Cardinal Ratzinger: On the Pastoral Care for the Divorced and Remarried


Cardinal Ratzinger:
On the Pastoral Care for the Divorced and Remarried

ROME, 16 FEB 1999 (ZENIT).

"Divorced Catholics who have remarried continue to be members of the people of God and must experience the love of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church." Cardinal Ratzinger wrote these words in the introduction to a book edited by the Vatican Publishing House, which refers to the ecclesial doctrine on this matter. It concerns men and women -- the Cardinal explains -- who "are not excluded from ecclesial communion" and, therefore, "the pastors are called to help these faithful in a sensitive way," showing them "concrete paths to conversion and participation in ecclesial life."

The book, 'On the Pastoral Care for the Divorced and Remarried', contains the letter written by the Congregation which develops the doctrine on "the reception of Eucharistic communion by the divorced and remarried" of 1994. Added to it is part of the encyclical 'Familiaris Consortio' which refers to the topic and an address by John Paul II. In addition, it has five studies signed by the experts Dionigi Tettamanzi, Mario Pompedda, Anguel Rodriguez, Piero Marcuzzi and Giles Pelland which give good advice to those responsible for this difficult and delicate aspect of pastoral work.

In the introduction, Cardinal Ratzinger develops eight points, "the essential content of the ecclesial doctrine," justifying the non-admission of these persons to the sacrament of the Eucharist, and responding to the five most common positions in favor of admission of the divorced to full ecclesial communion.

"As baptized persons -- Ratzinger says -- divorced Catholics who have remarried are called to participate in the life of the Church, to the degree that this is compatible with their objective situation," without being limited "to the question of reception of communion, as sadly so often happens." In this regard, he emphasizes that "due to their objective situation, divorced faithful who have remarried cannot decide on their own or be admitted to the table of the Lord." He adds, moreover, that they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities, such as: be godparents, be involved in liturgical or catechetical services, or participate in pastoral counseling. Nor is it advisable that they be witnesses in a Catholic marriage.

He recalled the doctrine already mentioned which allows these persons to participate in the Eucharist "if they separate or live like brother and sister." A very exacting requirement "which needs the prudent and paternal advice of a confessor." The "faithful who are subjectively convinced of the invalidity of their previous marriage, must regulate their situation in an external court," that is, before an ecclesiastical tribunal which, the Cardinal points out, has "the exclusive competence." But he stresses, in any case, that the Church "does not stop loving her sons and daughters who are in difficult matrimonial situations." ZE99021608

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