Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Italian cardinal says allowing Communion for civilly remarried is impossible

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 17, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Not even a pope can change Catholic teaching or practice on marriage, including on the prohibition against reception of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, a prominent Italian prelate has said.

Cardinal Carlo Caffara, the cardinal archbishop of Bologna, told an Italian newspaper this weekend that this teaching comes to the Church from Christ Himself and cannot be changed by anyone, either by a pope or a synod.

In the interview with the Catholic magazine Il Foglio, titled “From Bologna with love: stop!”, Caffara said, “Do not touch the marriage of Christ. It cannot be judged case by case; you do not bless a divorce and hypocrisy is not ‘merciful.’”

“The popes have always taught that the power of the Pope does not come to this: over a ratified and consummated marriage, the Pope has no power,” said the cardinal.

Caffara’s intervention comes after one of the pope’s most favoured theologians had suggested that while the Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage can never be changed, it could be ignored in practice. So far there has been no denial or correction from the Vatican on the suggestion by Cardinal Walter Kasper in the keynote address at the most recent consistory of cardinals on February 20.

Kasper, the retired head of the Vatican’s ecumenical office and the acknowledged leader of the ultra-liberal German wing of the Catholic episcopate, told the consistory that a solution to the “problem” of Catholics who could not receive Communion would be to offer them, without requiring a change in lifestyle, a “period of penance” after which they could return to the sacraments.

“The question is therefore how the Church can reflect this indivisible pairing of the fidelity and mercy of God in its pastoral action,” he said. It is this “mercy,” the cardinal said, that compels the creation of a “new paradigm” for “pastoral practice.”

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“After the shipwreck of sin, the shipwrecked person should not have a second boat at his or her disposal, but rather a life raft,” Kasper said.  

The Catholic Church, following the words of Christ, does not recognize divorce, and in the eyes of the Church, a person who has been married, divorces and obtains a second marriage in the civil sphere, is committing the mortal sin of adultery. The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been that a Catholic in an objective state of mortal sin cannot receive Holy Communion until he has repented, given up the sin in question and received sacramental absolution in confession.

According to Cardinal Caffara, “If the Church admits [them to] the Eucharist, we must give an opinion on the legality of the second marriage. It is logical. But then what about the first marriage? The second [marriage] cannot be a true second marriage, since bigamy is against the word of the Lord.”

Following Kasper’s logic, he said, such a proposal could be expanded to eradicate the very concept of marriage within the Church. “At this point one might wonder: why did he not approve of the free cohabitation? And why not relationships between homosexuals?” he said.

A close advisor to Pope Francis has also said that the practice of withholding Holy Communion from the divorced and civilly remarried could soon be overturned. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the archdiocese of Munich and a member of Pope Francis’ “council of eight” advisors, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the change was “practicable.”

“The cardinals had very diverse reactions to [Kasper’s] proposal,” he said. “I personally find it to be a practicable plan that would however have to be applied on a case-by-case basis.”

Marx’s comments follow his previous suggestion that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in demanding that the German bishops’ conference withdraw “pastoral” plans to admit the divorced and civilly remarried to Communion, was being too harsh. Marx has recently been promoted twice, with Pope Francis appointing him to be the chairman of the newly created Council for the Economy, and his fellow German bishops electing him as head of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Last week, an Italian archbishop told local media that he felt the “new paradigm” would shortly lead to the Church accepting both homosexuality and heterosexual cohabitation and premarital sex.

Archbishop Benvenuto Castellani told Italian state television network, RAI, “I have seen and experienced many situations … and I am convinced that it is time for Christians to open themselves to diversity.”

Castellani endorsed Kasper’s proposal, saying that if the plan fails, “what will also fail is not only a chance for the Church but also a chance to eliminate many vices in society and even within the Church, such as the idolatry of money.”



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