Source: Spiegel International
By Birger Menke
The archdiocese of Freiburg recently signalled a willingness to allow remarried divorcées to receive communion. While far from revolutionary, the move reflects a desire to change doctrine long considered out of touch with reality.
It’s not the first time a bold initiative has arisen in Freiburg. In a 1993 pastoral letter, church officials questioned the universal validity of the law of the Roman Catholic Church.
The letter referred to the denial of the sacraments to congregants who have remarried after divorce. The authors wrote that church leadership should discuss “whether that which applies as a general rule also pertains to the concrete circumstances.”
Those who divorce after being married in the church, and then remarry, remain unequal members of the church. They are excluded from holding church office and are denied the sacraments, like baptism and communion — though many priests already ignore these rules.
The letter got a quick response. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s dogma police, said the bishops in Germany were “in open opposition to the teachings of the church.” In other words: Major sins are major sins and the sacraments must be withheld, regardless of the “concrete circumstances.”
The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time was Joseph Ratzinger, and the church has since done nothing substantial to change its treatment of remarried congregants. That includes the time after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI — and when be was welcomed on a visit to Germany in 2011 by then German President Christian Wulff, a divorced Catholic who had remarried.