Pope warned not to reform divorcees Communion ban
A POWERFUL group of cardinals has struck a blow against the reformist agenda of Pope Francis, warning him in a new book not to relax the Roman Catholic Church's ban on remarried divorcees receiving Communion.
The book will be published, provocatively, on October 1, just days before the Vatican convenes an extraordinary synod of bishops. The synod will discuss the gulf between official Church teaching and the real lives of millions of ordinary Catholics, including the issue of the Sacrament for divorcees who remarry.
In the latest sign of a conservative reaction against the Pope's push for a more inclusive and compassionate Church, the five cardinals maintain the traditional position that divorce is not permitted and that anyone whose marriage breaks down and then marries again in a civil ceremony is technically an adulterer.
"The authors of this volume are united in their firm belief that the New Testament shows us that Christ prohibited, without any ambiguity, divorce, and any successive marriage, on the basis of God's original plan," they write in the book, 'Remaining in the Truth of Christ - Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church'.
As such, they must not be allowed to receive the Sacrament, insisted the cardinals, who include hardliners such as Gerhard Ludwig Muller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the Vatican doctrinal enforcement department that succeeded the Inquisition.
The book is a riposte to remarks made in February by Walter Kasper, a reformist cardinal close to Pope Francis, who hinted that the Church might be prepared to relax its rules on remarried divorcees taking Communion.
The retired German cardinal called for the Church's leaders to look afresh at the contentious issue with "tolerance, clemency and indulgence".
The Church should be realistic and acknowledge "the complex and thorny problem" of marriages that break down, he told his fellow cardinals.
While marriage should still be regarded as an indissoluble institution, in some cases the Church should tolerate, even if it did not fully accept, people entering a second, civil union.
But that compromise was roundly rejected by the cardinals, who see it as dangerous meddling in the teachings laid down by Jesus in the Bible.
"This is one of those situations where we don't believe we have the authority to make any change because that would go against Christ's word in the Gospels," Professor Robert Dodaro, one of four theologians who collaborated on the book, said.
"The cardinals are not looking to be punitive towards divorcees. But they say that if the Church starts tolerating second marriages, what happened to the principle of the indissolubility of the first marriage?"
The cardinals had worked on the book "feverishly" throughout the summer so that it would be ready for publication ahead of the synod, said Professor Dodaro, the president of the Patristic Institute, a theological college in Rome.
In April the Pope reportedly told a woman who had married a previously divorced man that she was free to take Holy Communion. (©Daily Telegraph, London)