Ongoing, post-Synod attempts to undermine indissolubility of marriage

I have this from a theologian friend.  He put together this summary of issues surrounding the last two Synods of Bishops on the Family and the current plots to undermine Catholic teaching concerning the indissolubility of matrimony.

Read carefully.  He pulls no punches.

I added emphases and comments here and there:

I had not intended to write during Christmas, but the other side went to the barricades once more in support of the Spadaro Thesis. The Spadaro Thesis is my term for the paper published a month or more ago by Fr Antonio Spadaro, SJ, which maintains that nn. 84-86 of the Final Report of the Synod open the door theologically and canonically to the reception of Holy Communion by CDR’s, [CDR = Civilly Divorced and Remarried] without the condition stipulated in Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, i.e., that the couple live “like brother and sister” in sexual continence. The latest attempt to bolster the Spadaro Thesis has come from the Bishop of Albano, Marcello Semararo. He is important (though less so than he thinks) for two reasons: he is a long-standing member and Secretary of the Council of Cardinals, nicknamed the C9, which advises Pope Francis, and he was a member of the Synod of Bishops, and was part of a small committee appointed by Pope Francis that worked on the Final Document.

Bishop Semararo recently published a booklet in which he declared the following:

1) the Final Draft, nn. 84-86 opens the door for Communion for CDR’s through the internal forum,

2) the internal forum was first introduced into this question in 1973 and then again in 1975 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith while Blessed Paul VI was Pope,

3) the internal forum allowed priest and penitent to reach a decision in conscience concerning the viability of Holy Communion for the individual who was in an irregular marriage following a civil divorce,

4) this practice was forbidden by St John Paul II in 1980 (cf. Familiaris Consortio, n. 84),

5) the Synod of 2015 has re-opened the door to that earlier practice which was condoned by Paul VI and the CDF [CDF = Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] under him.

Veteran Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli, a turn-coat, opportunist “journalist” who was more “Benedictine” than Pope Benedict during the latter’s pontificate, but who now is Pope Francis’ loudest Roman cheerleader and now pretends that he never knew Benedict, has recently written a piece praising the “mercy” that drips from the pen of the Bishop of Albano. The Tornielli piece is HERE.

Let me say that the brief history of the internal forum solution summarized from Semararo by Tornielli is essentially correct. But it is also well known and therefore adds nothing new. Let me also summarize it for you below in greater detail:

On April 11, 1973: Cardinal Franjo Seper, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to the president of the [then] National Conference of Catholic Bishops (in the U.S.), [later called USCCB] speaking about “new opinions which either deny or attempt to call into doubt the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church on the indissolubility of matrimony.” He closed with the following practical guideline:

“In regard to admission to the Sacraments the Ordinaries are asked on the one hand to stress observance of current discipline and, on the other hand, to take care that the pastors of souls exercise special care to seek out those who are living in an irregular union by applying to the solution of such cases, in addition to other right means, the Church’s approved practice in the internal forum (probatam ecclesiae praxim in foro interno).”

Some bishops asked for clarifications of what was meant by the approved practice in the internal forum. On March 21, 1975, Archbishop Jean Hamer, Secretary of the CDF, wrote:

“I would like to state now that this phrase [probata praxis Ecclesiae] must be understood in the context of traditional moral theology. These couples [Catholics living in irregular marital unions] may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.”

Then, in 1981 came the Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, that applied a more rigorous discipline (cf. Paragraph 84) and effectively ruled as no longer permissible the probata praxis described above.  In 1993, the German bishops of the Rhine region, including the theologians Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper — who are now both cardinals — expanded once again the possibility for divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion. In 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, called them back to obedience.

The Congregation continued to address the problem. In 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the Introduction to the volume: On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried, produced by the CDF and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. This essay by the future Pope Benedict XVI was little known until Nov. 30, 2011, when L’Osservatore Romano republished it, supplemented with a footnote that presented remarks made about the issue by Pope Benedict XVI on July 25, 2005, to the clergy of the Diocese of Aosta.

