The Marriage of the Virgin
Musée du Louvre
In the latest issue of Communio, the theological journal founded by Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac, two Cardinals of the Church, whose theological credentials are well-known, directly counter the position of Cardinal Kasper with respect to Catholic teaching on marriage and pastoral practice dealing with the question of reception of Holy Communion by those divorced and remarried. Both articles can be downloaded from the Communio site. Ouellet and Scola join the strong chorus of support for the Church’s traditional teaching on Marriage and her pastoral practice, among which we can cite as fine examples the Dominican theologians’ response in Nova et Vetera and the collection of essays, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, about to be published by Ignatius Press.
Cardinal Scola speaks to the intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and matrimonial consent, which he claims “still remains too extrinsic”.
I do not mean that the value of the Eucharist is obliterated, but it runs the risk of being demoted to the role of an occasion to express a generic blessing of the spouses by God. The Eucharistic sacrifice is, rather, the definitive condition within which matrimonial consent is given. It allows the spouses to decide to accept the call of Christ the Bridegroom as the origin of their decision.
Scola goes on to then examine the Church’s practice of not allowing those divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion in the light of this intrinsic relationship between the Eucharist and the marriage vows. He clearly shows how this practice is neither arbitrary nor un-pastoral but is a real and necessary consequence of the relationship between the Eucharist and marital consent.
Yet what is involved here is not an arbitrary action of the Church’s Magisterium, but rather an awareness of the inseparable bond uniting the Eucharist and marriage. In light of this intrinsic relation, it must be said that what impedes access to sacramental Reconciliation and the Eucharist is not a single sin, which can always be forgiven when the person repents and asks God for pardon. What makes access to these sacraments impossible is, rather the state (condition of life) in which those who have established a new bond find themselves—a state which in itself contradicts what is signified by the bond between the Eucharist and marriage. This condition is one that needs to be changed in order to be able to correspond to what is effected in these two sacraments.
Cardinal Ouellet affirms the sacramentality of marriage and its indissolubility in terms of the presence of Christ within the Sacrament of Marriage.
What really happens in this exchange of gifts that is sacramental marriage? The Church offers to Christ the baptized couple in their act of mutual self-giving in faith. Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, responds with a nuptial gift, a charism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 7:7), which seals this union with an indissoluble seal that is nothing other than the presence of the absolute and irreversible Love of the divine Bridegroom….I am not speaking here of an “ideal” offered to the spouses in order to motivate their faithful and fruitful love. I am speaking of the couple’s belonging to Christ as a body belongs to the head, as the spouses belong to each other.
Cardinal Ouellet warns against the idea that the Church’s mission is to manage and apply mercy in whatever way she sees fit.
The Church’s mission is to bear witness to this event (Christ’s Paschal Mystery) by proclaiming the kerygma and administering the sacraments. She does not, however, have an exclusive and exhaustive “management” of mercy…What is at stake is the truth of Christ’s witness. The divorced remarried person’s new situation does not permit him authentically to express this witness because his new union is in contradiction with the love of Christ, who was faithful to death. It is not a lack of mercy on the part of the Church if she does not authorize sacramental absolution and Eucharistic Communion, even after an authentic conversion of the divorced and remarried person. What is at stake is Christ’s fidelity to his own witness, which the Church does not feel free to modify lest she betray the truth that is the foundation of the indissolubility of marriage….The new openings for a pastoral approach based on mercy must take their place within the continuity of the Church’s doctrinal tradition, which is itself an expression of divine mercy.