Both truth and mercy can be found in consistent Catholic teaching on marriage, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas told the Synod of Bishops on Thursday.
“United to Christ, who has overcome the world, the Church is called to maintain the splendor of truth even in difficult situations,” he said in his Oct. 15 intervention. “Mercy invites the sinner and it becomes forgiveness when one repents and changes one’s life. The prodigal son was greeted with an embrace from his father only when he returned home.”
Cardinal Urosa said the synod “must indicate lines of action that strengthen marriage, making it more attractive to young people, and keeping it alive in the hearts of the spouses over time.”
He said Catholic teaching provides mercy “to assist more effectively those in irregular situations to alleviate their moral suffering and to better live their Catholic faith.”
“We are all driven by the desire to find a better solution to this painful situation. We must do it with the spirit of the Good Shepherd and the truth that sets us free,” he continued.
The cardinal’s comments to the Synod of Bishops come amid continued debate over access to Communion for Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried civilly. The Church has taught, as in Familiaris consortio, that those persons are unable to be admitted to Communion because “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” and because “if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”
Cardinal Urosa stressed the need for repentance and the need for the synod to show “the strength and continuity” of Catholic teaching.
He cited St. John Paul II’s 1981 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, and the 2007 ‘Aparecida document’ of the Fifth Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops. These all reaffirmed pastoral care for couples in an irregular situation, while acknowledging that they may not receive Communion.
The Aparecida document was approved by then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who would be elected as Pope Francis in 2013.
“Can we contradict those teachings?” Cardinal Urosa asked.
The cardinal said the synod must work “in the light of the revealed truth and with eyes of mercy.” He said the synod is called “to reflect very clearly the teaching of the Gospel and of the Church through the centuries about the nature and dignity of Christian marriage” and to reflect “on the greatness of the Eucharist” and the need for those who receive Communion to be rightly disposed.
Cardinal Urosa noted the synod’s working document discussions about providing a “penitential journey” for those who have divorced and remarried. He said this penitential journey should end in conversion and a firm decision for the penitent to amend his or her life and to live in continence.
Please find below the full text of Cardinal Urosa’s Oct. 15 intervention at the synod:
The Proposal of Admission to the Eucharist for the Divorced and Remarried
I refer to numbers 121, 122, and 123 of the Instrumentum Laboris in which is considered the proposal for the acceptance to the table of the Eucharist – counting on certain conditions been met, among them a penitential journey – or the divorced and remarried, yet maintaining the conjugal life .
We are all driven by the desire to find a better solution to this painful situation. We must do it with the spirit of the Good Shepherd and the truth that sets us free. In the evangelical spirit of mercy, I think the penitential journey should conclude in conversion and the purpose of amendment and to live in continence, as taught in other words by Saint John Paul II in Familiaris consortio 84.
I wonder: Can we forget the words of the Lord in the Gospel, Matthew 19, and the teaching of Saint Paul (Rom 7:2-3; 1 Cor 7:10; Eph 5:31) and of the Church over the centuries? Can we dismiss the teachings of John Paul II in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio? This document, published a year after the 1980 Synod on the Family, seriously considered and consulted by the Pope over many months of study and reflection, in communication with experts from various theological disciplines, clearly rule out this possibility (FC 84) .
We also have the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992 with the traditional doctrine on the conditions for access to Communion and the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. (CCC 1650) We also have the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of September 14, 1994, written specifically on this issue. Can we forget the concluding document of the Fifth Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops in Aparecida, which asks us: “Accompany with care, prudence and compassionate love, following the guidelines of the magisterium, couples who live together out of wedlock, bearing in mind that those who are divorced and remarried may not receive communion.” (n. 437)
Can we contradict those teachings? Can we forget the very recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, reiterating the practice of the Church, rooted in Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10: 2-12) of not admitting to the sacraments the divorced and remarried, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and made present in the Eucharist? (n. 29)
United to Christ, who has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33), the Church is called to maintain the splendor of truth even in difficult situations. Mercy invites the sinner and it becomes forgiveness when one repents and changes one’s life. The prodigal son was greeted with an embrace from his father only when he returned home.
This Synod, without a doubt in the light of the revealed truth and with eyes of mercy, is called to reflect very clearly the teaching of the Gospel and of the Church through the centuries about the nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the greatness of the Eucharist and on the need of having the necessary dispositions to be in union with God to be able to receive Holy Communion; on the need for penance, repentance and the firm purpose of amendment for the repentant sinner to be able to receive Divine forgiveness; and the strength and continuity of both dogmatic and moral truth of the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium of the Church. It provides as well lights inspired by mercy to assist more effectively those in irregular situations to alleviate their moral suffering and to better live their Catholic faith.
Furthermore, the Synod must indicate lines of action that strengthen marriage, making it more attractive to young people, and keeping it alive in the hearts of the spouses over time. In this matter it will provide Pope Francis with very important elements to promote an intense evangelization of the family, and a re-appreciation of the sacrament of marriage.