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Luis F. Ladaria, SJ

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Vatican’s doctrine office affirms Communion must be denied to ‘remarried’ divorcees

Luis F. Ladaria, SJ

Rorate Caeli, the prominent Catholic blog, this morning reports on important news from Rome via France. L’Homme Nouveau, a French Catholic magazine, reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF, known colloquially as “The Holy Office”), has given an official reply (responsum) which confirms that Holy Communion may not be given to Catholics who live in a civil marriage with a new partner after being divorced from their sacramentally-married spouse. Below (courtesy of Rorate Caeli) is an English translation of the text of the question (dubium) put to the Holy Office and the Holy Office’s responsum:

[Responsum] To the Question of a French Priest: “Can a confessor grant absolution to a penitent who, having been religiously married, has contracted a second union following divorce?”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded on October 22, 2014:

“We cannot exclude a priori the remarried divorced faithful from a penitential process that would lead to a sacramental reconciliation with God and, therefore, also to Eucharistic communion. Pope John Paul II, in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84) envisaged such a possibility and detailed its conditions: ‘Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’.’ (cf. also Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 29)

The penitential process to be undertaken must take into consideration the following elements:

1 – Verify the validity of the religious marriage in the respect of truth, all the while avoiding giving the impression of a kind of ‘Catholic divorce’.

2 – See eventually if the persons, with the aid of grace, can separate from their new partners and reconcile with those from whom they had separated.

3 – Invite remarried divorced persons who, for serious reasons (for instance, children), cannot separate from their partner to live as ‘brother and sister’.

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In any event, absolution cannot be granted if not under the condition of being assured of true contrition, that is, ‘a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future’ (Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, c. 4). In this line, a remarried divorcee cannot be validly absolved if he does not take the firm resolution of not ‘sinning for the future’ and therefore of abstaining from the acts proper to spouses, by doing in this sense all that is within his power.”

Reprinted with permission from Voice of the Family.

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