Card. Meisner cites Pope Francis: No Communion for divorced, remarried

A reader sent the following.  Cardinal Meisner of Cologne gave an interview to Deutschlandrundfunk.

You might be interested in this interview with Cardinal Meisner:

In his third answer, he says the following (it’s my translation in English, probably very bad):

“At my last meeting with Pope Francis, I had the opportunity to talk very open to him about a lot of things. And I told him that some questions remain unanswered in his style of spreading the gospel through interviews and short speeches, questions which need some extended explanation for people who are not so involved. The pope looked at me “with big eyes” and asked me to give an example. And my response was : During the flight back from Rio you were asked about people who divorced and remarried. And the pope responded frankly: People who are divorced can receive communion, people who are remarried can’t. In the orthodox church you can marry twice. And then he talked about mercy, which, according to my view, is seen in this country only as a surrogate for all human faults. And the pope responded quite bluntly that he’s a son of the church, and he doesn’t proclaim anything else than the teachings of the church. And mercy has to be identical with truth – if not, she doesn’t deserve that name. Furthermore, when there are open theological questions, it’s up to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to give detailed responses“.

From this we can perhaps glean that Pope Francis may not be entirely aware of the havoc (¿lío?) that some of his home-spun, off-the-cuff comments in the mainstream media have caused.

It would be interesting to see His Holiness’ reaction to the story about the Catholic school kids in Seattle protesting in favor of some homosexual thing while citing the phrase “Who am I to judge.”  The same for catholic politicians in Illinois citing the same when they passed same-sex marriage.

However, Pope Francis confirmed what I have been saying all along.  He is not going to “change” the Church’s teachings (as if he could).  Divorced and remarried?  No Communion.

Furthermore, Francis stressed the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  He doesn’t sound like someone who wants to “devolve” the role of the Congregation to regional conferences.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Incaelo says:

    Good comments from the cardinal. A shame that he won’t be able to exert his influence a bit longer: turning 80 tomorrow, and thus retiring from his functions in the Curia, his retirement as archbishop of Cologne is expected to come into effect in spring.

    I also think this story points us into the direction we need to go in. We can’t leave all the explaining to Pope and bishops. We must all be willing and able to explain and teach, like the Holy Father expects the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to do (and rightly so), which requires us to be thoroughly formed in our faith.

  2. Robbie says:

    I take two thing away from this story. First, I’m glad to know some of the Cardinals are willing to talk to Francis about his style and how some, not all, of his comments and actions have caused a bit of confusion. Second, I agree with Father it seems Francis may not be aware of how his comments and actions have been received. With any luck, more and more Cardinals who are on the ground will be able to provide direct feedback to the Pope so he gets a better sense of how his words and actions are being interpreted.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. Mike says:

    This encapsulates a half-century’s inner personal turmoil that jolly nearly wrung me out for good: are we a Church of truth or a Church of feelings?

    If truth is in charge, then we need neither suffocate our feelings (pity, indignation, pleasure) nor be ruled by them, but can channel them appropriately through the application of right reason. If feelings are in charge, truth (as on the Nun Bus, certain places in Seattle and Illinois, etc.) is ever susceptible to being enslaved by emotion, and of being obscured whenever convenient.

    Holy Mother Church, this isn’t rocket science! Can we please get it right side up — and with a bold and unapologetic voice?

  4. mamajen says:

    Good for Cardinal Meisner for speaking so openly with Pope Francis. And while I have trusted that Pope Francis is completely orthodox, it’s still nice to have some confirmation. I think it’s probably too much to expect him to completely change his manner of speaking, but hopefully he will follow through with actions and statements that clarify his (and the Church’s) stance on important issues, and the liberals who are wont to spin things will eventually see the futility.

  5. Grabski says:

    Three popes, all coming from a background that dealt with monstrous ideologies. Pope Francis, of course, coming out of a fascistic country.

    Having said that, does anyone have a reference about how the Society of Jesus went about reevangelizing (sp?) after the Protestant Revolt and during the Catholic Reformation?

