Mondays may not be impossible for all Catholic bloggers, though. The latest in the Catholic blogosphere: a battle over whether or not the Pope has indicated that there might be a way for divorced and "remarried" (e.g., not annulled) Catholics to return to Communion.
Deacon Greg Kandra kicked it off with a provocative post here, in which he quotes German theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff who claims that admittance to the sacraments for divorced Catholics who attempt a second "marriage" outside the Church is an open question.
Not so fast, says Dr. Ed Peters:
The latest in a long line of calls for divorced and remarried (outside the Church) Catholics to be formally readmitted to holy Communion, this one from Austria, is an example of the proclivity of some to take the pope’s thinking-out-loud about a topic as some sort of papal ipse dixit on that topic. Here, the pope is portrayed as having opened the door (twice in fact) to Catholics in irregular marriages being formally admitted to holy Communion—first in his remarks to the priests of the diocese of Aosta (2005) and again in one of his annual addresses to the Roman Rota (2006).
We may dispatch with the Rota claim forthwith: It’s not there. At all. The pope’s comments to priests in Aosta are more complex, I grant, but they do not, I think, signal a papal rethinking of Eucharistic discipline; rather, they show his interesting openness to rethinking an aspect of matrimonial law.
In his Aosta comments the pope recognized the pain of Catholics disallowed reception of holy Communion based on their irregular marriage situation, but his ideas toward alleviating that pain did not run toward changing the rules on admission to holy Communion. When he was Cardinal Ratzinger, the pope “wrote the book” (actually, it was a letter) on the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to holy Communion. His letter was a beautiful tapestry of pastoral solicitude, fidelity to Church teaching on marriage and the Eucharist, and appreciation for how canon law serves the Church and her members. Nothing in it suggests that any good comes from winking at the truth for, as everyone knows, the truth cannot set us free if it is not the truth. Parlaying papal remarks to diocesan priests into an abrogation of that dicasterial latter would be, to put it mildly, a stretch. [All links in original--E.M.]
The Curt Jester weighs in to agree strongly with Dr. Peters.
I may have had my differences in the past with Dr. Peters, but when someone's right, the fact that I've disagreed at other times doesn't stop me from emphatically agreeing. This is the case here. I may not be a theologian, a canon lawyer, or anybody but an opinionated redheaded Catholic laywoman, but the idea that people who are divorced and remarried outside the Church can be readmitted to the sacraments without either an annulment or the death of the spouse to whom they are putatively validly married would seem, to put it plainly, not even remotely possible.
Why? Because while the Church has the power to bind and to loosen, that power does not permit her to make morally good or even morally neutral that which is intrinsically evil. Adultery is one of those sins that just can't be defined as anything but evil; it is an offense against both chastity and justice to give the sexual gift to someone other than one's valid spouse. This is why a Church annulment is not a divorce, not at all--it is a pronouncement after an investigation by the Church which declares that what may have appeared to be a valid marriage was not one at all.
Any theological speculation as to how to deal with the very real pain of Catholics who are no longer in valid marriages but have contracted subsequent invalid ones will ultimately run up against the question: are those in invalid marriages, objectively speaking, committing adultery in their relations with each other, or are they not (assuming they are not living as brother and sister in an attempt to reconcile with the Church, of course)? If they are, then they can't receive Communion. If they are not--why, then, what is adultery, and why does this sin exist only in some who engage in sex outside of their valid marriages, but not all?While I have great sympathy for people caught "outside" the Church's marriage laws, I think that the path to chaos is the one that starts by trying to come up with some version of "Catholic divorce" that would stop seeing marriage as an indissoluble union of two baptized persons. We have seen the wreckage of that path in other Christian churches, and should be even more wary of arguments in favor of it in our own.