PEREGRINATIONS - Canadian Catholic Perspectives and Reflections by members of the PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER
Monday, 9 November 2015
Synod on the Family
The final wording of the final synod document says nothing at all about Communion or access to the sacraments for people who have remarried without a decree of nullity. By saying nothing, the matter is left to Pope Francis to issue his own definitive teaching on the matter. Synods are simply a way for the Pope to canvass opinion before prayerfully making up his mind and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, formulating a document which lays out and clarifies the teaching of the Church and directions for pastoral practice.
Pope Francis might also reflect upon the thoughts of previous popes on these issues. In 1985, then Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a letter to Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle in which he addressed exactly the questions raised by the Synodal relatio. He formulated answers to these questions in the Magisterium of the Church and in the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota and Apostolic Signatura.
Many commentators have recently sought to establish some differences between doctrine, law, individual conscience and pastoral practice on the matters of marriage, decrees of nullity and remarriage.
Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly rules out the so-called "Kasper Proposal" because it goes against both doctrinal truth and canonical discipline. Cardinal Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) specifically warns against encouraging ambiguity on these points. Following are excerpts from Cardinal Ratzinger's letter:
SACRA CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEl
Prot. N. 102/79
I am writing to bring to a close the Apostolic Visitation process, which was assisted by the visit of Archbishop James Hickey of Washington, DC, to the Archdiocese of Seattle from November 2-8, 1983.
Prior to that visit, both significant criticism and considerable praise had been directed toward your own pastoral ministry and that of your collaborators in Seattle. To quote from this Congregation's own October 4, 1983, letter to you, 'It was precisely because it did not want to give uncritical acceptance to the published and private criticisms made about the Archdiocese of Seattle that the Holy See...has undertaken this project.' Toward that end, the Visitor conferred with at least sixty-seven members of the clergy, religious and laity. In addition, he examined many pertinent documents, statements issued by the Archdiocese, and letters. Principally, though, Archbishop Hickey spent some four to five hours of intense discussion with you. That interview, taped and transcribed, was later reviewed by you and approved. Archbishop Hickey, with a model sense of cooperation and collegial concern, filed a lengthy and exhaustively documented report with this Congregation, and with that, his involvement with the Apostolic Visitation process ended.
After a careful review of the entire body of testimony, and of other materials as well, this Congregation is now in a position to make the following observations which, we hope, will be received by you in the spirit in which they are offered, and will be of assistance to you as Archbishop of Seattle
1. There are many indications that you have striven with heart and mind to be a good bishop of the Church, eager to implement the renewal called for in the decrees of the Vatican Council II. You have worked zealously to bring into existence the various consultative bodies promoted by the Council and mandated by the recently revised Code of Canon Law . . . .
2. It is also true that you and those who assist you have suffered from exaggerated criticism and routine misunderstanding. Our observations are based neither on the complaints of your more strident critics, nor on publications that are obviously biased. Nor do we wish to encourage extremist groups who are wholly lacking in a spirit of cooperation and seek to destroy or suppress whatever is not to their liking. It is our intention, rather, to support what you have done to promote the renewal of the Church in Seattle and to point out, at the same time, areas which we consider are in need of correction and improvement.
3. It is with this background of your own commitment to the real service of the Lord and the authentic renewal of His people, that this congregation wishes to outline these problems and to enlist your cooperation in resolving them.
4. It appears that there has been a rather widespread practice of admitting divorced persons to a subsequent Church marriage without prior review by your Tribunal, or even after they have received a negative sentence. Catholics have been advised that after divorce and civil remarriage, they may in conscience return to the Sacraments.
Such a practice lacks foundation in the Church's clear teaching about the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage after consummation, and in sound jurisprudence. A clear presentation, then, of the sacramentality and indissolubility of Christian marriage should be made to all your people . . . .
5. A number of other basic doctrinal problems can be identified. While it is impossible to judge how widespread they are, and although they may seem to be abstract, they too often have had real implications and concrete effects in the day-to-day life of the Church in Seattle.
a. It is important that clear and firm guidance be offered to those in the Archdiocese who seem reluctant to accept the Magisterium as capable of giving definitive direction in matters of faith and morals.
b. It is important that the nature and mission of the Church be taught in their entirety. The Church should be understood as more than a merely social entity, governed chiefly by psychological, sociological, and political processes. When it is viewed in this way, its institutional or visible dimension is placed in opposition to its Divine Origin, mission, and authority. such a view misunderstands the meaning of the Church and destroys all prospects of the authentic renewal for which the Vatican Council II so clearly called.
c. Incorrect notions of the Church's mission and nature, as well as flawed understandings of the dignity of the human person, can frequently be traced to faulty Christology's. It is imperative that every effort be made to ensure that the Church's integral faith concerning Christ be handed on: His divinity, His humanity, His salvific mission, His inseparable union with and Lordship over the Church.
d. Vigorous efforts must be made to engender in priests, religious and laity, a correct appreciation of the sacramental structure of the Church, especially as it provides for sacred ministry in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. An effective seminary program needs to be established which inculcate in candidates for the priesthood an understanding of the sacraments as the Lord's gifts to His Church. While efforts to encourage the laity to fulfill their apostolate and assume their proper roles in the Church should continue, the unique ministry and office of the Bishop, as well as that of the priests who assist him, must never be obscured.
e. A critical reexamination of policies and programs of the Archdiocese should be conducted to ensure that they are based on the clear vision of the human person which is at the heart of the Gospel message. An anthropology which is dominated by the tentative conclusions of the human sciences could well undermine many pastoral initiatives, however well intentioned.
f. There is a need to correct misunderstandings concerning the role which conscience plays in making moral decisions. In particular it is necessary to highlight the valid claim on the Catholic conscience which is made by the authoritative teaching of the church.
In all these areas it is vitally important to consult with competent, faithful theologians, clergy, and religious to determine how best to proclaim the Church's entire deposit of faith in our changing times.
When guided by an authentic theological method such efforts are not only not in conflict with the teaching of the Church, they are a faithful response of her constant call to vindicate the rights of the poor. It is also important that the faith be imparted in a way, which is sensitive to the suffering and the powerless.
No bishop should hesitate to overrule advisors who propose opinions at variance with the authentic teaching of the Holy See. At the same time, he must seek ways to hand on that teaching convincingly.
6. As per your letter of March 14, 1984, we realize that you have taken steps to correct the practice of contraceptive sterilization which had been followed in local Catholic hospitals. Such procedures are clearly and explicitly forbidden in all Catholic institutions.
The clear moral teaching contained in this Congregation's 1976 Declaration on Sexual Ethics, as well as the teaching found in the documents of the U.S. Bishops' Conference must be maintained and explained in an effective manner . . . .
In bringing all the above points to your attention it has been our purpose to assist you as effectively as possible in your office as Archbishop of Seattle. We commend you for your kindness and patience during the Apostolic Visit and during the many months needed by the Holy See for careful review and appropriate action.
May the Holy Spirit of Christ be with you and with His people whom you serve.
With my own best wishes, I am
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Signed/ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger