6; Q. 80, a. 1, a. 3-6, a. 9; III Suppl., Q. 67, a. 1-4

Ibid., Commentary on the Sentences, IV, dist. ix, q. I, a. 5 qc. 1 co; dist. xxxiii, q. ii, a. 1; dist. ilvi, q. I a. 1

Ibid., Lauda Sion: “Both the wicked and the good/Eat of this celestial food/But with ends how opposite/Here is life and there is death/The same yet issuing to each/In a difference infinite.” (Sumunt boni, sumunt mali/Sorte tamen inaequali/Vitae vel interitus/Mors est malis, vita bonis/Vide paris sumptionis/Quam sit dispar exitus.)

Ibid., Commentary on 1 Timothy (2:5): “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, for some efficaciously, but for all sufficiently, since the price of His blood is sufficient for the salvation of all.”

Ibid., Commentary on Ephesians (3:7): “The help of grace is twofold: one, indeed, accompanies the power; the other, the act. But God gives the power, infusing the virtue and grace whereby man is made capable and apt for the operation; whereas He confers the operation itself according as He works in us interiorly, moving and urging us to good.”

St. Bonaventure – IV Sent., dist. xxxiii, art. 3, Q, I*

St. Bede – Commentary on Mark 10: “For a wife to be dismissed, there is only one carnal cause and that is fornication and there is only one spiritual cause and that is fear of God, as it is read that many have done for religious motives. But there is no cause allowed by the law of God whereby a man may marry another woman while the wife whom he has deserted is still alive.”

Pope Innocent I, Epistle VI.12 to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse: “You have also asked about those who, after divorce, have married again. It is clear that both parties are adulterers. Those who, while the wife is living, although their marriage has been dissolved, hasten to another union cannot be other than adulterers: so much so that the woman to whom the persons in question have united themselves, have themselves evidently committed adultery, according to that which we read in the Gospel: ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another, commits adultery: likewise ‘he that married her when she is put away, commits adultery.’ All such then are to be debarred from the communion of the faithful.”

Ibid., Epist. Ad Vict. Rotham: “In respect to all cases the rule is kept that whoever marries another man, while her husband is still alive, must be held to be an adulteress, and must be granted no leave to do penance unless one of the men shall have died.”

Pope John VIII, Patrologia Latina, 126.746: “To those men who, as you say, abandon their wives contrary to the precept of the Lord, we command that a husband shall not leave his wife or a wife leave her husband except for fornication. If either one has left for this reason, each shall remain single or be reconciled to each other, for the Lord says: ‘what God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Therefore, as a husband cannot abandon his first wife with whom he was united in legitimate marriage, so also he is not permitted for any reason whatsoever to take another wife while his first wife is still living. If he should do this and does not amend his ways, then he is to be excluded from the community of the Church.”

Pope Zacharias, Letter to Pepin and the Frankish Bishops (January 5, 747), ch.7: “If any layman shall put away his own wife and marry another, or if he shall marry a woman who has been put away by another man, let him be deprived of communion.”

St. Robert Bellarmine – Controvers. De matrim., I, xvii

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, ch. 2, “God Gives to All the Just the Grace Necessary for Observance of the Commandments and to All Sinners the Grace Necessary for Conversion”

Sanchez, De matrim., X, disp. i. n. 7

Palmieri, De matrimonio Christ. (1880)

Wernz, Jus decretalium, IV , n. 696, not. 12

Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, Proposition 67 (cf. Propositions 65-74): “According to the natural law the bond of marriage is not indissoluble, and in certain cases divorce in the strict sense can be sanctioned by civil authority.”

Ibid., Allocution “Acerbissimus vobiscum,” (September 27, 1857): “We say nothing about that other decree in which, after completely despising the mystery, dignity, and sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony; after utterly ignoring and distorting its institution and nature; and after completely spurning the power of the Church over the same sacrament, it was proposed, according to the already condemned errors of heretics, and against the teaching of the Catholic Church, that marriage should be considered as a civil contract only, and that divorce, strictly speaking, should be sanctioned in various cases; and that all matrimonial cases should be deferred to lay tribunals and be judged by them; because no Catholic is ignorant or cannot know that matrimony is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ the Lord, and that for that reason, there can be no marriage between the faithful without there being at one and the same time a sacrament, and that, therefore, any other union of man and woman among Christians, except the sacramental union, even if contracted under the power of any civil law, is nothing else than a disgraceful and death-bringing concubinage very frequently condemned by the Church, and, hence, that the sacrament can never be separated from the conjugal agreement, and that it pertains absolutely to the power of the Church to discern those things which can pertain in any way to the same matrimony.”

Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum, §27: “These many and glorious fruits were ever the product of marriage, so long as it retained those gifts of holiness, unity, and indissolubility from which proceeded all its fertile and saving power; nor can anyone doubt but that it would always have brought forth such fruits, at all times and in all places, had it been under the power and guardianship of the Church, the trustworthy preserver and protector of these gifts. But, now, there is a spreading wish to supplant natural and divine law by human law; and hence has begun a gradual extinction of that most excellent ideal of marriage which nature herself had impressed on the soul of man, and sealed, as it were, with her own seal; nay, more, even in Christian marriages this power, productive of so great good, has been weakened by the sinfulness of man. Of what advantage is it if a state can institute nuptials estranged from the Christian religion, which is the mother of all good, cherishing all sublime virtues, quickening and urging us to everything that is the glory of a lofty and generous soul? When the Christian religion is reflected and repudiated, marriage sinks of necessity into the slavery of man’s vicious nature and vile passions and finds but little protection in the help of natural goodness. A very torrent of evil has flowed from this source, not only into private families, but also into States. For, the salutary fear of God being removed, and there being no longer that refreshment in toil which is nowhere more abounding than in the Christian religion, it very often happens, as indeed is natural, that the mutual services and duties of marriage seem almost unbearable; and thus very many yearn for the loosening of the tie which they believe to be woven by human law and of their own will, whenever incompatibility of temper, or quarrels, or the violation of the marriage vow, or mutual consent, or other reasons induce them to think that it would be well to be set free. Then, if they are hindered by law from carrying out this shameless desire, they contend that the laws are iniquitous, inhuman, and at variance with the rights of free citizens; adding that every effort should be made to repeal such enactments, and to introduce a more humane code sanctioning divorce.”

Ibid., §33: “It must consequently be acknowledged that the Church has deserved exceedingly well of all nations by her ever watchful care in guarding the sanctity and the indissolubility of marriage. Again, no small amount of gratitude is owing to her for having, during the last hundred years, openly denounced the wicked laws which have grievously offended on this particular subject; as well as for her having branded with anathema the baneful heresy obtaining among Protestants touching divorce and separation;(52) also, for having in many ways condemned the habitual dissolution of marriage among the Greeks; for having declared invalid all marriages contracted upon the understanding that they may be at some future time dissolved;(54) and, lastly, for having, from the earliest times, repudiated the imperial laws which disastrously favored divorce.”

Ibid., §41: “In the great confusion of opinions, however, which day by day is spreading more and more widely, it should further be known that no power can dissolve the bond of Christian marriage whenever this has been ratified and consummated; and that, of a consequence, those husbands and wives are guilty of a manifest crime who plan, for whatever reason, to be united in a second marriage before the first one has been ended by death. When, indeed, matters have come to such a pitch that it seems impossible for them to live together any longer, then the Church allows them to live apart, and strives at the same time to soften the evils of this separation by such remedies and helps as are suited to their condition; yet she never ceases to endeavor to bring about a reconciliation, and never despairs of doing so. But these are extreme cases; and they would seldom exist if men and women entered into the married state with proper dispositions, not influenced by passion, but entertaining right ideas of the duties of marriage and of its noble purpose; neither would they anticipate their marriage by a series of sins drawing down upon them the wrath of God.”

Rituale Romanum, 49 (1614): “All the faithful are to be admitted to Holy Communion, except those who are prohibited for a just reason. The publicly unworthy, which are the excommunicated, those under interdict, and the manifestly infamous, such as prostitutes, those cohabiting, usurers, sorcerers, fortune-tellers, blasphemers and other sinners of the public kind, are, however, to be prevented, unless their penitence and amendment has been established and they will have repaired the public scandal.”

St. Francis of Assisi, Exhortation to the Clergy: “[The Eucharist] is placed and left by many [clergy] in dirty places, carried about unbecomingly, received unworthily, and administered to others without discernment . . . Let us, therefore, amend our ways quickly and firmly in these and all other matters . . . All the clergy are forever bound to observe all these things above everything else. And whoever does not do so, let him know he must render an accounting on the day of judgment before our Lord Jesus Christ.”

O’Farrell, Bp. Michael, “Sermon on Christian Marriage (Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884), in The Memorial Volume: A History of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, November 9 – December 7, 1884. Regis: University of Toronto, 1885

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – Testimony to the Power of Grace: On the Indissolubility of Marriage and the Debate Concerning the Civilly Remarried and the Sacraments (in L’Osservatore Romano, October 23, 2013): “It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion. This argument, based on a problematical concept of ‘conscience,’ was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994. Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth. In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them ‘not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it’ (Veritatis Splendor, 64). If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals. Marriage is not simply about the relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are incorporated by faith and baptism. ‘If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception’ (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ‘The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth’ L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4).

The teaching on epikeia, too – according to which a law may be generally valid, but does not always apply to concrete human situations – may not be invoked here, because in the case of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage we are dealing with a divine norm that is not at the disposal of the Church. Nevertheless – as we see from the privilegium Paulinum – the Church does have the authority to clarify the conditions that must be fulfilled for an indissoluble marriage, as taught by Jesus, to come about. On this basis, the Church has established impediments to marriage, she has recognized grounds for annulment, and she has developed a detailed process for examining these.

A further case for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in terms of mercy. Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. This is correct, but it misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental theology. The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same. An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man. Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her ‘Go and do not sin again’ (Jn 8:11). God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.”

John Paul II – Letter to Cardinal Baum (March 22, 1996); cited in footnote 364 of Amoris Laetitia, regarding the threshold of purpose of amendment for valid absolution: “5. Partly because of the mistaken reduction of moral value to the so-called “fundamental option” alone, partly because of the equally mistaken reduction of the content of the moral law solely to the precept of charity, often vaguely understood with the exclusion of other sins, and partly and perhaps this is the most widespread reason for such behaviour because of an arbitrary, reductive interpretation of the “freedom of the children of God”, claimed as a private, confidential relationship prescinding from the Church’s mediation, unfortunately many of the faithful today approach the sacrament of Penance without making a complete accusation of their mortal sins in the sense just mentioned by the Council of Trent. Sometimes they react to the priest confessor, who dutifully questions them about the necessary completeness, as if he were allowing himself an undue intrusion into the sanctuary of conscience. I hope and pray that these unenlightened faithful will be convinced, also by virtue of this present teaching, that the norm requiring completeness in kind and number, insofar as can be known from an honestly examined memory, is not a burden imposed on them arbitrarily, but a means of liberation and serenity.

No repentance without purpose of amendment

It is also self-evident that the accusation of sins must include the serious intention not to commit them again in the future. If this disposition of soul is lacking, there really is no repentance: this is in fact a question of moral evil as such, and so not taking a stance opposed to a possible moral evil would mean not detesting evil, not repenting. But as this must stem above all from sorrow for having offended God, so the intention of not sinning must be based on divine grace, which the Lord never fails to give anyone who does what he can to act honestly.

If we wished to rely only on our own strength, or primarily on our own strength, the decision to sin no more, with a presumed self-sufficiency, almost a Christian Stoicism or revived Pelagianism, we would offend against that truth about man with which we began, as though we were to tell the Lord, more or less consciously, that we did not need him. It should also be remembered that the existence of sincere repentance is one thing, the judgement of the intellect concerning the future is another: it is indeed possible that, despite the sincere intention of sinning no more, past experience and the awareness of human weakness makes one afraid of falling again; but this does not compromise the authenticity of the intention, when that fear is joined to the will, supported by prayer, of doing what is possible to avoid sin.

6. And here we should again consider the trust which should accompany the detestation of sin, the humble accusation of it and the firm will to sin no more. Trust is the possible and necessary exercise of supernatural Hope, by which we expect from God’s Goodness, through his promises and through the merits of Jesus Christ the Saviour, eternal life and the graces necessary to attain it. It is also an act of that esteem we owe ourselves as creatures of God, who has already ennobled us by nature above all material creation, elevated us to Grace and mercifully redeemed us; it is an incentive to commit ourselves with all our strength, wherever lack of trust is scepticism and paralyzing frigidity.”

John Paul II – “Address to the Pontifical Council for the Family” (January 24, 1997): “3. As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, the divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion since “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” (n. 84). And this is by virtue of the very authority of the Lord, Shepherd of Shepherds, who always seeks his sheep. It is also true with regard to Penance, whose twofold yet single meaning of conversion and reconciliation is contradicted by the state of life of divorced and remarried couples who remain such.

However, there are many appropriate pastoral ways to help these people. The Church sees their suffering and the serious difficulties in which they live, and in her motherly love is concerned for them as well as for the children of their previous marriage: deprived of their birthright to the presence of both parents, they are the first victims of these painful events.

It is first of all urgently necessary to establish a pastoral plan of preparation and of timely support for couples at the moment of crisis. The proclamation of Christ’s gift and commandment on marriage is in question. Pastors, especially parish priests, must with an open heart guide and support these men and women, making them understand that even when they have broken the marriage bond, they must not despair of the grace of God, who watches over their way. The Church does not cease to ‘invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways … until such time as they have attained the required dispositions’ (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 34). Pastors ‘are called to help them experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church, receiving them with love, exhorting them to trust in God’s mercy and suggesting, with prudence and respect, concrete ways of conversion and participation in the life of the community of the Church’ (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, 14 September 1994, n. 2). The Lord, moved by mercy, reaches out to all the needy, with both the demand for truth and the oil of charity.

4. How is it possible not to be concerned about the situations of so many people, especially in economically developed nations, who are living in a state of abandonment because of separation, especially when they cannot be blamed for the failure of their marriage?

When a couple in an irregular situation returns to Christian practice, it is necessary to welcome them with charity and kindness, helping them to clarify their concrete status by means of enlightened and enlightening pastoral care. This apostolate of fraternal and evangelical welcome towards those who have lost contact with the Church is of great importance: it is the first step required to integrate them into Christian practice. It is necessary to introduce them to listening to the word of God and to prayer, to involve them in the charitable works of the Christian community for the poor and needy, and to awaken the spirit of repentance by acts of penance that prepare their hearts to accept God’s grace.

A very important aspect concerns the human and Christian formation of the children born of the new union. Making them aware of the full content of the Gospel’s wisdom, in accordance with the Church’s teaching, is a task that wonderfully prepares parents’ hearts to receive the strength and necessary clarity to overcome the real difficulties on their path and to regain the full transparency of the mystery of Christ, which Christian marriage signifies and realizes. A special, demanding but necessary task concerns the other members who belong, more or less closely, to the family. With a closeness that must not be confused with condescension, they should assist their loved ones, especially the children who, because of their young age, are even more affected by the consequences of their parents’ situation.

Dear brothers and sisters, my heartfelt recommendation today is to have confidence in all those who are living in such tragic and painful situations. We must not cease ‘to hope against all hope’ (Rom 4:18) that even those who are living in a situation that does not conform to the Lord’s will may obtain salvation from God, if they are able to persevere in prayer, penance and true love.”

Benedict XVI – “Address at the 7th World Meeting of Families” (June 2, 2012, Milan): “Holy Father we know that the Church cares deeply about these situations [divorce and remarriage, when children have come from a second union] and these people. What can we say to them and what signs of hope can we offer them?

Dear friends, thank you for your very important work as family psychotherapists. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering people. Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people – as you have said – the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not ‘excluded’ even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without ‘corporal’ reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment.”

Miscellaneous (Recent Scholarship, Episcopal Correspondence, and Canonical Commentaries)

NOTE: Not all of these sources are in agreement with each other; in fact, some are quite opposed in theoretical and practical stances. They are presented so that the full picture of the contemporary situation in academia and ecclesiastical administration may be understood from both an historical point of view and a contemporary perspective.

Abbreviations: AL – Amoris Laetitia; D&R – the divorced and civilly remarried (without annulment or dissolution)

Pan-textual Commentaries

CLSA 1985 (Huels)

GB&I 1995 (McAreavey)

CLSA 2000 (Huels)

CCLA 2004 (Marzoa)

Articles, Books, and Correspondence – Partially Annotated

Gasparri, Pietro, Tractatus Canonicus de Matrimonio (Vatican City: Typis Polyglottis, editio nova ad mentem codicis I.C., 1932) II: 134-142*

Krol, John, “Permission for Parties Invalidly Married to Live as Brother and Sister,” The Jurist 11 (1951) 7-32

Sullivan, B., “Legislation and Requirement for Permissible Cohabitation as Invalid Marriages: A Historical Synopsis and a Commentary,” Canon Law Studies 356 (Washington: Catholic University of America, 1954)

Krol, John, “Permissible Cohabitation in Invalid Marriages,” The Jurist 18 [1958] 279-306

Peters, B.; Beemer T.; and Van der Poel, C., “Cohabitation in ‘Marital State of Mind,’” The Homiletic and Pastoral Review 66 (April, 1966): 566-577

Catoir, John, “The Church and Second Marriage,” Commonweal 86 (April 14, 1967) 4:113-117

America 118:7 (February 17, 1968) *all articles* (Editorial, Hertel, Croghan, Catoir, Dupré*)*

Kelleher, Stephen, “The Problem of the Intolerable Marriage,” America 119 (September 14, 1968) 7:178-182

Croghan, Leo, “Declaration of Freedom to Marry,” The Jurist 29 (1969), 97-103

Carey, R., “The Good Faith Solution,” The Jurist 29 (1969) 428-38

Canon Law Society of America, “CLSA Report on Immediate Internal Forum Solutions for Deserving Persons in Canonically Insoluble Marriage Cases,” The Jurist 30 (1970) 1-74

Huizing, Peter, “Law, Conscience and Marriage,” The Jurist 30 (1970) 15-20

Häring, Bernhard, “Internal Forum Solutions to Insoluble Marriage Cases,” The Jurist 30 (1970) 21-30

Kosnik, Anthony, “The Pastoral Care of Those Involved in Canonically Invalid Marriages,” The Jurist 30 (1970) 31-44

Farley, Leo; Reich, Warren, “Toward ‘An Immediate Internal Forum Solution’ For Deserving Couples in Canonically Insoluble Marriage Cases,” The Jurist 30 (1970) 45-74

Catoir, John, “When the Courts Don’t Work,” America 125 (October 9, 1971) 10:254- 257.

Coyle, Alcuin; Bonner, Dismas, The Church Under Tension (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1972), 82-83

Tracy, Robert, “Divorce, Re-Marriage and the Catholic,” Origins 2 (July 27, 1972) 130-36.*

Krol, John, “Good Conscience Procedures,” Origins 2 (September 1, 1972) 176-177.

Connery, John; Kerns, Joseph; McCormick, Richard; McGrath, Brendan; McHugh, James; Thomas, John; Wilson, George, “Divorce and Remarriage,” Origins 2 (October 12, 1972) 251-54.

Ratzinger, Joseph, “Zur Frage nach der Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe. Bemerkungen zum dogmengeschichtlichen Befund und zu seiner gegenwärtigen Bedeutung,” in: Ehe und Ehescheidung. Diskussion unter Christen, pp. 35-56 edited by F. Henrich and V. Eid, published by Münchener Akademie-Schriften 59, Munich 1972 (The famous article in which then-Father Joseph Ratzinger indicated his cautious openness to sacraments for D&R under certain conditions; the section which discusses this was retracted in the recent publication of his complete works.)

Kelleher, Stephen, Divorce and Remarriage for Catholics? A Proposal for Reform of the Church’s Law on Divorce and Remarriage (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973)

Wrenn, Lawrence (ed. and cont.), Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church, New York, Newman Press, 1973

Lehmann, Karl, “Indissolubility of marriage and pastoral care of the divorced who remarry,” Communio [U.S. edition] 1 (1974): 219-242

Bockle, Franz, “Christliche gelebte Ehe und Familie” in Gemeinsame Synode der Bisturner in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Officielle Gesamtausgabe (Freiburg: Herder, 1976) 1:411-413.

Franck, Bernard, “Les experiences synodales aprés Vatican II.” Communio [French edition] III (May, 1978) 3:64-78. D.C. no. 1607 (April 16, 1972) 69:396.

Kaufmann, Ludwig, “Finden die Schweizer Synoden zueinander?” Orientierung 37 (March 15, 1973) 5:58-60. Idem. “Uber die ‘Bewihrte Praxis’ hinaus” (Indicates the Austrian experience was similar in calling for more pastoral understanding of remarried divorced persons.)

Curran, Charles, “Divorce from the Perspective of Moral Theology,” Proceedings CLSA 36 (1974): 1-24

Curran, Charles, “Divorce: Catholic Theory and Practice in the United States,” American Ecclesiastical Review 168 (1974): 3-34, 75-95

Letter of Archbishop Jérôme Hamer, Secretary of the CDF, March 21, 1975 (responding to requests for clarification after the CDF’s letter from Cardinal Seper, of April 11, 1973); partial text (as found on Zenit): “I would like to state now that this phrase [probate praxis Ecclesiae] must be understood in the context of traditional moral theology. These couples [Catholics living in irregular marital unions] may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.” (Full German text available in Adam Zirkel, Schliesst das Kirchenrecht alle wiederverheirateten Geshiednen von den Sakramenten aus? (Mainz: Grunewald, 1977), p. 43.)

Green, Thomas, “Canonical-Pastoral Reflections on Divorce and Remarriage,” The Living Light 13 (1976): 560-576

Kelly, William, Pope Gregory II on Divorce and Remarriage, Gregorian Biblical Bookshop, 1976 (An extensive study of the shocking letter of St. Gregory II to St. Boniface which seems to indicate permission for divorce and remarriage, even in sacramental marriage, though it is not specified if only referring to unconsummated unions; the letter was condemned harshly by Gratian in the Decretals.)

Kasper, Walter, The Theology of Christian Marriage, 1977

De Naurois, Louis, “Problèmes actuels sur le mariage,” Esprit et Vie 87 (1977): 33-43

Delhaye, Phillippe; Wattiaux, Henri, “La morale familiale et sexuelle catholique à la lumière des documents récents du magistere épiscopal (1970-1975),” Esprit et Vie 87 (1977): 161-171, 194-202, 209-223; see especially pp. 212-214

De Naurois, Louis, “Review of Le rémariage des divorcés. Pour une attitude nouvelle de l’Eglise, by Paul Bourgy, Louis Dingemans, Pierre Hayoit, and Joseph Natalis,” Esprit et Vie 87 (1977): 461-464

May, William, “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage,” The Jurist, 37 (1977): 266-288

Martelet, Gustave (ITC, member), “Christological Theses on the Sacrament of Marriage,” Origins 8 (1978) 200-04, at 203.

Thrasher, Robert W., “The Application of Canon 1014 to External Forum and Internal Forum Solutions to Marriage Cases,” Canon Law Studies 494 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University, 1978)

Young, James (ed.), Ministering to the Divorced Catholic. New York: Paulist Press, 1979

Catoir, John, Catholics and Broken Marriage, Ave Maria Press, 1979

Green, Thomas J., “Ministering to Marital Failure,” Chicago Studies 18 (1979): 327-344

Provost, James, “Intolerable Marriage Situations Revisited,” The Jurist 40 (1980) 141-96 (Gives an important and thorough examination of the debate up to that point about the scope of the conflict-marriage case and summaries of many various interpretations of the meaning and significance of divorce and remarriage.)

Krätzel, Helmut, “Thesen zur Pastoral an wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen,” Theol.-prakt. Quartalschrift 129, 1981 (Lists a number of prominent German theologians who hold that there is a possibility for D&R to receive the Eucharist, including Ratzinger and Kasper.)

Cooke, Bernard, “Indissolubility: Guiding Ideal or Existential Reality?” in Commitment to Partnership, ed. William Roberts (New York: Paulist, 1987) 64-75

Francisco Urrutia, S.J., “Internal forum – external forum: the criterion of distinction” (see Vatican II: Assessment and Perspectives, Twenty-Five Years After (1962-1987), New York: Paulist Press, 1988. Vol. 1, pp. 634-67) (Discusses the conflict-marriage situation and the theoretical use of the internal forum as a way to remarry in the Church without the ecclesiastical court’s approval.*)

Cooke, Bernard; John Erickson, Theodore Mackin, and Margaret Farley. Divorce and Remarriage, ed. William Roberts (New York: Paulist, 1990)

Provost, James, “Intolerable Marriage Situations: A Second Decade,” The Jurist 50 (1990) 573-612.

Collins, Raymond, Divorce in the New Testament [Collegeville: Liturgical, 1992]. (26)

Kasper; Lehmann; Saier, “Pastoral Letter,” Herder Korrespondenz, 47. September, 1993, p. 465 [English: Origins (March 10, 1994), p. 670-7)] (The landmark pastoral letter in Germany initially suggesting the possibility of limited access to the Sacraments for D&R; one of the most important documents in the development of the current state of the question.)

*“Principles of Pastoral Care,” Origins 23 (March 10, 1994) 673-76 Origins 24 (October 27, 1994) 337-41

*“Pastoral Ministry: The Divorced and Remarried,” Origins 23* (March 10, 1994) 670-73

*“Pastoral Care of Divorced Catholics Who Remarry,” Origins 24 (August 18, 1994) 205-08

*“Response to the Vatican Letter,” Origins 24 (March 10, 1994) 341-44

Buckley, C.SS.R., Tim, “Caring for the Remarried,” Priests and People 9 [1994] 325-30.

Grabowski, John, “Divorce, Remarriage and Reception of the Sacraments,” America 172 (October 8, 1994) 20-24.

Kaiser, Matthaus, “Why Should the Divorced and Remarried (not) be Admitted to the Sacraments?” Theology Digest 41 (1994) 8-14; original German text in Stimmen der Zeit 118 (1993) 741-51.

Keenan, S.J., James, “Toleration, Principle of,” in Judith Dwyer, ed., The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 1994) 951-52

Kelly, Kevin, “Divorce and Remarriage: Conflict in the Church,” The Tablet 248 (1994) 1374-75, at 1374.

Orsy, Ladislas, “Divorce and Remarriage: A German Initiative,” The Tablet 248 (1994) 787.

Stafford, Francis, “The Ecclesial Dimension of Conscience,” Origins 24 (October 27, 1994) 345.

Thurston, Anne, “Living with Ambiguity,” Doctrine and Life 44 [1994] 537-42 (An experiential appeal to reducing the rigor of traditional canonical practice and moral teaching; also appears in Kevin Kelly’s book, Divorce and Second Marriage: Facing the Challenge.)

Gracida, Rene, “Pastoral Ministry to the Divorced and Remarried: A Pastoral Letter,” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter (June 1994) 16-19 (A brief diocese-oriented and highly critical response to the Kasper-Lehmann-Saier Pastoral Letter.)

Grisez, Finnis, May, “Letter to: Archbishop Saier, Bishop Lehmann, and Bishop Kasper,” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter (June 1994) 20-27 (also published in New Blackfriars 75 [1994] 321-30 as “Indissolubility, Divorce and Holy Communion”). (A direct and highly critical response to the Pastoral Letter of Kasper, Lehmann, and Saier.)

Lawler, Michael G., “Indissolubility, Divorce and Holy Communion: An Open Response to Germain Grisez, John Finnis and William May,” New Blackfriars 76 (May 1995), 229-236

Häring, Bernhard, No Way Out? Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried, 1995

Himes, Kenneth R.; Coriden, James A., “Pastoral care of the divorced and remarried.” Theological Studies 57 (March 1, 1996), 97-123

Catoir, John. Where Do You Stand with the Church? The Dilemma of Divorced Catholics,Alba House, 1997 (Updates Catoir’s first book on the topic of D&R [Catholics and Broken Marriage, 1979]; provides some clear explanation of the Church’s teaching on marriage; has some ambiguities about the right use of the “internal forum”; see review by Dr. Ed Peters in National Catholic Register, 13-19 July, 1997, 5)

Kelly, Kevin, Divorce and Second Marriage: Facing the Problem, 1997

Myers, John, “Divorce, Remarriage, and Reception of the Holy Eucharist,” The Jurist, 57 (1997), 485-516

Smith, William, “Public sinners?” Homiletic & Pastoral Review 101/3 (Dec 2000) 72-74.

Gramunt, Ignatius, “Non-admission to holy Communion: The interpretation of Canon 915,” Studia Canonica 35 (2001) 175-190.

Everett, Craig; Jenks, Richard, Divorce, Annulments, and the Catholic Church: Healing or Hurtful?, 2002

Kasper, Walter. Sacrament of Unity: Eucharist and Church, 2004

Keeler, William, “Summary of Consultations,” Origins 34/7 (1 July 2004) 105-109.

Himes, Kenneth R.; Coriden, James A. “The Indissolubility of Marriage: Reasons to Reconsider,” Theological Studies 65 (September 1, 2004) 453-499

Welding B.; Farnan, J., “Denying Communion for Obstinate Sin,” Ethics & Medics 31/5 (May 2006) 1-4

Burke, Raymond, “The discipline regarding the denial of holy Communion to those obstinately preserving in manifest grave sin,” Periodica 96 (2007) 3-58

Egan, Edward, unsigned notice, Origins 37/47 (8 May 2008) 780

Peters, Edward, “Withholding of Holy Communion by Extraordinary Minister,” 2008 Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions 80-83.

Coriden, James, “Divorced and Remarried Catholics: Conscience Remains Decisive,” CLSN, 167 (2011), 101-112

Grisez, Germain; Ryan, Peter, “Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden,” Theological Studies 72 (June 1, 2011), 369-415 (This article took 7 years of slow pressure to have published, even drawing the attention of the CDF due to the journal’s reluctance to publish a response to the original Himes-Coriden article; the authors walk through the arguments of Himes and Coriden thoroughly to show that the indissolubility of marriage is irreformable doctrine*)

Peters, Edward, “Participation in holy Communion by unworthy Catholics,” Christifidelis 30/7 (December 25, 2012), 1, 4-8

Kasper, Walter, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, 2014* (A book praised greatly by Pope Francis at the start of his pontificate; a very good exploration of the meaning and significance of Divine mercy; interestingly, there is almost nothing about sacramental administration to D&R, but what is said leans in the direction of “openness.”)

Kasper, Walter, “The Gospel of the Family” (Address to the College of Cardinals at the Consistory of February 20-21, 2014), republished in Il Foglio as “The Bible, eros, and family. Creation excludes absolutely the theories of gender. Man and woman are joined together and are invited to become a family unit, to social virtue, to the search for felicity.” March 1, 2014. Republished as The Gospel of the Family, Paulist Press, March 31, 2014 (The famous consistory speech whence the nickname “the Kasper proposal” comes; echoes the intervention of Archbishop Zoghby at Vatican II suggesting a penitential path to the readmission to the sacraments for D&R.) Partial text below:

“. . . It is not enough to consider the problem only from the point of view and from the perspective of the Church as a sacramental institution. We need a paradigm change and we must – as the good Samaritan did – consider the situation also from the perspective of those who are suffering and asking for help.

Everyone knows that the question of the marriages of divorced and remarried persons is a complex and thorny problem. [. . .] What can the Church do in such situations? It cannot propose a solution that is different from or contrary to the words of Jesus. The indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage during the lifetime of the other partner is part of the tradition of the Church’s binding faith that cannot be abandoned or undone by appealing to a superficial understanding of cheapened mercy. [. . .] The question is therefore how the Church can reflect this indivisible pairing of the fidelity and mercy of God in its pastoral action concerning the divorced who are remarried in a civil ceremony. [. . .]

Today we find ourselves in a situation similar to that of the last Council. At that time as well there existed, for example on the question of ecumenism or religious freedom, encyclicals and decisions of the Holy Office that seemed to preclude other ways. Without violating the binding dogmatic tradition, the Council opened doors. We can ask ourselves: is it not perhaps possible that there could be further developments on the present question as well? [. . .]

I will limit myself to two situations, for which solutions are already being mentioned in some official documents. I want only to pose questions, limiting myself to pointing out the direction of possible responses. Giving a response, however, will be the task of the synod in harmony with the pope.


‘Familiaris Consortio’ affirms that some of the divorced and remarried are in conscience subjectively convinced that their irreparably broken previous marriage was never valid. [. . .] According to canon law the evaluation is the task of the ecclesiastical tribunals. Since these are not ‘iure divino,’ but developed historically, we sometimes ask ourselves if the judicial way should be the only one for resolving the problem or if other more pastoral and spiritual procedures could also be possible.

As an alternative, one might think that the bishop could entrust this task to a priest with spiritual and pastoral experience as a penitentiary or episcopal vicar.

Apart from the response to be given to this question, it is worthwhile to recall the address that Pope Francis delivered on January 24, 2014 to the officials of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, in which he affirms that the juridical dimension and pastoral dimension are not in opposition. [. . .] Pastoral care and mercy are not opposed to justice, but they are so to speak the supreme justice, because behind each appeal they discern not only a case to be examined through the lens of general regulations but a human person who, as such, can never represent a case and always has a unique dignity. [. . .] Is it truly possible that the good and bad of persons should be decided at second and third hearings solely on the basis of the proceedings, meaning paperwork, but without knowing the person and his situation?


It would be mistaken to seek the solution of the problem only in a generous expansion of the procedure of nullity of marriage. This would create the dangerous impression that the Church is proceeding in a dishonest manner in granting what in reality are divorces. [. . .] Therefore we must also take into consideration the more difficult question of the situation of the marriage that is ratified and consummated between baptized persons, in which the communion of marital life is irreparably broken and one or both of the spouses have contracted a second civil marriage.

One notification was given to us by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith in 1994 when it established – and Pope Benedict XVI reiterated this during the world meeting of families in Milan in 2012 – that the divorce and remarried cannot receive sacramental communion but can receive spiritual communion. [. . .]

Many will be grateful for this response, which is an instance of true openness. But it also brings up a number of questions. In fact, someone who receives spiritual communion is one with Jesus Christ. [. . .] Why, then, can he not also receive sacramental communion? [. . .] Some maintain that non-participation in communion is itself a sign of the sanctity of the sacrament. The question that is posed in response is: is it not perhaps an exploitation of the person who is suffering and asking for help if we make him a sign and a warning for others? Are we going to let him die of hunger sacramentally in order that others may live?

The early Church gives us an indication that can serve as a means of escape from the dilemma, to which Professor Joseph Ratzinger referred in 1972. [. . .] In the individual local Churches there existed the customary law on the basis of which Christians who, although their first partner was still alive, were living in a second relationship, after a time of penance had available [. . .] not a second marriage, but rather through participation in communion a table of salvation. [. . .]

The question is: This way that stands beyond rigorism and laxity, the way of conversion, which issues forth in the sacrament of mercy, the sacrament of penance, is it also the path that we could follow in the present question?

A divorced and remarried person: 1. if he repents of his failure in the first marriage, 2. if he has clarified the obligations of the first marriage, if it is definitively ruled out that he could turn back, 3. if he cannot abandon without further harm the responsibilities taken on with the new civil marriage, 4. if however he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith, 5. if he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation, should we or can we deny him, after a period of time in a new direction, of “metanoia,” the sacrament of penance and then of communion?

This possible way would not be a general solution. It is not the wide road of the masses, but rather the narrow path of what is probably the smaller segment of the divorced and remarried, those sincerely interested in the sacraments. Should not the worst be avoided precisely here? In fact, when the children of the divorced and remarried do not see their parents approach the sacraments they too usually fail to find their way to confession and communion. Should we not take into account the fact that we will also lose the next generation and perhaps the one after it too? Our long-established practice, is it not showing itself to be counterproductive? [. . .]


According to the New Testament, adultery and fornication are behaviors in fundamental contrast with being Christian. Thus in the ancient Church, along with apostasy and murder, among the capital sins that excluded one from the Church was also adultery. [. . .] There is extensive literature on the relative exegetical and historical questions, within which it is almost impossible to get one’s bearings, and different interpretations. One could cite for example on the one hand G. Cereti, “Divorzio, nuove nozze e penitenza nella Chiesa primitiva,” Bologna 1977, 2013, and on the other H. Crouzel, “L’Eglise primitive face au divorce,” Paris 1971, and J. Ratzinger, “Zur Frage nach der Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe. Bemerkungen zum dogmengeschichtlichen Befund und zu seiner gegenwärtigen Bedeutung” 1972, in F. Heinrich / V. Eid, “Ehe und Ehescheidung”, München 1972, 35-56.

There can be no doubt however about the fact that in the early Church, in many local Churches, by customary law there was, after a time of repentance, the practice of pastoral tolerance, of clemency and indulgence.

It is against the background of this practice that canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea (325) must also be understood, aimed against the rigorism of Novatian. This customary law is expressly discussed by Origen, who maintains that it is not unreasonable. Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, and some others also refer to it. They explain the judgment of “not unreasonable” with the pastoral intention of “avoiding the worst.” In the Latin Church, through the authority of Augustine, this practice was abandoned in favor of a more strict practice. Even Augustine, however, in one passage speaks of venial sin. He therefore does not seem to have excluded all pastoral solutions at the outset.

Even afterward the Western Church, in difficult situations, through the decisions of synods and the like always sought, and even found, concrete solutions. The Council of Trent [. . .] condemned Luther’s position, but not the practice of the Eastern Church. [. . .]

The Orthodox Churches have preserved, in keeping with the pastoral viewpoint of the tradition of the early Church, the valid (for them) principle of oikonomia. Beginning in the sixth century, however, making reference to Byzantine imperial law, they went beyond the position of pastoral tolerance, of clemency and indulgence, recognizing together with the clause of adultery other reasons for divorce as well, which are based on the moral and not only the physical death of the marriage bond.

The Western Church followed another path. It excludes the dissolution of a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage between baptized persons, but it acknowledges divorce for non-consummated marriage, as also, according to the Pauline and Petrine privilege, for non-sacramental marriages. Along with this are declarations of nullity for defect of form; in this regard we could however ask ourselves if what are brought to the forefront, in a unilateral way, are not juridical points of view that are historically very much late in coming.

J. Ratzinger suggested that Basil’s position should be taken up again in a new way. It would seem to be an appropriate solution, one that is also at the basis of these reflections of mine. We cannot refer to this or that historical interpretation, which still remains controversial, nor can we simply replicate the solutions of the early Church in our situation, which is completely different. In the changed current situation we can however recover the basic concepts and seek to realize them in the present, in the manner that is just and fair in the light of the Gospel.

Fastiggi, Robert. “A Reflection on Cardinal Kasper’s Speech on the Family,” Zenit, March 12, 2014 (An effective critique of the basic parts of the “Kasper proposal”; does not investigate detailed moral or canonical questions.)

Pérez-Soba, Juan. “Renowned Theology Scholar Issues Strong Critique of Cardinal Kasper’s Speech on Marriage,” Zenit, March 25, 2014 (Points out Kasper’s own earlier book on mercy is antithetical to his proposal; notes the serious and in fact fatal problems with his scholarly citations on patristic sources for his proposal; insists on integrity in discussing doctrinal questions, namely, not to pretend they are not doctrinal but only pastoral.)

Rist, John, “Remarriage, Divorce, and Communion: Patristic Light on a Recent Problem,” Zenit, April 2, 2014 (A short but powerful rebuttal of Cardinal Kasper’s appeal to patristic and early conciliar evidence for a “relaxed approach” to divorce and remarriage; points out that the issue of “second marriages” at First Nicaea was regarding remarriage of widows and widowers, not divorced persons as Kasper assumed in his speech.)

J. J. Pérez-Soba, S. Kampowski, The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage and Communion in the Church. Ignatius Press. October 1, 2014 (A book-length collection of essays in response to the “Kasper proposal”; argues that the Gospel vision of mercy is not contained in the proposal and gives a more traditional alternative approach.)

Relatio Synodi, Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family, October 2014 (The final document from the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family)

Aymans, Winfried (ed.), Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Viewpoint, 2015 (Ignatius Press)

Dodaro (Ed.), Mankowski, Rist, Vasil’, Brandmüller, Müller, Caffarra, De Paolis, Burke. Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, October 7, 2014 (Ignatius Press, San Francisco)

Laura Morrison, The Denial of Holy Communion Due to Obstinate Perseverance in Manifest Grave Sin: The Applications of c. 915 in the American Context, (SPU/USP doctoral diss., 2015) 256 pp.

Instrumentum Laboris, Ordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, 2015 (The working document from the Ordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family)

Relatio Finalis, Ordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family, October 2015 (The final document from the Ordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family)

Schönborn, Christoph. “Presentation of Amoris Laetitia,” April 18, 2016 (The official press release of AL; praised by Pope Francis on the flight from Lesbos to Rome on the same day)

Coccopalmerio, Francesco (then-Prefect of PCLT). A Commentary on Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia, Paulist Press. May 16, 2016 (Gives a winding exploration of several key themes of the eighth chapter of AL; defends the Kasper proposal; seems to suggest the moral law is either impossible for some or, alternatively, that it changes according to one’s desires or according to the consequences of actions in a consequentialist sense.)

Chaput, Charles. “Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia, Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” July 1, 2016 (An explanatory set of directives from a conservative angle; does not follow the Kasper proposal; clearly requires that D&R must refrain from sexual relations; does not deeply explore the details of moral and canonical analysis of D&R; indirectly alludes to the private/public distinction for sacramental administration)

Schönborn, Christoph, “Conversation with Cardinal Schönborn on Amoris Laetitia,” La Civiltà Cattolica, July 23, 2016 (Describes in an informal way the vision of the progressive application of AL; attempts to ground AL in past magisterial texts; does not seriously discuss concrete examples; offers the possibility of an analogy between “communicatio in sacris” with non-Catholics and D&R reception of the Eucharist)

Chiodi, Maurizio. “Re-reading Humanae Vitae (1968) in light of Amoris Laetitia (2016),” public lecture presented at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, December 14, 2016 (Argues in favor of an interpretation of AL which deems some contraception not only permissible but obligatory.)

Cordes, Paul, “Spiritual Communion: Freed from the Dust of Centuries,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, December 20, 2016 (argues that spiritual communion is a forgotten practice which can be an alternative to sacramental communion due to the inability of canon law to read souls despite rightly barring someone from the Sacrament due to the perception of grave sin even if the person is somehow not guilty of grave sin; no discussion of private reception)

Granados, Jose; Kampowski, Stephen; Perez-Soba, Juan Jose. Accompanying, Discerning, Integrating: A Handbook for the Pastoral Care of the Family According to Amoris Laetitia. Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017

Maltese Bishops (Scicluna, Charles; Grech, Mario), Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. January, 2017 (Perhaps the most liberal or progressive set of directives implementing AL presented by any bishops; indicates that, after a time of discernment, the reassurance of one’s own conscience is sufficient not only to approach the sacraments but to require the minister to dispense them)

Bordeyne, Phillippe; Scannone, Juan Carlos. Divorcés remariés: ce qui change avec François, Salvator, January 18, 2017 (A major defense of a progressive interpretation AL by the new president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Matrimonial and Family Science.)