  6. Eliane says:

    Cardinal Meisner says one thing, Cardinal Kasper — described in this article as a “favourite” of the pope — says just the opposite:

  7. lana says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z., for posting Jesus’ Christmas present to us: peace.

  8. Grabski wrote:
    “Having said that, does anyone have a reference about how the Society of Jesus went about reevangelizing (sp?) after the Protestant Revolt and during the Catholic Reformation?”

    Reminds me of an old joke (original source unknown) a priest friend of mine once told me…

    Two first theology students were discussing the various orders in the Church with an eye towards discovering the original charisms…of course, the discussion turned towards two of the best-known orders. The questions were: 1. What did the Dominicans preach against, and 2) What did the Jesuits preach against?

    The answer (not canonical….but…) was that the Dominicans developed their charism and theology fighting the Albigensian heresy. The Jesuits developed their theology and charism fighting the Protestant heresy.

    Seen any Albigensians lately?

    Merry Christmas!

  9. robtbrown says:

    Eliane says:
    Cardinal Meisner says one thing, Cardinal Kasper — described in this article as a “favourite” of the pope — says just the opposite:

    The Kasper position (also held by certain other German bishops) raises some interesting questions:

    Acc to them a divorced, remarried Catholic can decide in conscience that the the first marriage was not valid (Henry VIII’s), then receive Communion. But what about someone never before married who is in a “marriage” with a divorced, remarried Catholic? Do the German bishops say that person can decide in conscience that the marriage of the would-be spouse was invalid? And could they also then decide that matter for other persons in the same situation?

    And so everyone is a de facto member of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal.

  10. mamajen says:


    Kasper hasn’t said “just the opposite” because he didn’t cite Pope Francis like Meisner did. Kasper was speaking for himself.

  11. majuscule says:

    And what does the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith say about communion for the divorced and remarried? This seems to be a pretty detailed response:

    (“Here is a translation provided by Vatican Radio of Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller’s L’Osservatore Romano article regarding Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.”)

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September 1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question “cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5). It also makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience: “Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors … have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching” (no. 6). If doubts remain over the validity of a failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage tribunals (cf. no. 9). It remains of the utmost importance, “with solicitous charity to do everything that can be done to strengthen in the love of Christ and the Church those faithful in irregular marriage situations. Only thus will it be possible for them fully to receive the message of Christian marriage and endure in faith the distress of their situation. In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator” (no. 10).

  12. robtbrown says:

    Who am I to judge?

    The Christian maxim is of course to hate the sin but love the sinner, whose Judge of course is Christ.

    But what of those who identify themselves with the sin?

  13. Supertradmum says:

    If there is a schism about this, it will start either in Germany or the States. I never thought that Pope Francis would deviate from Church Teaching. He is too much “a son of the Church”. Cardinal Meisner’ wisdom moved him to ask for this clarification, much needed, after the ruckus in the press.

    God bless this good Cardinal and God bless Pope Francis. He may have several hard tasks ahead of him dealing with recalcitrant cardinals and bishops.

  14. dominic1955 says:

    There is a quote attributed to Goebbels (Nazi propaganda minister) that says if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes a “truth”. This is why the liberals do and say things that are obviously false-they want to get as many daft oxygen users to swallow their position on these matters. I was reading an article about the Franciscans of the Immaculate on HuffPo (which was, of course, something I would be ashamed to have my name attached to) but what was most illuminating was some of the combloc sayings. Foolish people shooting their mouths off about things they obviously do not know a thing about. They believe the narrative presented by the MSM.

    In charity I would like to assume that MSM journalists are dumb as a bag of hammers. It is painful to read most anything they come up with, even more so if its anything I actually know a bit about. However, it is hard not to believe they are being intentionally and maliciously misleading in the way they present “news”. I also have a hard time believing that the gays and the PP folks really think Pope Francis is some sort of “progressive”, aka akin to them in his worldview. Of course not, however, I do think they want to get the idea out there to people who’s opinions on practically anything are shaped by their 5 minutes of engagement with “news” from the usual sources and social media.

    PP thanking Pope Francis or The Advocate naming him “Person of the Year” are beyond silly to people who can critically think but to the average techno-peasant, it puts the idea in his mind that the old guy in white who runs the Catholic Church is loosening things up. It makes it seem like the Pope is going to be more in line with said techno-peasant’s 20 minutes worth of clicking around HuffPo/internet assembled philosophy (hat tip to Bad Vicar).

  15. robtbrown says:


    I am aware of the article by Abp Mueller and before him, the 1994 Letter from Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the SDCF.

    My point is that the position of certain German bishops makes no sense.

    BTW, I was told that BXVI wanted Abp Mueller in Cologne, but there was too much pushback from Germany–thus the SCDF.

  16. robtbrown says:


    I don’t think it would start in the States. The German policy is being followed by some pastors in the US, but, unlike the Germans, there is no inclination to codify it.

  17. AnimatedCatholic says:

    I’m confused. I thought Catholics that divorced couldn’t receive communion.

  18. Eliane says:

    “Kasper was speaking for himself.”

    Kasper was speaking on behalf of the Universal Church as to changes that Catholics can expect from the CDF. He intends to keep agitating until that happens. Meanwhile, I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation of an FFI-style crackdown. He is, after all, not one of those “traddies.”

  19. McCall1981 says:

    Great to read this, thank you Fr. Z!
    I love this quote: “Mercy has to be identical with truth – if not, she doesn’t deserve that name.”

    Despite the way that article presents it, there is no quote there where Card Kaspar says he expects there to be a change, he only says he thinks there should be a change.

  20. Eliane says:


    Paragraph 2 of the article: “Cardinal Walter Kasper has said bluntly, and in direct opposition to the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), that the rules will shortly be changed to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

  21. McCall1981 says:

    I know, but they don’t provide a quote of him actually saying that. Maybe we could assume there is one, but if so, it’s strange that they didn’t put it in the article. What you posted was said by the writer of the interview, not by Kaspar.

  22. AnimatedCatholic:
    Catholics with a civil divorce can receive communion. Until an annulment is granted, assuming they are in a state of grace, there is no bar to reception of Communion.

    Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, unless the previous marriage has been annulled or the former spouse has died, can not receive Communion, since, by their public act of attempted marriage while the former bond exists (unless found to have not existed in the case of an annulment) or is broken by death, are considered to be committing, at the least, adultery, which is a Mortal Sin.

    Civil divorce is bad enough; depriving one of the efficacy of the sacraments absent any countervailing reason (objective mortal sin through attempted marriage before the bond is found not to exist) at a time like that would not be merciful nor just.

  23. Bosco says:

    Just a nuance that needs injected into the maelstrom which sets forth the conditions under which divorced and remarried Catholics may receive the Holy Eucharist.
    “The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “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, for example, for 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'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.” [14 September 1994 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CONCERNING THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION

  24. By the way, if there is a schism over this, it’s important to remember that the schism will have been caused by those who repudiate Church teaching, not by those who uphold it. To think otherwise is a recipe for impotence in the face of evil.

  25. anilwang says:

    Mike says: “are we a Church of truth or a Church of feelings?”

    This is a false dichotomy. We are not a Church of “Gnosis” (i.e. knowledge), otherwise Gnosticism would not have been so strongly condemned, only the “wrong sort of” Gnosticism.

    If you read the Church Fathers and Aquinas, you’d see that they had an expanded understanding of Rationality and Intellect. Feelings are quite similar to conscience, in that when they are both properly ordered, they point to and bind us to truth. The trick is, getting them properly ordered relies on God’s grace which is greatly aided by the sacraments, received in the proper state and in simple acts of piety, and cultivated virtue. Unfortunately in the last 50 years, both aspects of the faith have fallen by the wayside.

