Rorate Caeli

The Great Division
- Polish Bishops' Conference President: communion for "remarried" divorcees attacks indissolubility of marriage.

Curiously enough, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki , of Poznań, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, whose presence and firmness were so important in the October Synod, repeats the same line mentioned by Cardinal George in his interview to John Allen: the differences are becoming so wide within the Church, the division so stark, we are not talking anymore about "liberals" and "conservatives", or left and right, but about what is true and what is false, about those who are faithful or unfaithful to the Magisterium.

In the Church, this is the line being drawn: the Great Division is one between Fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His unchangeable doctrine; or Unfaithfulness to Christ, that is, adulteration of the Faith. 

The Archbishop (himself considered a "liberal" until not long ago), speaking to journalists, also explained how the Holy See Press Office tried to manipulate the press conferences during the Synod.

Abp. Gądecki: Episcopate will take a number of initiatives in the spirit of the Synod on the Family

November 14, 2014

The issue of giving Holy Communion to people who are divorced and living in new relationships cannot be resolved on theological grounds – explained Abp. Stanisław Gądecki during today's meeting with journalists at the secretariat of the [Polish] Episcopate. The president of the Polish Episcopal Conference (PEC) informed journalists that Polish bishops, who will gather for a reateat at Jasna Góra at the end of November, will take a number of initiatives following the message of the III Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops devoted to the family, which took place in Rome in October.

Speaking of the competence of the institution of the Synod of Bishops he explained that the Synod is only an advisory body of the pope, but the decisions are made by the Holy Father himself, after listening to Synod's opinions. However, these opinions do not have a binding character for the pope. The Synod formulates certain tentative thoughts for the Holy Father, yet the final Synod's text is not binding for him. Moreover, the votes taken at the Synod are not decisions of a doctrinal importance, but are taken only in order to help bishops to reach a fuller, common vision – explained the Archbishop of Poznań.

Regarding the proposition which was put forward during the Synod, of admitting to Holy Communion, under certain conditions, of people who are divorced and living in new relationships, Abp. Gądecki answered that, according to his opinion, it was an attempt to “attack the indisssolubility of marriage”, what would lead to changes in understanding of the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist.

He added that he is aware that the practice of giving Communion to divorced and living in new relationships is becoming more and more widespread, and the pre-synodal survey revealed the scale of this phenomenon. This survey, he added, demonstrated that the crisis of marriage and family is not only a Polish issue, but it is something extensive and affecting all continents. The percentage of divorces and the number of children harmed by this are frightening.

Abp. Gądecki explained that the postulate of allowing Communion for divorced and living in new relationships was raised by the Synod mainly on the initiative of German and South American circles. In Germany, in practice, nobody goes to confession any more, yet everybody (including divorced) proceeds to receive Holy Communion.

In South America, on the other hand, the problem is that people who are divorced and living in new relationships often join sects, where they receive communion and blessing. This is one of the important reasons of such strong development of sects on this continent. Such situation creates a pressure on South American bishops to somewhat oppose this process.

Abp. Gądecki, while analyzing this process, explained that it is not possible to solve the problem on the theological level, because Catholic theology written on the pages of the Gospel of Christ prohibits adultery. This prohibition was transmitted to us by Christ in conditions equally difficult as today, perhaps even more difficult, because pagans converting to Christianity had even more irregular marital situations, also with respect to marriages between close relatives.

Therefore, stressed Abp. Gądecki, holding onto the Tradition of the Church, also clearly explained in the Catechism, there is no possibility of absolution and Holy Communion for a person who is in a situation of divorce and who remains in a new relationship. There is no possibility of such a change of the doctrine of the Church which would admit other solutions, even restricting them to specific cases. This is especially true if one is aware that exceptions would soon become a rule. The Archbishop of Poznań informed [journalists] that in the eyes of bishops from many regions of the world, e.g. from central and eastern Europe, this [such change] would be absolutely unthinkable.

Abp. Gądecki explained that one cannot be guided only by sociological categories, because the Church does not come to the truth by consensus, one or another, but [the Church] is obliged to be faithful to the doctrine. Any “positive” solution to this problem would only serve as a “smoothing down” of the sociological situation existing in some countries, for example in Germany.

He took the opportunity to explain that people living in new relationships, in the light of Church's teaching, are not deprived of the possibility of receiving the Holy Communion, but only under the condition that they live by the principles of so-called “white marriage”. This means that they do not engage in a sexual activity, which is reserved for sacramental marriage. According to him, this way [i.e., living in chastity] should be encouraged.

