Desmond Fisher states that “given the pope’s repeated emphasis on the church’s dogmatic teaching a change in the rules is inconceivable” (“First real test of Pope Francis to begin”, Rite & Reason, September 30th). However, it was also inconceivable once that the church’s support for slavery would ever change but it had to move with the times. This synod’s main arena of battle will be whether the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion will be lifted.
Pope Francis’s position has been outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper, one of his closest confidantes, who has stated that the Catholic Church could find a “toleration” of civil marriages following divorce, in some circumstances.
Cardinal Pell from Australia is leading the conservative backlash, stating, “The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment, which must follow the reassertion of doctrine, will be anticipated and dissipated”.
Already the battle lines are drawn with the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Marx, stating that the majority of German bishops support Cardinal Kasper.
In one sense all this in-fighting is irrelevant as many divorced and remarried Catholics follow their belief that the eucharist is not a reward for the good and virtuous only but also sustenance on their particular journey towards God as incarnated in Jesus Christ.
The irony is that if a husband or wife dies, then there is no problem about the surviving spouse who remarries receiving communion. However, when a marriage for all intents and purposes dies and the original marital relationship ceases to exist, those who divorce and remarry are barred from receiving communion as they are, in the eyes of the dogmatist churchmen, adulterers and sinners and not fit to be full partakers in the eucharistic meal.
Pope Francis is trying to loosen the church from the chains of dogmatists and he deserves all our support in his battle for pastoral change.
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Letter to Editor of The Irish Times, 2 October 2014