    One of my laments is that most Churches I know are closed during the day. As I child, I remember my mother going to Church during the day to perform some penance or to pray. There were few people there (mostly grandmothers praying their rosary in silence), but it was deeply moving and it was one of the things that brought me back to the Catholic faith some decades later. Having some time to pray in a parish is deeply nourishing, and even if only 1% of the people in the parish take advantage of that additional grace, that 1% can be the backbone of the parish that will with few exceptions pass the faith on to the next generation.

    Getting back to false dichotomies, a key part of all heresies is that they introduce a false dichotomy and then add doctrines to compensate. This is true, whether the heresy is Gnostecism (e.g. truth versus communion), Arianism (God versus Man), Calvinism (Grace versus Nature/Free will), or Legalism (Law versus Love). What all these heresies forget is that God is Simple. His Truth is His Love is His Mercy is His Justice is His Law is Our Freedom. We hold these concepts in tension because we’re fallen, but to God there is no tension.

  26. AnimatedCatholic says:

    Brian D. Boyle:
    Forgive me, I’m a reconvert that is still having a difficult time understanding church teaching.

    Please clarify me if I get’s this assumption wrong.
    A divorced catholic can receive communion only when they are a state of grace by repenting, doing good works and receiving the Eucharist?

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Animated Catholic,

    Rule: a divorced Catholic who is not remarried is in the state of grace, hopefully and may receive Communion. A divorced Catholic who is divorced and has an annulment may receive Communion. A divorced and annulled Catholic who remarries in the Catholic Church, may receive Communion, if his or her spouse is also in the state of grace, that is, free to marry.

    A divorced Catholic who remarries without an annulment is not, repeat, not in the state of grace and cannot receive Communion.

    Basically, the Church does not recognize a civil divorce as the end of a marriage and only recognizes an annulment, which means there was never a sacramental marriage in the first place.

    Does this help?

  28. 7bellachildren says:

    I’m not sure if this question has been covered. But what about Catholics who are divorced and got an anullment? My parents are in that scenerio. Could you please clarify this? I’ve been under the assumption that if there is an anullment they can recieve the Holy Eucharist even when they are remarried. Both my parents remarried and are practicing Catholics.

  29. anilwang says:


    A civilly divorced Catholic still married in the eyes of the Catholic Church. All a civil divorce does is provide a way for separated Catholics to live apart with some measure of legal support. The Catholic Church has always recognized that there are legitimate tragic reasons for Catholics to live apart (especially the spiritual health of one of the spouses or children), although it has traditionally tried its hardest to find ways for difficult marriages to have some measure of reconciliation.

  30. WGS says:

    A legal entity such as a state decrees a divorce, and thenceforth, the legal entity says that the married state has been terminated. That has nothing to do with a sacramental marriage which has been recognized and sanctified by the Church. Partners in a legal and sacramental marriage for some reason get divorced, but they are still married in the eyes of the Church. Each former spouse by the grace of God should strive to live separately in a state of grace. Of course, in the case of a subsequent annulment, there was no sacramental marriage, but still there might be good reason for a legal divorce.

  31. Jerry says:

    re: Bryan D. Boyle – “Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, unless the previous marriage has been annulled or the former spouse has died, can not receive Communion”

    Any Catholic who is civilly (only) married may not receive Holy Communion.

  32. AnimatedCatholic says:

    So you can get a divorce and be separate, but you can’t nullify the marriage.
    So marriage literally is ‘Until do death do us part” in the Catholic Church.

    Thank you everyone for everyone for answering my question. I hope I can talk to you guys on more issues on the catholic faith and wish you all (and Father Z) a merry Christmas.

    Goodbye everyone.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    7bellachildren, of course-an annulment means there was never a sacramental marriage and therefore, each person, unless stipulated by the tribunal (I have known this to happen) are free to marry again.

  34. RJHighland says:

    Cardinal Meisner speaks with the clarity that all Bishops and priests in the Church should speak. It is a great Christmas present to hear this from one of our Cardinals. It amazes me however that there are so many Shepherds of the Church that are working so hard to alter the eternal teachings and traditions of the Church while those that maintain those same teachings and traditions with-out ever wavering are castigated and thrown into questionable communion by the same Cardinals that challenge Church teaching. Merry Christmas to all.

