Catholic World News – November 14, 2014
In a letter written three days after the conclusion of the recent Synod of Bishops, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed St. John Paul II’s teaching on absolution for those who have remarried outside the Church.
Asked by a French priest whether a priest may “grant absolution to a penitent who, having been religiously married, has contracted a second union following divorce,” Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer responded that “we cannot exclude a priori the remarried divorced faithful from a penitential process that would lead to a sacramental reconciliation with God and, therefore, also to Eucharistic Communion.”
Pope John Paul II, in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84) envisaged such a possibility and detailed its conditions:
“Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted 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, such as for example 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.”
Archbishop Ladaria then outlined the steps in the penitential process:
“Verify the validity of the religious marriage in the respect of truth, all the while avoiding giving the impression of a kind of ‘Catholic divorce.’”
“See eventually if the persons, with the aid of grace, can separate from their new partners and reconcile with those from whom they had separated.”
“Invite remarried divorced persons who, for serious reasons (for instance, children), cannot separate from their partner to live as ‘brother and sister.’”
“In any event, absolution cannot be granted if not under the condition of being assured of true contrition, that is, ‘a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future’ (Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, c. 4),” Archbishop Ladaria concluded. “In this line, a remarried divorcee cannot be validly absolved if he does not take the firm resolution of not ‘sinning for the future’ and therefore of abstaining from the acts proper to spouses, by doing in this sense all that is within his power.”
Archbishop Ladaria’s letter was published in L’homme nouveau, a French Catholic biweekly entrusted by the Vatican with the distribution of the French edition of L’Osservatore Romano; and an English translation appeared on the Rorate Caeli blog. The Catholic daily La Croix also reported on the letter.