Rorate Caeli

Synod Time! From the German Bishops' News Website: Indissolubility? That's just an ideal. Let's stop talking about "Guilt", please! [Official News Website of the German Bishops' Conference]
Bonn, July 29, 2015

A Report on How Bishop Franz-Josef Bode Considers the Themes likely to be Presented and Discussed at the [forthcoming October 2015] Synod on the Family in Rome:

The Bishop of Osnabrück [Germany], Franz-Josef Bode, sees that, in view of the Synod of Bishops as has been planned for this October 2015, the Catholic Church is facing important fundamental decisions. “We do not only face isolated questions concerning marriage and the family, but it is also about the fundamental decision as to how we want to react to the developments in Europe and the world,” said Bode himself to the journal Herder Korrespondenz, which is published in Freiburg [Germany].

It is about considering Tradition and an Opening. In this context, according to the Bishop, he worries that the Synod remains divided into certain camps, and that there will be left in the end only “winners and losers.” Instead, it would be more important to have a process of differentiation and reconciliation. At the same time, it should not happen [according to Bishop Bode] that, after the Synod, “things are expressed, though in new words, nonetheless still in completely the same manner as before.” In his interview, Bode is looking, in a critical manner, upon the differences between the Church's teaching and the perceived life-reality of the faithful. “Of course, there lies a great power in the Church's strong defense of the indissolubility of marriage,” he says. However, when the ideal does not have any connection any more with life, it will be without effect.

Against a Second Marriage, According to the Orthodox Model

With respect to the question of the remarried divorcees, Bode says that, already in the Early Church, “monogamy, fidelity in marriage and its indissolubility” were of great importance. At the same time, one should now discuss “whether a second civil marriage excludes a person, always and in every case, from access to Penance and Communion.” He himself wishes a “pastoral solution which includes also a longer way of a pastoral accompaniment of the concerned [civilly-remarried] people.” However, this President [Bode] of the Commission for Pastoral Care [of the German Bishops' Conference] speaks up against a second marriage according to the [Eastern] Orthodox Model. Another question could be, however, whether the blessing of a second relationship could be possible.

The Bishop stresses how important it is to find at the Synod in the Fall a unified solution for the Catholic Church world-wide. Regional exceptions should not exist concerning the Sacrament of Marriage, according to Bode: “At the kernel of marriage and the family, we cannot be deeply in disagreement.” When it comes to the assessment of other forms of life, however, there could certainly be [regional] differences.

Bode Warns Against a Fixation upon Sexuality

But, in general, one should judge the marital relationships, not only from the vantage point of the Catholic moral teaching on sexuality, but, rather, one should much more now consider marriage to be a common community of mutual responsibilities. “We need to overcome the fixations upon the sexual element, as well as the reduction of sexuality to the sexual act itself,” according to the bishop.

Bode also warned against undifferentiated points of views concerning extramarital relationships and same-sex couples which would “judge them schematically, instead of also seeing their qualities and richness.” Jesus Himself, after all, “perceived man always first as a person, and then in his weakness.”

*** [Official News Website of the German Bishops' Conference]
Freiburg [Germany,] July 29, 2015

In the Church's debate about dealing differently with remarried divorcees, the Pastoral Theologian Peter Kohlgraf, of Mainz, rejects a fixation upon easier declarations of nullity. Emotionally, both spouses experience their partnership and the time together – in spite of the separation – not as null and void, writes the clergyman in the August edition of the professional journal Herder Korrespondenz, which is published in Freiburg.

It was Pope Francis who announced several times that he wants to simplify declarations of annulment ( Kohlgraf thus requested from his Church “a reflection also about the question how people who do not live up (any more) to the ideal of reconciliation with the past, with God, and with the Church.” “Can it be the meaning of a Sacrament to be perceived, in a serious case, as a prison which in itself – if one has already left a burdensome relationship – does not also offer a satisfying new start?”

Our dealing with the life-reality of men is “an essential part of the duty of the Church, possibly even more so than the insistence upon the principles alone,” added the theologian. Only to repeat the ideal does not solve the problem , nor does the giving up of the ideal itself. Fundamentally, the “harsh confrontation between valid marriage and sinful conditions” does not, in the pastoral care, lead to any way out of the dilemma,” Kohlgraf criticized. […]

The Church Should Be More Reticent and Reluctant in Talking About Guilt

The way the Church talks about partnership, marriage, and sacramentality should be more characterized by encouragement and by a strengthening, acknowledgment of yearnings and of competences which people bring along with them.

The Church should be more reticent in talking about guilt [according to Kohlgraf] and should distance herself from the concentration upon the sexual practice. Kohlgraf also countered the argument that the Church is not allowed to change her teaching. “Because in different cultures, the Church not only did change the outward form [sic] of her theology, but also, in light of different languages and ways of thinking, the theology itself changed,” he said. Of course, with the Gospels and the living Tradition, the Church has standards in her baggage. But also, the changing reality is a possible source for the recognition of God and for the freeing of new perspectives concerning the Faith.

[Translations kindly provided by Maike Hickson]