Ramage, Matthew, “Divorce, Remarriage, and ‘Discerning the Body’: On Pope Francis’ Interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:27-34 in Amoris Laetitia,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 16, 2017 (Examines Pope Francis’ treatment of St. Paul’s warning not to profane the Eucharist by unworthy reception in Chapter V of AL; argues that Francis wants to emphasize that Paul is primarily concerned with social division in the community caused by the rich neglecting the poor based on 1 Cor. 11:17-18, but does not ask whether bigamy would be similarly divisive; suggests that Francis does not want to deny the traditional application of the text; puts forward Benedict XVI’s suggestion of a “spiritual communion” as a part of the solution for D&R but is aware there are questions of what that means.)

Walford, Stephen. Pope Francis, the Family, and Divorce: In Defense of Truth and Mercy, Paulist Press, 2018

Cameli, Louis. A New Vision of Family life: A Reflection on Amoris Laetitia. Liturgy Training Publications, April 18, 2018

Kasper, Walter. The Message of Amoris Laetitia: Finding Common Ground, 2019 (A book-length response to the reaction to and defense of Amoris Laetitia by the primary proponent of the mainstream interpretation.)

Levering, Matthew. The Indissolubility of Marriage: Amoris Laetit0ia in Context. Ignatius Press, 2019 (A thorough exploration of the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage throughout the past 2,000 years; refrains from much direct criticism of AL.)

AA VII (2000), 157-160: J. Bonet Alcón: Comentario a la declaración del Pontificio Consejo para la Interpretación Auténtica de los Textos Legislativos sobre la comunión de los divorciados. (Comment) [86 2001/2]

AA XX (2014), 71-113: Velasio Card. De Paolis: Fieles divorciados, segundas uniones more coniugale y administración de la Penitencia y la Eucaristía. (Article) [116 2016/2]

AA XXIII (2017, vol. I), 371-402: Bruce Miller: Understanding and Implementing Amoris Laetitia chapter VIII. (Article) [121 2019/1]

ACR XCII 3/15, 269-288: Francis Moloney: A New Testament Hermeneutic for Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament. (Article) [117 2017/1]

AkK 184 (2015), 57-74: Helmuth Pree: Kirchenrecht und Barmherzigkeit. Rechtstheologische und rechtstheoretische Aspekte. (Article) [117 2017/1]

AnC 1 (2005), 31-44: Tomasz Rozkrut: Ochrona Eucharystii a zakaz dopuszczania do Komunii świętej osób trwających z uporem w jawnym grzechu ciężkim (Safeguarding the Eucharist and the prohibition on admittance to Holy Communion of others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin). (Symposium presentation) [97 2007/1]

AnC 9 (2013), 139-159: Marek Zaborowski: Ograniczenie prawa wiernego do Eucharystii – kan. 915 Kodeksu prawa kanonicznego z 1983 roku (Restricting the faithful’s right to holy Communion – canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law 1983). (Article) [112 2014/2]

Ap LXXXVII (2014), 447-485: Federico R. Aznar Gil: El debate sinodal (2014) sobre la situación eclesial de los fieles divorciados y casados de nuevo civilmente. (Article) [116 2016/2] (The ecclesial condition or situation of Catholic faithful who, having been validly married, get divorced and then contract a new marriage which is valid in terms of civil legislation, is a grave pastoral problem for the Catholic Church. This is especially so given their exclusion from the sacraments of penance and Eucharistic communion by reason of the objective situation of grave sin in which they find themselves. Despite the fact that since 1980, the pontifical magisterium has repeatedly recalled the doctrine and practice of the Church, there continue to be many studies on the question as well as practices contrary to those established by the Church’s magisterium, which is a symptom of the current discontent. The calling of a new Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme of Marriage and the Family, to be celebrated during October 2014 and 2015, has reopened the debate on this matter. Aznar Gil explores this theme in two parts. In the first part he briefly sets out the current doctrine and practice of the Church. In the second he analyses the synodal debate on the matter in 2014, as well as the Lineamenta of the Synod of Bishops of 2015.) CLA 116 (2016)

BV 75 (2015), 461-474: Martin M. Lintner: Vprašanje razvezanih in ponovno poročenih od koncila do danes (The question of divorced and remarried persons from Vatican II to today). (Article) [117 2017/1] (The Second Vatican Council distanced itself from the canonical definition of marriage as a contract in favour of the biblical perception of marriage as a covenant. Lintner argues that this new theological understanding makes it possible to resolve the situation of the many divorced and remarried persons in the Church. He presents different viewpoints that have developed since Vatican II, as well as many aspects of theological reflection (biblical, doctrinal, anthropological, sacramental, moral, legal and pastoral). He is convinced of the need to  change the current practice of the Church, and proposes certain solutions which he argues would agree with the teachings of Jesus and the tradition of the Church, such as a greater role for the virtue of epikeia and conscience at the personal level, and more subsidiarity and more authority for bishops’ conferences in their search for concrete solutions at the normative level.) CLA 117 (2017)

CLSN 124 4/00, 37-39: M. Manning: The Divorced and Remarried. (Comment) [87 2002/1]

CLSN 157/09, 47-64: John Boyle: Does There Exist an “Internal Forum” Solution for the Divorced and Remarried? (Article) [106 2011/2] (In the late 1970s there was a flurry of activity in connection with assisting people who had been divorced and were remarried. This assistance related to their reception of the sacraments. Sometimes this was referred to as the internal forum solution, in which a confessor, having heard what the penitent had to say, indicated that the penitent might decide to receive Holy Communion because of a flaw in, or perhaps the invalidity of, the former union. There are other situations in which priests indicated that people were not bound by former marriages which had broken down as a result of the fault of the other party. A whole variety of solutions was proposed to assist people with their very real pastoral problems. This continued throughout the 1980s until the beginning of the 1990s. At that stage the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produced a document which indicated very clearly that such solutions were not appropriate: and indeed were not allowed. The whole matter of the internal forum solution went quiet during the 1990s and in the first part of the new millennium. Boyle, noting that this is now an increasingly common phenomenon, provides a paper on the background of the whole matter.) CLA 106 (2011)

CLSN 161/10, 45-54: Derek Vidler: Irregular Marriages and Admission to Holy Communion. (Article) [106 2011/2] (Vidler examines the development of penance and the penitential rite in the Church’s history; he considers the rights of persons; and follows this with a section on law, considering William of Occam and Aquinas. He then analyzes the whole concept of informed conscience. With this background he looks at “hard cases” in the light of the salus animarum of canon 1752.) CLA 106 (2011)

CLSN 161/10, 55-57: John Hadley: Comment on Fr Vidler’s Paper. (Article) [106 2011/2] (Hadley considers Vidler’s paper [“Irregular Marriages and Admission to Holy Communion”] under the headings of conscience, epikeia and equity, and then divorce and remarriage. He also stresses the use of the canon penitentiary in difficult cases.) CLA 106 (2011)

CLSN 167 (2011), 101-112: James A. Coriden: Divorced and Remarried Catholics: Conscience is Still Decisive. (Article) [110 2013/2] (Coriden seeks to defend the access to the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist by divorced and remarried Catholics under certain circumstances. He looks at the pastoral approach termed the “good conscience solution” or “internal forum solution”, which is presented as an exercise of moral discernment rather than one of canonical judgement. As such, he argues that it represents an exception to the general policy of exclusion from the sacraments, and one which is based on the primacy of conscience and the virtue of epikeia.) CLA 110 (2013)

CLSN 186/16, 53-80: Francis G. Morrisey: Some pastoral implications arising from Chapter VIII of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. (Conference presentation) [117 2017/1] (Within the context of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia as a whole, Morrisey examines again the “internal forum solution” and its application to those who have divorced and remarried without first obtaining a declaration of nullity.) CLA 117 (2017)

FI 4 (2005), 159-188: Janusz Grezlikowski: Wymiar prawny pozostawania katolika w zwiazku niesakramentalnym (The legal aspects of a Catholic in a non-sacramental relationship). (Article) [100 2008/2] (From the  teaching and legislation of the Church on the sacramentality and indissolubility of marriage it is clear that those who live in non-sacramental relationships remain members of the Church, which does not distance itself from them but is greatly concerned about their situation. According to Church law, persons living in non-sacramental relationships are not allowed to receive the sacraments of Penance or the Eucharist because they live in the sin of adultery or at least in a constant occasion of sin. Nor are they allowed to be godparents or sponsors, lectors, acolytes or catechists. The faithful living in civil relationships after breaking off from the sacramental community may undertake different tasks in the Church, within the limits prescribed and specified by canon law. Priests need to show understanding and goodwill, and help to create a climate for bringing them back to sacramental life. The teaching and legislation of the Church also recommend that Church tribunals and priests help spouses living in non-sacramental relationships to apply – in justified cases – for a declaration of invalidity of their first marriage. They should be aware of their legal situation.) CLA 100 (2008)

FThC IV 26/18 (2015), 203-213: Carlos José Errázuriz: Sul rapporto tra teologia e Diritto canonico: il binomio dottrina-disciplina. (Article) [116 2016/2] (Errázuriz begins by comparing the views of Klaus Mörsdorf and Javier Hervada on the relationship between theology and canon law. Although differing substantially in their respective approaches to the topic, both were seeking a renewal of canon law in the 20th century, on the basis of a shared tradition. Both of them regarded law as part of the ecclesial reality, thus distancing themselves from any positivistic reductionism. This is important to bear in mind in the context of discussions on whether the divorced and remarried faithful can receive Communion. The provision preventing the faithful who are in such a situation from receiving the Eucharist is not based on a mere positive rule. Rather, it reflects a fundamental requirement of of justice, founded on true rights: the rights inherent to marriage and to the family as juridical ecclesial goods, and the rights pertaining to the Blessed Eucharist as a good of the whole Church and of all the faithful. In juridical questions of this nature the importance of the teaching of the faith is of prime importance.) CLA 116 (2016)

IC 56/112 (2016), 731-738: Carlos José Errázuriz M.: Matrimonio y justicia objetiva en la comunión eclesial: un aspecto del discernimiento pastoral propiciado por Amoris laetitia. (Article) [118 2017/2] (Commenting on the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL), Errázuriz stresses the importance of the objective aspect of justice in so-called irregular situations (cf. AL 296-300). Ecclesial communion embraces and requires harmony between married life and Eucharistic life – a harmony which possesses an undeniable aspect of intraecclesial justice, implying respect for the rights of the other spouse, the children of that union, and the whole Church. The specific question of the admission to the sacraments of divorced and civilly-remarried Catholics – and more generally of those faithful who are in non-matrimonial affective-sexual relationships – becomes clearer if one bears in mind that their situation is contrary to what justice requires as an essential aspect of their ecclesial communion. As long as this voluntarily chosen objective injustice remains, it constitutes an obstacle to ecclesial communion in its external aspect. The problem is not solved by regarding rights in a purely individualistic way while losing sight of what is just, or by simply imposing prohibitions “as if they were stones to throw at people’s live” (AL 305). The true solution demands a change of focus, as proposed by Pope Francis, based on mercy and an awareness of what intraecclesial justice requires. A member of the faithful whose marriage bond has been recognized by the Church cannot, when approaching the sacraments, expect the Church to ignore that bond, which would mean the Church contradicting herself. AL is an invitation to delve more deeply into these considerations and appreciate their positive aspects. As the Pope himself says: “That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26): he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to bring her to the full joy of the Gospel” (AL 294).)