The footnote is important, because it concerns Benedict XVI’s remarks that an exception might be sought to the general ban on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

The innovations Benedict XVI considered were two: (1) the possible expansion of the canonical recognition of the nullity of marriages celebrated “without faith” by at least one of the spouses who nevertheless is baptized; (2) the possible recourse to a decision “in the internal forum” to receive Communion by a divorced and remarried Catholic if the lack of recognition of the nullity of his previous marriage (because of a verdict believed to be erroneous or because of the procedural impossibility of proving its nullity) were to contrast with the individual’s firm conviction of conscience that that marriage was objectively null (in other words a return to a practice similar, but not identical, to the practice in limited use before the publication of Familiaris consortio.). Here is the 1998 text of Cardinal Ratzinger:

“In some parts of the Church, well-functioning marriage tribunals still do not exist. Occasionally, such cases last an excessive amount of time. Once in a while they conclude with questionable decisions. Here it seems that the application of epikeia in the internal forum is not automatically excluded from the outset. This is implied in the 1994 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which it was stated that new canonical ways of demonstrating nullity should exclude “as far as possible” every divergence from the truth verifiable in the judicial process (cf. n. 9). Some theologians are of the opinion that the faithful ought to adhere strictly even in the internal forum to juridical decisions which they believe to be false. Others maintain that exceptions are possible here in the internal forum, because the juridical forum does not deal with norms of divine law, but rather with norms of ecclesiastical law. This question, however, demands further study and clarification. Admittedly, the conditions for asserting an exception would need to be clarified very precisely, in order to avoid arbitrariness and to safeguard the public character of marriage, removing it from subjective decisions.”

These two “innovations” are also stated in the article authored by then-Archbishop Gerhard Müller, published in German during the Summer 2013 and reprinted by L’Osservatore Romano in November 2013. This article picks up on what was written in the 1998 essay by Cardinal Ratzinger.

So the “internal forum” first appeared in the matter of CDR’s in 1973 and its last exposition was 2013, exactly 30 years on. For 30 years the Catholic Church has been back and forth on this issue.

However, I want to point out something that I think may have been lost in this discussion. The letters of the CDF in the 1970’s concerning the internal forum dealt with the specific situation of a party in a civil divorce and remarriage who had  either attempted to secure a declaration of nullity and was turned down by a tribunal, or who had not tried to secure one, knowing that the proper evidence could not be produced, and that the tribunal would be forced to deny it. In either of these cases it was deemed possible that the marriage could indeed be invalid even though a tribunal might not be convinced on the basis of objective evidence. In these specific cases the internal forum solution, so-called, was thought to be theologically and canonically possible. If you read carefully the paragraph I quote directly above from Cardinal Ratzinger writing in 1998, you can see that he has this same kind of situation in mind when he admits the possibility, even after Familiaris Consortio, that the Church may have to rethink some kind of internal forum solution. Characteristically of Cardinal Ratzinger, he does not state this without qualification, nor does he state is as an affirmation; he merely raises the possibility.

Nevertheless, the kind of internal forum that the Kasperites (Kasperians?) [Kasperites] have in mind seems to me to be different. By my reading, Bishop Semararo and others who endorse a return to the pre-Familiaris practice of the internal forum are not thinking exclusively of cases in which a negative judgment was reached by a matrimonial tribunal, but are thinking of conjoining the internal forum with a “penitential way”, meaning that the internal forum would apply to a much broader spectrum of CDR’s, including those who know with moral certainty that they do not have grounds for a declaration of nullity, and therefore that their marriage is still valid, but who believe nonetheless that the Church should “tolerate” them living in a sexual relationship with a partner to whom they are not and cannot be validly married in the eyes of Christ or His Church. If this is what Semararo, Spadaro and the other Kasperians [Kasperites] believe, then it seems to me that they cannot and should not draw from the pre-Familiaris practice of the internal forum solution as a precedent for their “pastoral” proposal.

[NB] I want to qualify what I have just written by saying that I am not a canon lawyer, nor is this my area of expertise in theology, so I may be wrong in my conclusions. But I believe that the question should at least be raised.

I have attached my translation of the Synod Final Report nn. 84-86 for reference. [Below.] I have highlighted in yellow the sections concerning internal forum.