Abp. Gądecki admitted that he has already participated in three synods and that, therefore, he can make certain comparisons regarding the organization of synodal discussions as well as regarding the methods of informing the media about these discussions. When abp. Nicola Eterovic was the general secretary of the synod, fathers were asked to refrain from speaking to the media during synod's session, yet their official speeches were published. Now, when cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who has not participated in earlier synods, became the general secretary, there was no publication of speeches, but one could speak to the media. Additionally, at the beginning of the session the Pope asked for openness, for all voices to sound the full truth. On the other hand, director of the Holy See Press Office father Federico Lombardi invited to press conferences only certain bishops, and from statements of other bishops he created his own synthesis.

He [Abp. Gądecki] also explained that publication of one-sided report after the first week of the synod caused a lot of confusion. This was an attempt to force a certain direction through publication of a document drafted in a certain shape. In his opinion, after publication of this partial report it seemed that the Synod was moving in a direction of “having pity for divorced and admitting them to Holy Communion and that there was little discussion of regular marriages”. But the discussions of the second week, he emphasized, showed an opposite direction. Bishops concentrated much more on the life and the need of testimony of regular marriages, and expressed much gratitude to them. They, after all, are the majority. Things, therefore, were put back to their right proportions.

The president of the Episcopate also commented on the issue of declaring nullity, or declaring that the marriage does not exist, by ecclesiastical tribunals. He reminded that one cannot speak of “cancellation” of a validly contracted marriage, yet this is a common mistake made by the media. “Such an expression gives the impression that what God has joined together, man can separate, yet this is not the case” - he emphasized.

Abp. Gądecki also expressed criticism of the idea, advanced by some Synod fathers, of changing the procedure of annulment of marriage by transferring it from judicial to administrative domain. The decision in such matters would be made by the bishop of the diocese, after listening to advice of a council of clergy or laity, who investigated the case. He [Abp. Gądecki] explained that this idea has not gained applause, because “this would be banalization of the process and trivialization of the responsibility of those who parted”.

Speaking of annulment procedures, he explained that this is a difficult problem, because “too much mercy in this sphere, if detached from the truth, can cause a lot of damage”. Every case must, therefore, be very carefully checked – often in several instances [of courts] - because conflicted spouses often present false information to the court”. “The degree of lies and hate of one person to another is often so powerful that discovering the truth and reaching a just verdict is very difficult” - explained the president of PEC. He added that ecclesiastical courts, which are quite liberal in this respect, have repeatedly received a reprimand from the Holy See.

“One needs to remember”, he added, “that Lord Jesus was merciful to those who repented, but harshly admonished those who had no intention to repent”.

Abp. Gądecki also stressed that if we put the main emphasis on the mercy to divorced parents, then the welfare of their children will be ignored. One cannot pursue happiness at the expense of the child. He added that the rights of children should be placed first, according to the principle that we are obliged to defend in the first place the rights of the weak, and such are the children.

Based on the experience of the Church he explained that one of the reasons of difficulties which many marriages have is not only the problem of psychological weakness or immaturity, but also the hierarchy of goals, where one often puts the issue of self-realization first. “This is purposefulness set toward pleasure and self-fulfillment, or, shortly speaking, egoism”- he added.

He explained that this problem is visible in the Polish reality, because 50% of our children are the only children. If a child is growing up in the atmosphere where everything is “for him”, then when he starts his own marriage, he consider the spouse to be “also for him”. According to Abp. Gądecki, this is another serious cause of the crisis of many contemporary marriages.

Asked about post-synodal initiatives for the family in the Polish Church, he explained that, contrary to some media reports, Polish bishops will consider this issue during their join retreat at Jasna Góra, which will take place at the end of November. He informed that there he will present to the bishops some measures which will need to be taken in the coming year, in order to prepare the Church in Poland to the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2015. Among other things, numerous symposia devoted to this subject will be organized, especially dealing with controversial points discussed at the [last] Synod.

He also assured that the subject of family and marriage will be very seriously addressed in the catechesis of adults across Poland. He added that “if there is no effective catechesis of adults, then one can doubt in effectiveness of catechetical efforts efforts directed toward children”.

Speaking about the challenges of the new evangelization he stressed the pastoral care of families must be undertaken not only by the clergy, but the families themselves must be included in this effort, especially families which can provide testimony. “Families are obliged to take pastoral care of other families, in particular to support those who are experiencing problems and crisises, and also to participate in the pastoral care of divorced” - he added.

Answering a question of one of the journalists asking if he has changed his line, because in the past he seemed to be a representative of the liberal part of the Episcopate, Abp. Gądecki answered that the categories of “liberal” and “conservative” have been borrowed from the political domain, yet when transferred to the religious domain they do not describe the reality of the Church correctly. In the ecclesiastical order there is no such things as “liberal” or “conservative” approach to the faithfulness to the Magisterium of the Church. At most, one can be faithful to the Tradition of the Church or one can be unfaithful.

[Source, in Polish; translation by Henryk Fukś]