[A guest article courtesy of Maike Hickson.]
On 27 October, shortly after the end of the controversial Synod of Bishops on the Family, I reported on the important role which the German-speaking language group had played in finding a supposed compromise between the Kasper and the Mueller camp, Cardinal Walter Kasper being in favor of the admittance of the “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion, Cardinal Gerhard Müller – head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – being a defender of the traditional teaching of the Church. The compromise had found its way into the final report of the Synod, namely into paragraph 84-85 which Cardinal Raymond Burke afterwards criticized for its ambiguity. According to Edward Pentin:
He [Cardinal Burke] focuses on paragraphs 84-86 on divorce and remarriage, saying this section is of "immediate concern because of its lack of clarity in a fundamental matter of the faith: the indissolubility of the marriage bond which both reason and faith teach all men." He also says the way the quotation from Familaris Consortio is used is "misleading."
Due to this ambiguity, I had then called upon Cardinal Müller to clarify his position and his role during the Synod in order to avoid misunderstandings which would have grave effects:
Only the future will show whether or how Pope Francis will make a progressive use of this little crack in order to open up a “penitential path” for “remarried” divorcees so that some of them may also receive Holy Communion. After the statements of Cardinals Marx and Kasper, much will also depend upon Cardinal Müller himself who, we hope, will soon make his own statement and clarification of how he himself understood and still understands the two paragraphs 85 and 86 of the Synod's Final Report.
While visiting the German city Cologne, Cardinal Müller finally made that long-awaited statement. First, on Febrary 27, the radio station of the Diocese of Cologne, Domradio.de, published an interview with Cardinal Müller in which he stated that “the teaching of the Church is not my property, it is given to us” and that “it is our task also to speak clearly of the teaching of the Church, of the dogma of what God has revealed to us.” He continued that the indissolubility of marriage is a dogma and that “there cannot be a second marriage.” Müller also asked: “How could we make a compromise with the Word of God?” One cannot work out a compromise on sociological terms, said Müller. He added: “I cannot go along with this.”
In an interview of 28 February, Cardinal Müller became even more explicit. He said that with the clear Word of God concerning marriage, one “cannot make a compromise, with which we men would turn the clear Word of God into something vague.” When the newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger with regard to the question of the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion pointed out that the German-speaking group at the 2015 Synod – with his approval – had considered the admittance of the “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion, Mueller said:
When the spouses – as Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” (1981) reminded us of the always valid Catholic teaching on marriage – “live together as brother and sister.” […] But the Church has no possibility to dissolve or suspend a validly contracted and true sacramental marriage.
When presented with the argument of the progressive Catholic Cardinal Reinhard Marx that such a solution – to live as brother and sister – is impossible, Müller responded:
That is also what the Apostles were thinking when Jesus explained to them the indissolubility of marriage (see Matthew 19:10). But what seems to us humans to be impossible, is possible with the Grace of God.
With this statement, Cardinal Müller corrects any speculation that he would support the idea that “remarried” divorcees could live in a sinful relationship and at the same time could receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. With this statement, the crack in the door has been closed again by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.