I also include this link, which I sent to you before. It is a statement by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke that opposes the Spadaro Thesis in terms of internal forum.  HERE

One more thing. It is now rumored in Rome that various drafts of an apostolic exhortation are circulating concerning the issues discussed in the Synod’s Final Report. But I am told that there could be more than one draft in circulation, and it also possible that several of the authors of these drafts are competing against one another for Pope Francis’ approval. In other words, we don’t know anything more than we knew before.

Hereunder find his unofficial translation of the Synod Final Report to which he made reference above:

Synod of Bishops, Final Report, 24 October 2015

84 The baptized who are civilly divorced and remarried should be more integrated into Christian communities in different possible ways, avoiding thereby every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they not only know that they belong to the Body of Christ, which is the Church, but they can also have a joyous and fruitful experience of it. They are baptized, they are brothers and sister, the Holy Spirit bestows upon them gifts and charisms for the good of all. Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services: it is therefore necessary to discern which forms of exclusion that are currently in practice in the areas of liturgical, pastoral, educative, and official responsibilities can be eliminated. These individuals not only must not feel themselves to be excommunicated, they should be able to live and grow as living members of the Church, feeling Her as a mother who accompanies them always, who cares for them with affection and encourages them along the way of life and the Gospel. This integration is necessary also for the care and Christian education of their children who should be considered the most important of all. For the Christian community, taking care of these individuals is not a weakening of their faith and of the witness of the indissolubility of marriage; rather, the Church expresses its charity in just this care.

85. St John Paul II offered a comprehensive criterion that remains the basis for the assessment (valutazione) of these situations [civilly divorced and remarried Catholics]. “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). It is therefore the responsibility of priests to accompany such persons on the way of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the directives (orientamenti) of the Bishop. In this process it will be useful to make an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved toward their children when their marriage entered a crisis; if there have been efforts at reconciliation; what is the situation of the abandoned partner; what are the consequences of the new relationship on the rest of the family and on the community of the faithful; what example this new relationship offers the young persons who must prepare for matrimony. A sincere reflection can strengthen confidence in the mercy of God that is not denied to anyone.

Furthermore, it cannot be denied that in certain circumstances “the imputability and responsibility of an action can be diminished or nullified” (CCC 1735) on account of diverse constraints (condizionamenti). As a consequence, the judgment about an objective situation must not be carried over to a judgment about “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration of 24 June 2000, n. 2a). In defined circumstances people experience great difficulty in acting in a different way. For this reason, in addition to upholding a general norm, it is necessary to recognize that the responsibility with respect to certain defined actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, in addition to taking into account the rightly formed conscience of individuals, must also take these situations into account. Moreover, the consequences of actions carried out are not necessarily the same in all cases.

86. The pathway of accompaniment and discernment leads these faithful to conscientiously reflect on their situation before God. A conversation with a priest, in the internal forum, leads to the formation of correct judgment concerning that which bars the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on those steps that may favor it and enable it to grow. Given that there is no graduality in the law (cf. Familiaris Consortio 34), this discernment can never be detached from the exigencies of truth and the charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. In order that this may happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidentiality, love for the Church and its teachings must be guaranteed in the sincere search for the will of God and in the desire to arrive at a more perfect response to it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    I have often wondered if a marriage is valid if one or both participants say aloud or think, “Never mind if it does not work out, I can always get a divorce”. Or if one or none of the participants does not go to confession before the ceremony. Mind a priest who is like unto Christ can hear anyone’s confession. He can forgive sins of anyone’s as did Christ but Confession does not forgive original sin so communion cannot be received by the one who is not a baptized Catholic. In fact since Baptism is the forgiveness of sins, I have never understood why a baptism by a Pastor who is not a sacrificial priest as was Our Lord Jesus Christ is acceptable in any way at all except as a christening according to the beliefs of whoever does it. If the laws of inheritance in the Old Testament are looked upon spiritually which they must and then there is therefore no lineage or then outside of the Church there is no Levitical family tree with the Apostles as progenitors.