IC 56 (2016), 589-619: Javier Otaduy: Dulcor Misericordiae. Justicia y misericordia en el ejercicio de la autoridad canónica. I. Historia. (Article) [118 2017/2] (In the early stages of canon law there was a specific need to intervene to ensure equity in given situations. Canonical equity began to develop in two directions: that of “perfect justice” and that of “benign intervention”. These two “souls” have coexisted from the start. Equity also encompasses epikeia when the general nature of the law proves to be an obstacle to justice in a specific instance. Otaduy presents three representative cases to provide a clearer understanding of the medieval canonical doctrine of aequitas: a letter of St. Augustine in the Decretum Gratiani; a passage from a decretal by Honorius III contained in the Liber Extra; and the 12th century debate between the jurists Martinus Gosia and Bulgarus. He draws a number of conclusions as to the ongoing value of equity and sets out some hermeneutical rules regarding its application.) CLA 118 (2017)

IC 57/113 (2017), 153-201: Javier Otaduy: Dulcor Misericordiae. Justicia y misericordia en el ejercicio de la autoridad canónica. II. El capítulo octavo de Amoris Laetitia. (Article) [119 2018/1] (Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has given rise to different, sometimes contradictory, interpretation. However, it cannot be said that the papal document admits divorced Catholics who have entered into new unions to Eucharistic communion. Chapter 8 requires careful interpretation in altum (in full and in depth). The object of mercy is not only suffering, but above all situations of sin; and it is directed not only to the one currently experiencing misery, but to anyone subject to potential fragility and future misery. Mercy requires that moral and juridical norms be applied without any sense of cruelty, but not that they be ignored. Marriage does not admit of indiscriminate analogical varieties, because it is not a merely ideal model. In the case of so-called irregular situations, reception of the Eucharist always requires a change of life.) CLA 119 (2018)

IC 58/115 (2018), 149-183: Javier Otaduy Guerín: Dulcor Misericordiae III. Las situaciones irregulares desde el Concilio hasta Amoris Laetitia. (Article) [121 2019/1] (Over the last forty years, a considerable number of theologians, moral theologians and canonists have offered many reasons in support of the de facto dissolubility of canonical marriage ratum et consummatum. They have explained that indissolubility may be a Christian ideal but not an absolute condition that makes a new marriage impossible; and that the new marriage does not prevent the faithful from receiving the sacraments. In response to such arguments, the reaction of the ecclesiastical Magisterium has been frequent and unanimous. The Popes and some key dicasteries of the Roman Curia have adopted a clear and well-grounded position. In this regard, the doctrinal introduction to an edition of texts produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1998 (“On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried”, LEV, Vatican City) helps provide a greater appreciation and understanding of the reasons given by the Magisterium as well as those of its critics.) CLA 121 (2019)

IE XII 3/00, 884-886: Atti della Santa Sede: Pontificio Consiglio per i Testi Legislativi: Dichiarazione, 6 luglio 2000. (Document) [87 2002/1]

IE XVIII 3/06, 629-665: Giorgio Zannoni: Eucaristia e Communio: pastorale dei « fedeli irregolari ». (Article) [100 2008/2] (In the light of the 2005 Synod of Bishops and some recently published material, Zannoni deals with the question of the reception of Communion by divorced faithful who have contracted a new civil marriage. He addresses the problem from the point of view of theology, anthropology, the various aspects of marriage and the matrimonial process, and pastoral and penitential praxis, before offering some conclusions under the heading of tolerance and truth.) CLA 100 (2008)

IE XXV (2013), 617-639: Héctor Franceschi: Divorziati risposati e nullità matrimoniali. (Article) [112 2014/2] (The divorced who remarry civilly is a phenomenon which is multiplying rapidly in the Church and is something that poses a significant challenge. The many different solutions proposed to the problem, ranging from the most stringent of the last century to the more “pastoral” ones of recent years, all contradict the fundamental principle of the indissolubility of marriage. While some solutions openly deny the indissolubility of marriage itself, others avoid such an extreme but nonetheless succeed in placing it in serious doubt. In this article Franceschi analyses these situations and proposes possible solutions in the light of the Church’s Magisterium, particularly the teaching of the recent Popes, in accordance with the truth of what marriage actually is. Such solutions take into account both mercy and charity, while respecting and defending the truth, which are essential elements of a true pastoral activity that contributes to making the demands of the faith more attractive to the faithful.) CLA 112 (2014)

IE XXVIII (2016), 579-587: Carlos José Errázuriz M.: La rilevanza pastorale della giustizia oggettiva nella situazione dei fedeli che vivono relazioni affettivo-sessuali non matrimoniali. (Article) [118 2017/2] (In discerning the ecclesial situation of those faithful who are divorced and civilly remarried, or who live in other non-marital affective-sexual relationships, it has always been important to consider the objective dimension of their relationship. This dimension essentially involves a relational aspect of justice in the Church. It therefore follows that the criteria that govern the administration of the sacraments to such faithful should also be based on objective justice. Thus it is necessary to demonstrate the profoundly positive pastoral value of this way in which the Church acts, and to discover how it harmonizes with the true mercy referred to in Amoris Laetitia.) CLA 118 (2017)

Ius Comm III (2015), 45-74: Velasio De Paolis: Uniones irregulares y atención pastoral. (Article) [115 2016/1] (The Church is experiencing within herself the crisis of marriage and the family. Among the various situations, that of the divorced and remarried has raised important doctrinal and pastoral problems regarding the indissolubility of marriage, the Pope’s authority over marriage, the inseparability of the natural bond and the sacrament in a marriage between baptized persons, the judgment as to the validity of many Christian marriages celebrated in the Church but without the necessary preparation, procedures for the declaration of nullity of marriage, and the exclusion from the Eucharist of faithful living in irregular unions. In relation to this last question, if the faithful cannot receive Holy Communion it is because their marital status is not regular, as they live with someone who is not their spouse since the prior canonical marriage has not been declared null by the competent authority. This is a doctrine and a part of the heritage of faith that the Church has to develop and study more deeply, but never alter, still less deny.) CLA 115 (2016)

J 69 (2009), 472-515: John J. M. Foster: Sacramental Law: Selected Developments in Twenty-Five Years of Praxis. (Article) [105 2011/1] (Foster offers his “top three” developments in sacramental law since the CIC/83. In reverse order, these are: 3) the Apostolic Signatura’s 2007 clarification on defective convalidation, 2) the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ 2000 declaration that divorced and remarried Catholics are excluded from Holy Communion; 1) the same Council’s 2006 circular letter clarifying the conditions for formal defection [NB this article was written before Omnium in Mentem]. Foster offers a commentary on these three issues.) CLA 105 (2011)

J 74 (2014), 153-192: Velasio De Paolis: Appropriate Pastoral Approaches for the Divorced Remarried. (Article) [115 2016/1] (Expanded version of the article [Uniones irregulares y atención pastoral]. The phenomenon of irregular marriages has been on the rise for decades, and highlights the crisis of marriage and the family. Civil society, however, does not seem to take any notice, nor think it worth its attention. The reason for this neglect is that civil society itself is in crisis, and the crisis of the family is its mirror image. Civil society stand the family suffer from the same disease: a crisis of the vision of man. The Church on the contrary makes the family the object of her assiduous pastoral action, particularly in this time of crisis. A large part of her faithful however no longer seem to live in accord with her teaching and discipline on marriage and the family. What has aroused the special concern and pastoral care of the Church is the situation of irregular unions, particularly the situation of the divorced, who after divorce, have switched to a second, merely civil marriage and have given rise to a new family. These unions have raised doctrinal and pastoral problems of great importance, in particular the alienation from certain parts of the life of the Church, and especially the exclusion from the Eucharist, of those living in irregular unions. In the light of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and the Ordinary General Assembly in 2015, on the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization, De Paolis reflects on this important issue and offers some solutions.) CLA 115 (2016)

J 75 (2015), 273-295: Raymond Leo Burke: Canonical Questions Regarding the Proposed Pastoral Care of the Faithful Who Are Divorced and Have Attempted Marriage. (Lecture) [116 2016/2] (Burke offers a canonical analysis of some of the issues raised in the Instrumentum Laboris for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. His presentation is centred around certain critical canonical questions raised by the work of the Synod of Bishops, in particular the canonical questions regarding the proposed pastoral care of the faithful who are divorced and have attempted marriage. Burke recalls a number of essential elements of marriage, comments on the proposed administrative process for the declaration of nullity of marriage, underscores the relationship between doctrine and discipline, and also adds some reflections about the proposed penitential path. ) CLA 116 (2016)

L 58 (2017), 377-423: Giuseppe Licciardi: Il capitolo VIII dell’Esortazione Apostolica Amoris laetitia tra logica pastorale e diritto canonico. (Article) [120 2018/2] (The Apostolic Exhortation Amorist Laetitia raises the question of whether an objectively evil act (or situation) can be morally admissible, or at least neutral, through the good intention of the person doing it. The Encyclical Veritatis Splendor had made clear that circumstances or intentions cannot transform an act that is intrinsically evil in virtue of its object into an act that is subjectively good or defensible as a choice. Licciardi considers that the solution proposed by Pope Francis is compatible with this principle and with canonical tradition. On the basis of the teaching of the 16th-century canonist and moralist Martin de Azpilcueta he argues that, although an objectively evil act cannot be made good or admissible through the good intention of the person performing it, nevertheless such good intention can be treated as an extenuating or even as an exempting circumstance, even though the act itself does not become good. He concludes that to admit to the sacraments a person who, while living in an irregular situation, sincerely requests admission to the fullness of ecclesial life, is a gesture of openness and profound mercy on the part of Mother Church, who is aware that arriving at perfection often involves a delicate and perhaps tortuous path of discernment.) CLA 120 (2018)

