Abp. Müller to German archdiocese: Church teaching on remarried divorced people stands

Abp. Gerhard Ludwig Müller

Abp. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, now Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2010. (CNS file photo)Mark de Vries, who writes from the Netherlands, has translated and posted a recent letter from Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to recently retired Abp. Robert Zollitsch, who is currently the Apostolic Administrator of the the Archdiocese Freiburg im Breisgau.

The background: in early October, shortly after Abp. Zollitsch’s retirement, as Michael J. Miller reported for CWR, the archdiocese “drew up its own guidelines for divorced and remarried Catholics, allowing some of them to receive Holy Communion under some circumstances.” That led to Abp. Müller writing a lengthy article  clarifying the matter, entitled “The Power of Grace: On the indissolubility of marriage and the debate concerning the civilly remarried and the sacraments” (Oct 22).

The new letter reiterates and summarizes some of the same points:

1. Regarding the reception of the sacraments by divorced and remarried faithful the proposal from the bishops of the Oberrhein area is recommended anew as a pastoral direction: after a process of discussion with the parish priests, people concerned can either reach the conclusion to participate much in the life of the Church, but to deliberately refrain from receiving the Sacraments, while others can in their concrete situations achieve a “responsibly reached decision of conscience” and be able to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, and this decision is “to be respected” by the priest and the community.

Contrary to this assumption the Magisterium of the Church emphasises that the pastors must recognise the various situations well and must invite the affected faithful to participation in the life of the Church, but also “reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred  Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have  remarried” (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, of 22 November 1981, N. 84; also compare the Letter of this Congregation of 14 September 1994 about the reception of Communion by remarried divorced faithful, which rejects the proposal from the Oberrhein bishops; and Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of 22 February 2009, N. 29).

This position of the Magisterium is well-founded. Remarried divorcees stand in the way of their access to the Eucharist, insofar as their state of life is an objective contradiction to the relationship of love between Christ and the Church, which is made visible and present in the Eucharist (doctrinal reason). If these people were allowed to receive the Eucharist this would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage (pastoral reason).

Read the entire letter on de Vries site. And here is Miller’s CWR article, “CDF Clarification on Divorced and Remarried Catholics”.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.