Id-dibattitu dwar il-pożizzjoni tad-divorzjati li reġgħu żżewġu

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28 ta’ Frar 2012

Tajjeb li nkunu konxji li d-dibattitu dwar il-pożizzjoni tad-divorzjati li reġgħu żżewġu ilu għaddej ħafna snin fil-Knisja Kattolika. Tista’ tgħid li kważi l-interventi kollha matul is-snin kienu jieqfu biss dwar jekk dawn jistg]ux jitqarbnu jew le. Il-Kummissjoni Teoloġika spiss esprimiet il-fatt li ħajja nisranija awtentika hija usa’ minn jekk wieħed jistax jitqarben jew le. F’dan in-numru fis-serje ta’ Formazzjoni u Informazzjoni llum se nwasslu parti oħra minn dan id-dibattitu.

July 10, 1993: three bishops in Germany (Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Oskar Saier) issue a pastoral letter to those involved in pastoral activities in their diocese, in which they stated that a pastoral dialogue was needed to determine whether the “generally valid” prohibition against the remarried receiving the Eucharist “applies also in a given situation,” and that there ought to be “room for pastoral flexibility in complex, individual cases.” Citing Familiaris Consortio, they note the Church’s teaching that “divorced and remarried people generally cannot be admitted to the eucharistic feast as they find themselves in life situations that are in objective contradiction to the essence of Christian marriage,” but remark that canon law can “set up only a valid general order; it cannot regulate all of the often very complex individual cases.”  (“Pastoral Ministry: The Divorced and Remarried,” Origins 23 (March 10, 1994), pp. 670-673).

  • Germain Grisez – John Finnis – William E. May, “Indissolubility, Divorce and Holy Communion. An Open Letter to Archbishop Saier, Bishop Lehmann, and Bishop Kasper”, in New Blackfriars 75 (1994), pp. 321-30.

This “open letter” is the response by three moral theologians to the joint pastoral letter published by the three German bishops (on 10.7.1993), and a list of accompanying principles of pastoral care. The focus of the “open letter” regards the remarried divorcee’s possible decision of conscience that he or she may receive Communion.

While referring to the content of Familiaris Consortio n.84 regarding no general, formal, official admission to the Eucharist, the three German bishops – the three moral theologians affirm – “specify and authorize a way in which ‘remarried’ individuals can gain admission to the sacraments: they are to decide for themselves, ‘in a personal review of … conscience … whether or not they may receive Communion” (p.322a). Mention is made of the application of eight criteria to reach a decision, and to engage in dialogue with a priest: this may indicate a path of admission to the sacraments, an admission – the bishops claim – carrying ecclesial significance and recognized as legitimate by the Church. The July 1993 Pastoral Letter affirms that “pastoral dialogue can help those involved to reach a personal and responsible decision according to the judgement of their own consciences that must be respected by the Church and the congregation” (p.322b). Priests, the Pastoral Letter insists, are to respect the judgement of the individual’s conscience, and to defend such a decision.

While responding to the three German Bishops’ Letter, Grisez, Finnis and May make the following points:

  • “Those who suppose that conscience can determine good and evil autonomously or that it merely registers moral feelings would say the decision need not be either correct or erroneous. But Catholic teaching … [as] reaffirmed in Veritatis Splendor (62-63), always has been that in every instance conscience either is correct or in error” (pp.322b-322a).
  • In the case of remarried divorcees who decide to live as brother and sister, there are indeed situations when these individuals may receive the sacraments, but this “could occasion mistaken and uncharitable judgements by others” (p.323a).
  • The three moral theologians, while addressing a number of concrete situations/examples, affirm that persistence in a state of mortal sin is inconsistent with the sacramental life of the Christian (p.324).
  • The three theologians criticize the conclusion of those who hold that a remarried divorcee’s new relationship – which fails to “meet the Church’s official, canonical requirements” – comes “to have the moral reality of marriage”, and so the individual is not committing adultery (p.325a). Such an opinion can never be in conformity with authentic Catholic teaching.
  • Reflecting on Jesus’ words, ‘whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery’, the three theologians insist that this assertion is exceptionless, because “‘whoever’ indicates that the proposition is universal” (p.325b). They strongly affirm that “obtaining a divorce cannot succeed in dissolving one’s marriage” (p.326a).
  • Grisez, Finnis and May criticize those remarried divorcees who while seeking re-admission to the sacraments decide to “put behind [themselves] … the ‘shadows of the past’ or what one might call the ‘adultery’, literal or figurative, which definitely sealed [their] marriage’s failure” (p.327a). They also criticize “remarried individuals’ objectively incorrect decisions of conscience assumed to be made in good faith” (p.328b).
  • The three theologians make an important point when they state that “while pastors sometimes can rightly tolerate an error of conscience made in good faith, to authorize the making of a decision is to cooperate formally in making it, not to tolerate it” (pp.328b-329a).
  • Authorizing remarried divorcees to receive the Eucharist disposes “all the faithful to assent to one or more false beliefs” (p.329a) regarding marriage, the Eucharist and the other sacraments. The other faithful, too, would be led into confusion since they can reach the conclusion that such an authorization is correct. This situation leads the faithful “to suppose – as they already are far too likely to suppose – that conscience can determine good and evil autonomously and without regard to faith’s teachings, or that conscience, merely registering moral feelings, need not be true or false, but only peaceful and self-satisfied” (p.329a).
  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried persons, 14.9.1994 = Bullettin tal-Arcidjocesi 84 (Randan-Ghid 1995), pp.211-218.

The context of this Letter is the International Year of the Family (1994), although it is easily evident that it seeks to give an authoritative response to the July 1993 Pastoral Letter by the three German bishops mentioned above. These are the more salient points:

  • Shepherds of souls have the responsibility to help those in irregular marriage situations to “experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church” and to receive 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” (n.2).
  • “Authentic understanding and genuine mercy are never separated from the truth” (n.3).
  • The CDF Letter mentions that while the contents of Familiaris Consortio84 are well known, different pastoral solutions in various parts of the world have proposed that “divorced and remarried members of the faithful could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorised according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflection and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (n.3). There are clear references in n.3 to the Letter by the German bishops.
  • The CDF Letter reminds us about our call to be faithful to the words of Christ and to the doctrine and discipline of the Church on this matter: “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” (n.4; Catechism1650). This norm is not a punishment or a form of discrimination, but “expresses an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion” (n.4). There is a contradiction between their lifestyle and the love of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • The CDF Letter repeats the conditions expressed in Familiaris Consortio84 concerning remarried divorcees who may receive the Eucharist “only after obtaining sacramental absolution which may be given to those who, repenting … are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage” (n.4). Mention is made of the case when a couple is unable to separate due to their responsibility to give an upbringing to their children, and who are called to “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence … In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal” (n.4).
  • Shepherds of souls are invited to discern carefully between different situations, and “exhorts them to encourage the participation of the divorced and remarried in the various events in the life of the Church” (n.5), and to remind them they are to refrain from the reception of Holy Communion because this “openly contradicts the Church’s teaching” (n.6).
  • The Church is called to accompany these individuals pastorally and to “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” (n.6). Participation in the life of the Church is not restricted to Holy Communion, but includes prayer, meditation on Scripture, and works of charity and justice.
  • The CDF Letter reminds that it is mistaken for remarried divorcees who present themselves to receive the Eucharist to reach “a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of a new union” on the basis of their conscience as the ultimate arbiter (n.7). Although “one’s own dispositions for the reception of Holy Communion must be made by a properly formed moral conscience, … 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” (n.8). [Dan kien imfisser fl-artiklu ta’ Mons. Pompedda fil-materjal li tqassam gimaghtejn ilu f’din is-serje.]
  • The CDF Letter reiterates the relationship between participation in the sacramental Body of Christ in the Eucharist and union with his mystical Body, the Church and its members. Sacramental communion with Christ can never be separated from ecclesial communion with Christ’s Body, the Church. The Letter, in fact, underlines that “receiving Eucharistic Communion contrary to the norms of ecclesial communion is therefore in itself a contradiction” (n.9).
  • In n.10 of the Letter, one encounters a number of pastoral attitudes to be embraced by the Church and its members in the assistance of those in irregular marriage situations: (1) solicitous charity to strengthen them in the love of Christ and the Church; (2) a transmission to these individuals of the message of Christian marriage; (3) the endurance in faith of one’s personal distress in difficult situations; (4) it should be always clear that not being able to receive the Eucharist is not a punishment or a form of discrimation, but a matter of “absolute fidelity to the will of Christ”; (5) shepherds of souls and their communities are called “to suffer and to love in solidarity with the persons concerned”; (6) this pastoral action is to embarked upon “with total dedication” while reminding all those concerned that these pastoral attitudes have truth and love at their foundation.
  • Dionigi Tettamanzi, “Fedeltà nella verità”, L’Osservatore Romano (Italian daily edition, 15.10.1994), pp.1, 9.