  2. LeeF says:

    It would be refreshing if the Holy Father turned his attention to the never-ending plotting and scheming going on right under his nose. But I won’t hold my breath. The next pope is going to need a big broom.

  3. Justalurkingfool says:

    From before we were divorced, in 1990, I sought the help of the Church, directly, to help us heal our wounded marriage but was denied then, as I have been until and including, now. Two separate cases which ended upholding the validity of our valid, sacramental marriage, still are insufficient reason for any formal intervention. Every pastor and bishop in my domicile and in my wife’s domiciles have known of my faithfulness and her unceasing infidelity and refusal to honor our marriage. Yet, in every parish they have participated, they are treated as husband and wife and are full involved in those communities, as such. For 15 years in their most recent parish, their priest has supported their adultery, even though I approached him 15 years ago and he knows the story and knows that our marriage is valid and has seen, in person, my fidelity.

    This was a case in the Rota, for two separate decisions. This is a case I have written and complained about for decades, writing to numerous places in the curia and elsewhere, to no avail.

    I will not attend Mass tomorrow. This will continue until Rome relents and works to heal this marriage, or God finds one of us wanting, beyond His tolerance.

    I am awaiting a formal, public, apology from His Holiness, before the entire world.

    Christmas Day 2015 would be a good day for an apology in a phone call from Rome.

    But call my cell number, my land line is not working right now.


  4. joan ellen says:

    The Baltimore Catechism taught me: “A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” (I hope those are the words or nearly so.) It is almost beginning to look like there is no
    Sacrament of Matrimony in the Church, any longer, as it seems it is the only Sacrament which has to have such convoluted thoughts, words, & deeds.

    The words above…”in addition to upholding a general norm,” (objective) & the words “internal forum” (subjective) seem to contradict each other. An internal forum…or examination of conscience…doesn’t, it seems, consider the effects that divorce has on the abandoned spouse nor the effects it has on the children. An examination of conscience does not always consider justice…fairness…to the others in the family when/while selfishness is the rule. Does it?

    If/When we lose sight of a Sacrament & all that it confers…it would seem that our humanity would kick in & tell us how we have badly injured those whom we, apparently, erroneously thought we loved. If we truly loved our family…we would never abandon them…for what we thought was ‘better’. We just would not do it. Yet we do it. Why, oh, why?

    Lord, help us. We perish.

  5. kiwiinamerica says:

    Bottom line: this “internal forum” malarkey was floating around in the crazy ’70s but St. JPII (of happy memory) put an end to it with Familiaris Consortio.

    Great efforts are now being made to make an end run around Familiaris Consortio.

    All you need to know.

  6. Robert of Rome says:

    kiwiinamerica (just above) gets this just right!

  7. Elly says:

    Familiaris Consortio also addresses the issue of Catholic couples who are civilly married only and who have not ever been married in the Church. They also are not allowed the sacraments. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 1108) explains that their marriage is not only illicit but also invalid. So if the Kasper/Spadaro thesis is accepted would this mean that a couple who is married civilly but not in the Church can only receive communion if one of them has previously been married in the Church to someone else? Is that logical?

    The only way I can see this working is if the Code of Canon Law were to be revised so that a Catholic can be validly married civilly without the approval of the Church. Otherwise a “CDR” couple who is convinced their previous marriage is invalid is still committing at least fornication, even if they are correct about their previous marriage.

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Justalurkingfool,

    Hang in there. I have been praying for you and your situation. People have free will and Original Sin is real, but if you stop going to church, then your wife really wins. Don’t let her do that.

    Blessed Christmas,

    The Chicken

  9. tradition4all says:

    “So the “internal forum” first appeared in the matter of CDR’s in 1973 and its last exposition was 2013, exactly 30 years on. For 30 years the Catholic Church has been back and forth on this issue.”

    1973-2013 is 40 years, not 30. I’ve noticed a lot of people, when they write about the number of years between an event in the 20th century and an event in the 21st century, seem incapable of getting the number right.

  10. Justalurkingfool says:

    Many thanks Chicken, I appreciate the prayers.

    Nice to cross your path.


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