  35. frjim4321 says:

    What are we gaining by investing so much time and energy determining who is not welcome at the table?

  36. slainewe says:

    Dear frjim4321,

    A Blessed Christmas to you. If you saw the Altar as more than a “table” perhaps you would appreciate our desire to spare the Already Crucified One the added torture of being forced to attempt entrance into a soul in mortal sin (which is impossible so He is aborted). And our desire to spare souls in mortal sin further pains in Hell by adding sacrilege to their list of offenses against the Almighty.

  37. frjim4321 says:

    “He is aborted?”

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. I don’t think it passes muster with Eucharistic Theology 101.

    Of course it is an altar table, I have that argument with a good friend all the time. But clearly the meal aspect is necessary in order to have a complete understanding of the sacrament.

  38. Joseph says:

    Nobody in his right mind would think and expect pope Francis would approve Holy communion for the divorced and remarried. The really interesting point will be, how much determination will he show to straighten out those errant German bishops. Will he close their seminaries and have them say an oath in regards to orthodoxy??

  39. McCall1981 says:

    My guess would be that he’ll show no determination at all. I think there will be an exceedingly vague, fluffy reiteration of Church teaching, that uses plenty of meaningless buzzwords like “pastoral options”. Then the German Bishops will say that this “does not end the conversation”, and we can all look forward to lots more “dialogue”.

  40. Uxixu says:

    Should ANY energy be spent to discourage those from profaning the Eucharist Fr Jim? How would you determine the demarcation between “not enough” and “too much?”

    Of course, an altar is a table but not all tables are altars and emphasizing the latter seems to risk diminishing the former, if not making it entirely mundane.

  41. slainewe says:

    I think “abortion” aptly describes a sacrilegious Communion. The only purpose of Communion is for the living Host to be united with the receiver. A soul in mortal sin is an inhospitable womb for the Christ Child. He can neither enter the sinner’s soul, nor escape the sinner’s body for those 15 minutes He is present under the appearance of bread. What torture!

  42. RJHighland says:

    When the clergy realizes that the main reason so many Catholics have divorced and subsiqently remarried is their fault for not catechising the faithful in the fullness of the Truth. There is a necessity to be charitable to those that have divorced and come back to the faith and possibly now have a better understanding of the faith and the sacrament of marriage but we do not alter Church teaching because the shepherds have failed us so miserably. Maybe we need orthodox shepherds not a new faith. Water it down, water it down, water it down, pretty soon you just have water and no wine.

  43. donato2 says:

    A question for those who are more theologically versed than I am on this issue: Is the prohibition on communion for the “remarried” something that can be changed, like the rule on celibacy, or is it a matter of faith and and morals and as such not subject to change but rather only subject to “development”?

  44. robtbrown says:


    Those in an aforementioned bad marriage are said to be in adulterous unions. Adultery is a serious sin.

  45. Uxixu says:

    Yeah the only choice is to try to return to the original spouse. That might not be possible if the other spouse remained unrepentant but any new sexual relationships are adulterous regardless of how the civil power legal system views it. The marriage could perhaps be found to be invalid (consanguinity, involuntary, etc), but there is no way moral way to quit a valid marriage.

  46. Pingback: What a Christmas gift! | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam"

  47. Rynodog13 says:

    Sweet! I can abandon my marriage and force a civil divorce on my earthly spouse one day and then walk up and receive the Body and Blood of my Heavenly Spouse the next day! Makes perfect sense. We just need to erase those out-of-date parts in the Catechism that refer to divorce itself as a “grave offense against the natural law” and an “offense against the dignity of marriage.” For those who really believe that you can divorce your spouse (claim to no longer be married to the one God joined you to) and then still receive Holy Communion, what other “grave offenses against the natural law” can we persist in while still receiving Holy Communion worthily?

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