Tettamanzi, then General Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, wrote a commentary on the CDF Letter upon its publication. The prominence of the commentary in the Vatican newspaper on the day of publication of the Letter gives it considerable weight. The following are its more important points:

  • The love of Christ is the leitmotif of the CDF Letter. The love of Christ is always one with the Truth he proclaimed.
  • “I sacramenti di Gesù Cristo hanno una loro verità, ossia un loro significato o logos, e chiedono pertanto di essere celebrati in coerenza con tale logos… Dare i sacramenti ai divorziati risposati … significa porre in atto un ‘linguaggio sacramentale’ che viene smentito dal ‘linguaggio esistenziale’, sicché i segni sacramentali finiscono per dire il ‘contrario’ del loro vero contenuto e quindi si configurano come segni ‘falsi e falsificanti’”.
  • The fidelity of the Church and its shepherds to Christ is highlighted. Their duty is explained – their grave responsibility to admonish those in irregular marital situations: “la gravità del dovere dipende ed è misurata dalla gravità dei contenuti dottrinali e pratici implicati, come sono l’indissolubilità del matrimonio e le condizioni morali per l’accesso ai sacramenti. Conseguentemente, la gravità del dovere dipende ed è misurata dal bene che intende salvaguardare e promuovere: il bene spirituale della persona e il bene comune della Chiesa”.
  • The emphasis on accompanying individuals in these difficult situations is repeated. These individuals are not excommunicated from the Church. In fact, Tettamanzi that it is mistaken to consider them as “scomunicati dalla Chiesa e quindi da essa allontanati e rifiutati. Ma in quanto battezzati, sono inseriti nella comunità cristiana. E per sempre: nessun disordine di vita – neppure il divorzio e il secondo ‘matrimonio’ – è tale da cancellare il carattere e il vincolo battesimale”.
  • Tettamanzi stresses the necessity of catechesis and formation of the moral conscience: “Emerge così la necessità di sviluppare, con l’aiuto della riflessione teologica e pastorale, un’opera vasta e costante di catechesi e di formazione della coscienza che porti i fedeli a conoscere la posizione della Chiesa secondo verità e secondo le ragioni che la giustificano. Si tratta di comunicare, con la parola e la testimonianza della vita, il messaggio evangelico del matrimonio nel contesto sociale e culturale d’oggi, nel quale gli stessi cristiani sono tentati da sclerokardia (=ebusija tal-qalb, cfr Mt 19,8). Con coraggio e fiducia. E con grande bontà”.

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Fil-ħarġa li jmiss inwasslu aktar tagħrif dwar dan id-dibattitu. Il-punti li joħorġu jgħinuna ngħarblu tajjeb sitwazzjonijiet pastorali diffiċli li nħabbtu wiċċna magħhom fil-qadi tal-ministeru sa`erdotali tagħna.


Dun Hector

Kummissjoni Teoloġika

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