Ed Peters, distinguished canonist, posted at his blog, In The Light Of The Law, about the upcoming autumn Synod on the family. He has no combox over there, but you should visit his place.
I suggest a careful reading of what follows. My usual emphases and comments.
The project to justify holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics seems to be losing steam. That’s good. [It would be good, were it true. I don’t think it is losing steam. I think the valve was closed and the steam is building for the fall meeting.] As I have said many times, unless one is willing to countenance the administration of the Eucharist to those obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin (pace Canon 915), or is willing to say that typical remarriage after divorce is not the grave sin of adultery (pace CCC 2384), or is willing to say that Christ was wrong about marriage lasting till death and about remarriage after divorce being adultery (pace the New Testament!), then that project was doomed from the start. It’s now time to consider ideas that would strengthen the Church’s witness to marriage, not weaken it. [I don’t think that the advocates of Communion for the divorced/remarried will frame it in terms of changing doctrine. They know that if they do, they will be shut down immediately. They will try to stretch doctrine, maybe even suggest that this represents development of doctrine. Then they will play the pastoral card as a trump to doctrinal purity or rigid legalism. They will stress mercy over and against rules. Then they will play the fear card. They will shout that the sky is falling when it comes to practice of the faith by the rank and file. “People are leaving the Church!”, they will cry. In short, they will be sly and manipulative.]
Leaving aside some important (but not urgent) ecclesiological questions about the ultimate future of the Synod of Bishops, the assembly convoked for October 2014 will not be legislative in nature and it will not make policies; instead the synod will be tasked with discussing, in an informed manner, natural and Christian marriage from pastoral and canonical perspectives. That sort of discussion requires study (general impressions and opinions about marriage are no longer adequate bases from which to respond to the crisis in marriage), and real study is hard work. [But the Synod could be a rally point for the agenda of the Kasperites.]
May I suggest (or re-suggest as the case may be) three marriage-related topics that need significant advance prepping if they are to be competently treated by the synodal Fathers.
1. Canonical Form for Marriage. The requirement that Catholics wed before clergy has always been an imposition on the natural and sacramental reality of marriage, and the societal conditions that supported its imposition a few centuries ago have all but disappeared today. [Have they?] Instead of defending marriage, the requirement of form now permits tens of thousands of Catholics annually to walk away from marital unions that we demand all others honor, deprives Catholics in such unions the graces specific to Matrimony, and relegates such unions to the status of concubinage. Further, the pastoral need to blunt the ecclesial consequences for disregarding canonical form has led to the elaboration and/or invocation of several juridically dubious “work-arounds” in such areas as jurisdiction, dispensation, and sanation. The question is: does the requirement of canonical form do more harm than good to the Church’s proclamation of marriage today?
2. The Annulment Process. In the popular mind (including many bishops’), the annulment process is a pastoral mechanism that “works” when it allows Catholics in failed marriages the chance to marry someone else. Correcting this massive misunderstanding about the vital juridic nature of the annulment process is of the utmost importance. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] Beyond that, however, the annulment process, being established and administered by human beings, is in need of reform especially regarding: (a) appreciating the canonical impact of widespread societal and familial dysfunction on young persons attempting to enter marriage as Christ and his Church proclaim it; (b) the actual or perceived disconnect between the interpretation accorded norms on consent as given in Rome versus that in many other tribunals around the world; (c) the real burdens and benefits associated with mandatory appeal; and (d) the feasibility of allowing third instance tribunals to function in nations that actually need them.
3. Same-sex unions vs. ‘same-sex marriage’. If there is a philosophically, juridically, and pastorally defensible distinction between same-sex unions and ‘same-sex marriage’, the time to articulate that distinction is now. Earlier ecclesiastical documents on this issue, striving (correctly!) to avoid any semblance of support for the idea of ‘same-sex marriage’, rejected same-sex unions in terms that admit of no toleration in the secular arena and indeed, if taken literally, demand sacrifices by Catholics that the Church should, in any age, be loathe to impose. [?] Besides this important clarification of categories, the practical issues occasioned by having faithful in same-sex unions or ‘marriages’ (chiefly in regard to their admission to the sacraments and participation in Catholic public affairs) need systematic elucidation. [Does this take scandal into adequate consideration?]
Final thoughts over at Peters’ place.