Tradition versus Progress in The Church

Cardinal critics of Francis reaffirm no Communion for divorced, remarried

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, left, and Cardinal Raymond Burke (NCR graphic/Toni-Ann Ortiz; CNS photos/Paul Haring)

ROME — The two remaining cardinals of a group of four that publicly challenged Pope Francis over his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia in 2016 have reaffirmed their opposition to the possibility of the Catholic Church allowing divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion.

Approving a short declaration made after a conference in Rome April 7, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke and German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller say with a few dozen other participants they feel compelled to speak again “amidst the grave danger to the faith and unity of the Church that has arisen.”

But instead of offering a new direct challenge to Francis, those taking part state they wish to “testify and confess” to six points concerning the church’s understanding of marriage, including: “persons who are divorced and civilly remarried … are living in a situation that is objectively contrary to the law of God.”

“We confess our faith before the supreme pastor and teacher of the Church and before the bishops, and we ask them to confirm us in the faith,” they state.

Along with Cardinals Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner, since deceased, Burke and Brandmüller issued an open letter to Francis in November 2016 containing five yes or no questions, known as “dubia,” about how the pope understands church teaching.

A specific focus of the Cardinals’ questions was whether Francis meant by Amoris Laetitia to allow divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion. The pope is not known to have responded to the four cardinals.

While Francis did not specifically issue a new law or regulation in his exhortation allowing remarried Catholics as an entire group to receive the Eucharist, he called for “pastoral discernment” of individual situations and proposed “the logic of pastoral mercy” in working with remarried persons.

Since Amoris Laetitia‘s publication, Francis has also given his official backing to a set of guidelines from a group of Argentine bishops that said the document “opens the possibility” for Communion for some remarried Catholics after a thorough process of discernment.

The April 7 conference in Rome was titled “Catholic church, where are you going? Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.” Organizers held the event in Caffarra’s honor, and shared a letter from one of his nephews expressing agreement with the occasion.

The event’s final document affirmed the participants’ belief that marriage “can be dissolved only by death,” that those who remarry while their first spouse is alive “commit the grave sin of adultery” and that “no subjective judgment of conscience can make an intrinsically evil act good and licit.”

Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has sharply criticized a rumored pending deal between the Vatican and mainland China as a capitulation to the superpower, also offered a video greeting to those present.

(Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent)

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Wherever Church Tradition is threatened there will always be its doughty defenders. In this case, these Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have challenged Pope Francis on his liberating thoughts expressed in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) -addressing the need for a more thoughtful and pastoral treatment of Church members who have been divorced and remarried in a civil ceremony. Pope Francis has questioned the refusal of the Church to admit such people to the Sacraments – especially that of Holy Communion  – believing that there are circumstances where the Church could relax its discipline in the interests of a more merciful approach.

We in the Anglican Church around the world have our own challengers to the prospect of opening up the dialogue on the suitability of a Church Blessing on Same-Sex Relationships – a situation hitherto unthinkable as being considered contrary to the Church’s negative attitude towards homosexuality and the very real prospect of blessing monogamous, lifelong, committed homosexual relationships.

In fact, only yesterday, while our N.Z. Provincial Church’s (ACANZP’s) Inter-Diocesan Council met in Wellington, New Zealand, to discuss matters that are connected with a proposal to Bless Same-Sex Relationships (Motion 29), there was a group of disaffected Anglicans (FCANZ) meeting in Christchurch whose opposition to Motion 29 is so fierce that they have felt bound to call a meeting in Christchurch to address their concerns. An Auckland meeting is to follow.

Addressing this mini-Convention in Christchurch were 2 bishops – one from the Australian Anglican Church in Tasmania and another, former New Zealander Graham Dobbs, is now a bishop ordained by the GAFCON Church of Nigeria for special duties in CANA – a schismatic quasi-Anglican Church in North America, which is not even part of the Anglican Communion!

These two bishops – both aligned with the GAFCON (mostly African) sodality which has set itself up against the rest of the Anglican Communion on matters of Gender and Sexuality – will help Kiwis in Christchurch, and later on at an Auckland meeting (who are anti our provincial Motion 29) to gather strength for a concerted open challenge to the enactment of Motion 29 at our Church’s next General Synod Meeting in May of this year.

There has been talk by some of the disaffected – who will no doubt have been present or will be present at the FCANZ meeting – that if our General Synod decides to go ahead with Same-Sex Blessings, they have serious doubts about whether they can continue their membership of ACANZP. Thus, it will be most interesting to see how far their influence will affect the outcome of our N.Z. Church’s determination to welcome people in committed, loving Same-Sex relationships by offering a Church Blessing for its members involved.

Watch this space!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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