Per 103 (2014), 541-594: Velasio De Paolis: I divorziati risposati e i sacramenti dell’eucarestia e della penitenza. (Presentation) [115 2016/1] (Given here is the text of De Paolis’s presentation before the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 2014, in which he addresses the delicate question of the relationship between the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance and those who are divorced and remarried. De Paolis divides his contribution into two parts: a general introduction to the question of those who are divorced and remarried, followed by a more detailed reflection on the issue of their access to the sacraments. In this second part, De Paolis examines several sources of the magisterium and discipline of the Church; he then passes to a consideration of the ecclesiastical discipline concerning participation in the sacraments. After offering some reflections on the fact that divine law is involved in this question, he moves to a direct consideration of the position of Cardinal Kasper and a critical examination of some of the arguments advanced in favour of a change in the traditional doctrine and pastoral practice. He concludes that the problem of the divorced and remarried can only be dealt with within the framework of a Christian moral vision, and of a profound spiritual renewal of the Christian life in the light of the mystery of Christ to which each Christian is called to be conformed.) CLA 115 (2016)

Per 107 (2018), 297-326, 367-418: Patrick L. Travers: Amoris Laetitia and Canon 915: a merciful return to the “letter of the law”. (Article) [121 2019/1]  (With the promulgation of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia on 19 March 2016, a controversy arose concerning the perceived conflict between the contents of chapter VIII of the Exhortation and the norm contained in canon 915. Travers, returning to a theme which he had explored more than 20 years earlier [cf. J 55 (1995), 187-217; Canon Law Abstracts, no. 77, pp. 40-41], examines many of the issues involved. He presents the canonical discipline found in the CIC/17 before considering canon 915 of the CIC/83 and the 2000 declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts concerning the canon. He then presents chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia and explains how Pope Francis has indicated this should be interpreted. He explains how Pope Francis has indicated this should be interpreted. He analyses the text of canon 915 in the light of fundamental canonical principles, reflects on some of the arguments presented against the understanding of chapter VIII promoted by the Pope, and concludes that this chapter is, after all, in conformity with the norm of canon 915 properly interpreted. He sees this reading of canon 915, taken in conjunction with canons 843 §1 and 912, as providing a juridical framework for the implementation of Pope Francis’s teaching in Amoris Laetitia.)

RDC 48 1/98, 59-78: Jean Werckmeister: Access to the Sacraments for Remarried Divorcees. (Article) [85 2001/1] (Abstract, Droit Canon): Unlike the code of 1917, the code of 1983 does not deal with remarried divorcees and does not prescribe a penalty against them. The silence of the present code in this matter raises a question and requires interpretation. In virtue of Can. 843, as a general principle, access to the sacraments should not be refused. In the case of the sacrament of order, however, there is a question of irregularity and in the case of marriage there is the impediment of the bond of a previous marriage. With regard to the Eucharist, Can. 915 imposes certain restrictions on its reception but it is not explicit about who is concerned and can not be applied indiscriminately to all remarried divorcees. The ministers of Holy Communion, therefore, do not appear to have canonical sanction for refusing them, except in the case of grave scandal.

RDC 51 2/01, 373-399: Jean Werckmeister: L’admission des divorcés remariés aux sacre­ments et l’interprétation du can. 915. (Article) [90 2003/2] (Abstract, Droit Canon): The article sets our various interpretations of Canon 915 as well as some new suggestions which have been made recently on the matter.

RDC 53 2/03, 267-284: Roland Sublon: L’interprétation du canon 915 et la question du sujet. (Article) [95 2006/1] (Sublon offers some thoughts on the meaning of interpretation, especially in relation to the interpretation of canon 915 by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.) CLA 95 (2006)

RDC 55 2/05, 393-421: Claire Senon-Duplessis: L’Église Catholique et les fidèles divorcés remariés: les huit thèses du cardinal Ratzinger (1ère partie). (Article) [100 2008/2] (In 1998 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a book on the pastoral care of divorced and remarried persons. In his introduction, Cardinal Ratzinger sums up in eight theses the Catholic doctrine on the situation in the Church of divorced and remarried persons. These theses take up four themes in turn: the ecclesial situation of divorced and remarried faithful [theses 1 and 2], the proposal for active participation in the life of the Church [these 3 to 5], possible means of regularization of their situation [theses 6 and 7], and lastly the question of the future [thesis 8]. Senon-Duplessis proposes to present these theses and comment on them, bringing out the questions they raise in law, theology and pastoral care. In this article she examines theses 1 to 4.) CLA 100 (2008)

REDC 72 (2015), 349-366: Federico R. Aznar Gil: El Sínodo de los Obispos (2015): la «propositio» sobre los fieles divorciados y casados de nuevo civilmente. (Article) [116 2016/2] (Aznar Gil’s subject is the proposals of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops [2015] on the divorced and remarried. He first looks briefly at the preceding year’s Extraordinary Synod where the question was considered among others in the wider context of “difficult pastoral situations”. The Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod included a specific section on the subject and on various pastoral and family situations connected with it. Aznar Gil then examines the practice of the Orthodox Churches in dealing with the same problem; he underlines some of the theological and historical differences with the Latin Church which led to the distinctively specific praxis of the Orthodox, especially its use of the principle of oikonomia. Althoug the Instrumentum Laboris (2015) emphasized the need for pastoral care and respect for the divorced and remarried, it brought to the fore the division already evident among the bishops at the 2014 Synod on the question of readmission to the sacraments. Among the propositiones of the 2015 Synod the important point is made that the divorced and remarried are not to be considered as “excommunicated” and that attention should be given as to how they might be reintegrated into some of the liturgical, pastoral, education and institutional areas from which they are at present excluded. Sensitivity is required in the individual pastoral discernment and accompaniment in these situations while always respecting the demands of evangelical truth and charity as proposed by the Church. The Synod does not enter into the possible practical consequences of these ideas, and the way is left open for further study of the doctrinal and disciplinary questions raised.) CLA 116 (2016)

SC 38 (2004), 155-172: J. A. Coriden: The Marriage Bond and Ecclesial Reconciliation of the Divorced and Remarried. (Article) [95 2006/1] (Coriden offers a proposal for a different pastoral strategy regarding the reconciliation of divorced and remarried Catholics. It advocates a shift from a “preferential option for a canonical solution” to a process of discernment and supportive counsel that sometimes would lead to a moral rather than juridical solution. Coriden’s argument proceeds in three steps: 1) an examination of the meaning of the “bond of marriage” in the canonical tradition, concluding that it is an expression of the married state from a juridical point of view; 2) a reflection on the status of the divorced and remarried from various points of view: personal, ecclesial, canonical, moral, and sacramental; 3) a proposal for a pastoral approach to the reconciliation of divorced and remarried persons that is set within a larger ministry to marriage and family. The approach values and includes canonical options, i.e. declarations of nullity, but embraces a range of other options as well, including the toleration of some irregular unions within full communion.) CLA 95 (2006)

SC 49 (2015), 411-441: Wojciech Kowal: The Non-Admission of the Divorced and Remarried Persons to Holy Communion: Canon 915 Revisited. (Article) [115 2016/1] (Kowal deals with the question of the interpretation of canon 915 in the context of non-admission of divorced and remarried persons to Holy Communion. He refers to matters related to the understanding and interpretation of the current legislation, without touching on the issue of the indissolubility of marriage and the notion of marriage bond. Given the complexity of the subject matter, his considerations are limited to recent writings published in the canonical milieu of North America. On the basis of a detailed analysis of the process of the revision of canon 855 of the CIC/17, corresponding to canon 915 of the CIC/83, he studies the proper meaning of the term “manifest grave sin” and explains its canonical consequences, offering some practical consideration in relation to pastoral life. His aim is that his canonical reflection will help in a better understanding of the logic of the proposed solutions and their critical evaluation, and thus contribute to the debate before the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family [October 2015].) CLA 115 (2015)

SCL X (2014-2015), 217-238: Sahayaraj Lourdusamy: Admission of the Divorced and Civilly Remarried Catholics to the Eucharistic Communion – Towards A Definitive Solution? (Article) [117 2017/1] (In the light of the 201 Extraordinary Synod on the Family Lourdusamy examines the canonical situation of divorced and remarried Catholics in the Latin and Eastern Codes and the suggestions made by Cardinal Kasper. The Latin Code refers to manifest grave sin and the Eastern to the publicly unworthy. These are simply expressions of the eternal moral law. The question is whether a solution can be founded on the principles of salus animarum and canonical equity. Lourdusamy favours the approach taken by Cardinal Scola – spiritual communion, reconciliation without absolution, sexual continence, and testing of the validity of the marriage. He also looks at the relationship between canon law and Indian civil law on marriage.) CLA 117 (2017)

TPQ 149 (2001), 411-414: S. Lederhilger – H. Kalb: Römische Erlässe. (Documents) [87 2002/1]

TS LVII 1/96, 97-123: K. R. Dimes – J. A. Coriden: Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried. (Note) [77 1997/1]

J 55 (1995), 187-217: Patrick J. Travers: Reception of the Holy Eucharist by Catholics attempting Remarriage after Divorce and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. (Article) [77 1997/1]

Vid 79 7/15, 494-522: V. Tirimanna: Reception of the Eucharist by Divorced and Remarried Catholics. (Article) [118 2017/2] (Tirimanna starts by examining the teaching in regard to this issue contained in Familiaris Consortio [FC], no. 84, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1650, and Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 29. He notes that the Catechism fails to adopt the nuances of FC. He refers to a certain diversity in practice in the early Church, and then critically examines some proposed pastoral solutions. In particular he draws attention to the theological difficulties with the “spiritual communion” idea. He reviews the particular difficulties faced by those who were in conscience certain of the invalidity of their previous union, but could not prove it in the external forum. He considers the importance of faith in regard to the sacrament of marriage, and the possible effect of an absence of faith on sacramental validity. More recent solutions proposed include the possibility of non-juridical procedures, such as entrusting decisions in particular cases to the diocesan penitentiary, or reforming the canonical processes, even to the extent of instituting a diocesan administrative process. He refers also to the law of gradualness, and to the Eastern concept of oikonomia, as possible ways forward, before commenting on the importance of epikeia. He finally considers the category of the unjustly abandoned (FC, no. 84) and wonders about its possible canonical implications.) CLA 118 (2017)

Patricia M. Dugan – Luis Navarro (eds.): Mercy and Law in Marriage. (Book) (Gratianus, Wilson & Lafleur, Montreal, 2015) [117 2017/1] (This book contains the proceedings of a conference held at the University of the Holy Cross in Rome in May 2014, and serves as a precursor to the two Synod meetings of Catholic bishops in 2014 and 2015 and the Holy Father’s announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy starting on 8 December 2015. It contains contributions from Eduardo Baura [“Mercy, Oikonomia and Law in the Canonical Marriage System”]; Benedict Ndubueze Ejeh [“Admission to Marriage: The ‘Preventive Character’ of Mercy in Pre-Matrimonial Canonical Norms and Pastoral Praxis”]; and Miguel Ángel Ortiz [“The Pastoral Care of Divorced and Civilly Remarried Members of the Faithful and Their Call to Holiness”].) CLA 117 (2017)

ACR LXXXVII 3/10, 307-322: Brendan Daly: Any Possibility of Communion for the Divorced and Remarried without Annulments or Dissolutions? (Article) [106 2011/2] (Daly gives a comprehensive survey of the doctrine regulating access to Holy communion in the gospels, St. Paul’s epistles, the Church Fathers, ecumenical councils and directives of the Holy See. He then examines more recent initiatives, proposals and reactions including those from the United States and the Upper Rhine Province; the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio; the 1983 Code; the Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts’ and the writings and statements of Pope Benedict XVI prior to and subsequent to his assuming the papacy. After noting some misconceptions about the processing of marriage nullity cases, Daly observes that the Church teaching is hard and challenging. At the same time, he notes that there needs to be more study and explanation of the Church’s teaching – as Pope Benedict XVI has indicated – and that the Church needs to provide greater pastoral care before and during marriage, and a greater outreach to the divorced.) CLA 106 (2011)

AnC 4 (2008), 83-97: Piotr Steczkowski: Dopuszczenie rozwiedzionych i żyjących w nowych związkach do komunii świętej. Forum externum czy forum internum? (Admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried. Forum externum or forum internum?). (Conference presentation) [106 2011/2] (The central issue addressed by Steczkowski is whether and in what way the faithful who live in irregular matrimonial situations can be admitted to Holy Communion. Must they commit themselves to living as brother and sister before the parish priest, i.e. in the internal forum? Steczkowski gives a historical summary of the situation and analyzes the Church’s current law and practice.) CLA 106 (2011)

BEF LXXX 844/04, 769-776: J. González: On the Admission to the Sacraments of Catholics who have Divorced and Remarried. (Consultation) [94 2005/2]

DPM 15/16 (2008/2009), 555-571: Karl-Heinz Selge: „Nach Scheidung im Recht”. Beitrag zu einer Veröffentlichung gleichen Titels. (Article) [106 2011/2] (The topic of the juridical condition of divorced and remarried Catholics was studied at a conference organized in 2001 by Dr. Richard Puza. Selge examines the results of that conference which reflected on the possible canonical solutions proposed so far, suggestions of a dogmatic nature, disciplinary aspects, sociological data, as well as a special canonical juridical order worked out on this basis. With reference to the Pope’s directives in this matter, Selge considers that a “hermeneutic of renewal in continuity” in the area of matrimonial processes is not merely possible, but essential.) CLA 106 (2011)

INT 7 2/01, 194-210: Andréa Belliger: Die wiederverneirateten Geschiedenen: Versuch eines neuen kirchenrechtlichen Losingsansatzes. (Article) [88 2002/2] (Abstract: The situation of divorced and remarried Catholics and above all the question of their admittance to Communion is a point of controversy for theology and pastoral practice. In recent decades many ways of dealing with this have been proposed both in pastoral practice and in theological and canonical literature. These seek to remedy the unhappy gap between theory and practice, between universal and particular church teaching, as well as between pastoral and theological-canonical perspectives. The present article sets forth the basic position and limitations of the Roman Catholic Church in its relations with divorced and remarried Catholics. It describes the possible solutions currently available, examines similarities with the Orthodox Church’s tradition of oikonomia, and sets forth in eight steps a new proposal for dealing with the divorced and remarried from the perspective of Canon Law. This new proposal, inspired as it is by the Orthodox tradition, seeks to remain within the bounds of the Roman Catholic canonical tradition. The question remains whether the canonical structure of the Catholic Church can offer a merciful mediation between canonical norms and the reality of everyday life that, patterned on the model of Jesus, promotes human sanctity. In fact, in the Catholic canonical tradition the principles of applying general norms to concrete life situations includes a principle similar to oikonomia, that of the salus animarum. This principle, the ultimate aim of the Church and, in canon law, an instrument of the aequitas canonica that has remained little noticed, can be applied to concrete situations (c. 1752 CIC/1983). If it is the case that the basic meaning of the salus animarum and the aequitas canonica is implied in each canonical norm, this will mean, in the case of divorced and remarried Catholics, that the norm regarding the non-admittance to the Eucharist in accordance with c. 915 and the concrete circumstances of those in unsatisfying relationships will be linked, and that a solution to this concrete situation in regard to the sanctity of the unsatisfied persons and the ecclesial community must be found. This solution could be that the dispenser of the sacraments, as the one who applies the law, simply not apply the sanction of barring these people from the Eucharist, a solution well within the meaning of an exemption from the juridical consequences of an objective noncompliance. Divorced Catholics could seek an ecclesially recognized remarriage by invoking the application of aequitas canonica for the sake of the spiritual well-being of the dissatisfied persons, even as regards the impediment of an existing marriage according to c. 1085 §1 CIC/1983.)

Ius VI 2/15, 221-242: M. Orzolek: Orthodox Oekonomia and Civilly Remarried Catholics: An Opportunity for Doctrinal and Canonical Development? (Article) [118 2017/2] (Orzolek considers select ecumenical dimensions of admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Holy Communion. He begins by presenting fundamental concepts in canon law and moral theology necessary to contextualise the current debate, before examining the restrictive doctrinal developments in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and Cardinal Kasper’s critical assessment of this teaching in The Gospel of the Family. He concludes with a brief assessment of the current state of the question.) CLA 118 (2017)

J 57 (1997), 484-516: John J. Myers: Divorce, Remarriage, and Reception of the Holy Eucharist. (Article) [84 2000/2]

J 57 (1997), 517-540: P. J. Travers: Holy Communion and Catholics who have attempted Remarriage after Divorce: A Revisitation. (Article) [84 2000/2]

KIP 7 (20) 2018, nr. 2, 125-139: Daniel Przygoda: Problematyka dopuszczenia do Komunii św. osób żyjących w tzw. sytuacjach nieregularnych (Admission to Holy Communion of those living in so-called irregular situations). (Article) [122 2019/2] Abstract: The article presents a large analysis of pastoral care over those members of the Church who have divorced and remarried or are in other “irregular situations.” The Synods for family of 2014 and 2015 considered a possibility of allowing the divorced remarried to receive the sacraments of penance and Eucharist. Most bishops insisted on maintaining the traditional discipline because of a constitutive connection between Eucharist, communion with the Church, and Her teaching about indissolubility of marriage.

RMDC 22/1 (2016), 67-108; RMDC 22/2 (2016), 243-269: Mario Medina Balam: La comunión eucarística a los divorciados vueltos a casar civilmente a la luz de Amoris laetitia y los cánones 915-916. (Article) [122 2019/2]

SC 52 (2018), 205-222: Emmanuel Petit: « Amoris Laetitia » et la notion de gradualité: la doctrine canonique en faveur de la logique d’intégration. (Article) [121 2019/1] (In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis calls for pastoral discernment about delicate matrimonial situations. If the Exhortation does not propose new legislation, it invites us nevertheless to rediscover some aspects of the law of the Church. The notions of gradualness and integration structure the canonical doctrine. Some institutions, already old, such as the legitimacy of subsequent marriage or the radical convalidation of marriage, attest to the will of the law to help spouses to walk in their vocation as Christian spouses. The law of the Church is ordered to the salvation of souls. It must accompany personal situations and bear witness to indissolubility as a gift from God.) CLA 121 (2019)

Vid LIX 3/95, 179-187: J. Neuner: Communion of Divorced and Remarried Catholics and the Ecclesiology of Vatican II. (Article) [76 1996/2]

Proc CLSA 2000, 412-424: Committee on the Status of Pastoral Responses to Those in Irregular Marriages: Final Report. (Committee Report) [88 2002/2]

AnCrac 48 (2016), 125-140: Krzysztof Niewiadomski: Blogosławiony Jan Duns Szkot o możliwości przyjęcia komunii świętej w stanie grzechu śmiertelnego. Analiza w kontekście współczesnych dyskusji teologiczno-dyscyplinarnych (Blessed John Duns Scotus on the possibility of receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. Analysis in the context of contemporary theological–disciplinary discussions). (Article) [119 2018/1] (The discussion in the Church on the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion is a part of a broader debate on the possibility of reception of Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Theologians of various periods in the Church’s history have given their opinion on the subject. The great Franciscan Scholastic theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus considers such an action to be a further mortal sin. At the same time he respects the judgement made by an upright conscience regarding such a prior sin, and allows reception of Communion in order to avoid scandal on the part of the faithful, provided there is a firm resolution to confess the sin in the sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible. These exceptions cannot refer to those who do not have the firm resolution of rejection the sin. Niewiadomski reflects that allowing such persons to receive Communion would damage their own spiritual life and would contribute to an increased loss of the sense of sin among contemporary Catholics.) CLA 119 (2018)

CLSN 154/08, 61-64: Gordon Read: Receiving Communion Worthily. (Article) [101 2009/1]

IE XIX 1/07, 37-53: Carlos José Errázuriz M.: Le disposizioni richieste per ricevere l’Eucaristia, alla luce del canone 916 del Codice di Diritto Canonico. (Lecture) [100 2008/2] (The purpose of this lecture to the Fathers of the Apostolic Penitentiary was to deal with moral questions that may arise in the penitential ministry in relation to canon 916. As a canonist, Errázuriz feels a certain degree of concern, firstly at being asked to comment on matters of a moral nature, and secondly at the fact that the Code includes non-canonical matters such as the duty to strive for sanctity in canon 210. He also believes that it is good to avoid the reduction of moral demands to the realm of merely juridical duties, that is, of intra-ecclesial justice. Separately he studies the background to the canonical precept of canon 916 and its interpretation.) CLA 100 (2008)

Per XCIV 3/05, 353-416: J. J. Conn: Juridical themes in Eucharistic documents of the pontificate of John Paul II. (Article) [96 2006/2] (Conn presents a synthetic reflection on four major themes of a juridical nature found in the Eucharistic magisterium of Pope John Paul II: the relationship between Eucharist and priesthood; sacramental sharing in the absence of full communion; the Eucharist and the state of grace; and fidelity to liturgical norms.) CLA 96 (2006)

QDE 16 (2003), 252-267: Bassiano Uggé: La comunione eucaristica fuori della Messa. (Article) [92 2004/2]

Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi (ed.), A Point of No Return? Amoris Laetitia on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, 2017; anthology of articles from various perspectives

Kowal, Wojciech. “The Non-Admission of the Divorced and Remarried Persons to Holy Communion: Canon 915 Revisited,” Studia Canonica, 49 (2015), 411-441. Abstract: The article deals with the question of the interpretation of CIC c. 915 in the context of non-admission of divorced and remarried persons to Holy Communion. The author refers to matters related to the understanding and interpretation of the current legislation, without touching on the issue of the indissolubility of marriage and the notion of marriage bond. Given the complexity of the subject matter, the considerations are limited to recent writings published in the canonical milieu of North America. On the basis of a detailed analysis of the process of the revision of c. 855 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, corresponding to CIC c. 915, the proper meaning of the term ‘manifest grave sin’ is studied and its canonical consequences explained. Some practical applications in the pastoral life are offered as well. The author hopes that his canonical reflection will help in a better understanding of the logic of the proposed solutions and their critical evaluation, and thus contribute to the debate before the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family (October 2015).