Cardinals Marx and Muller, the most powerful German churchmen, seem at odds on the ie of remarried divorcees. The ecclesiastical lawyer Prof. Klaus Ludicke tries to soften the fronts in the interview.
Interviewer: Can you explain again exactly why remarried divorcees are no longer allowed to receive sacraments under church law?
Prof. Ludicke: The basic line of march on this ie has long been defined in such a way that the first statement is dogmatic: marriage is indissoluble. If someone remarries in a civil ceremony, the state in which they then live is not an ecclesiastically valid marriage. The second premise is that anyone who enters into such a relationship is living in permanent adultery. The third premise is that this is a grave sin, a mortal sin that precludes receiving communion unless the person repents and confesses.
But now there is always a call for mercy. They also like to refer to Jesus and the parable of the adulteress. A possibility of conversion is called for. Or laments that a murderer can go back to Communion after confession, but the remarried cannot.
Interviewer: Is there then a chance to solve the dilemma?
Prof. Ludicke: The indissolubility of marriage is a dogmatic requirement that cannot and will not be shaken and that Cardinal Marx will not shake either. In the end, the question is not whether people can ecclesiastically remarry after divorce, that is the responsibility of the ecclesiastical marriage courts, but whether or not, if they then live in a second civil marriage, they are really living in mortal sin. This has been seen by default so far, and there is obviously movement coming into play, because in many other areas, too, such as the evaluation of homosexuality, premarital cohabitation or non-marital cohabitation, and the situation of single parents, the church is apparently now prepared to think in a more differentiated way and to appreciate these life situations in a more differentiated way.
Interviewer: Against this background, how do you evaluate Cardinal Muller's statement that God's word cannot be invalidated by human action, and Cardinal Marx's statement that he has just given hope to remarried divorcees??
Prof. Ludicke: The two cardinals Marx and Muller probably speak of different things without agreeing that they do so. On the one hand, there is adherence to the indissolubility of marriage as a dogmatic requirement. This is the key point of Cardinal Muller's statements, which Cardinal Marx does not dispute. On the other hand, there is the question of the moral quality of living together after such a divorce. There is a link between these two elements, which was already mentioned in the letter "Familiaris Consortio" by John Paul II. If one were to admit remarried divorcees to the sacraments, this would cause confusion among the faithful about the indissolubility of marriage and give the impression that it is permissible to do so. This is, of course, a vague thesis. In my decades of experience with ecclesiastical marriage annulment processes, I have not experienced anyone who has divorced because they believed that they could then marry again ecclesiastically. And also no one who has remained with his partner only to continue receiving communion. This link, the confusion among the faithful, must be addressed in a different way than by preventing the faithful from receiving communion.
Interviewer: Pope Francis has shown that he wants to respond to the current concerns and needs of families with his Synod on the Family in the fall in the Vatican and with the questionnaire that he sent to parishes worldwide. Is it likely that Pope Francis will also focus on the problem of remarried divorcees in the process?
Prof. Ludicke: At the two Synods of Bishops in 2014 and 2015, the topic of marriage and family will play a central role, and also this topic. But I can't imagine that the Pope will now rush ahead without seeking the consensus of the universal Church and really asking the opinion of the bishops in a synod. But there is a tendency for him to speak of mercy and conversion, of the church's ability to reach out to people instead of turning them away. So, the trend is to find a solution here that puts an end to this moral condemnation as it has been standard so far.
The interview was conducted by Christian Schlegel.