By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 September, 2015
The president of the German bishops’ conference has welcomed Pope Francis’ reform of the annulment process but warned that it doesn’t solve the problem of Catholics who are divorced and remarried.
At a press conference in Germany, Cardinal Reinhard Marx suggested that the issue of the divorced and remarried who wish to participate in the full life of the Church still needs to be addressed at the October Synod in Rome.
“It is a sensible signal but it does not solve the fundamental problems,” Cardinal Marx said.
He said streamlining annulment procedures is only a partial solution for marriage breakdown and the desire for a second marriage.
However, the Cardinal acknowledged that the October synod won’t change the Church’s position on second marriages.
“There will be no valid second sacramental marriage,” he said but added that the Church must make clear to those whose marriages had failed that they still belonged to the Church.
The cardinal said that the majority of people still hope for a life-long marriage and are open to children.
He expressed the hope that the synod’s message would be that lifelong marriage “is possible, but if you fail, we will stand by you.”
In a document titled ‘The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge’, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on the indissolubility of marriage but also announced streamlined procedures which will give local bishops a greater say.
The title of the reform document has been interpreted as a signal that that the Pope is seeking to reach out pastorally to Catholics affected by marriage breakdown, Fr James Bretzke, a theology professor at Boston College, has suggested.
Many couples and priests have complained that the complex procedures currently in place discourage couples, even those with legitimate grounds for an annulment, from trying to obtain one.
Brendan Butler of ‘We Are Church Ireland’ said he welcomed Pope Francis’ reforms which would speed up the process and allow bishops more discretion.
However, he highlighted that the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics “which is a more urgent problem is not addressed in these reforms and needs to be seriously addressed by the forthcoming synod on the family” which will take place in October in the Vatican.
The church currently teaches that Catholics can remarry only if their first marriage is declared invalid by a church marriage tribunal. Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the church in civil ceremonies are barred from receiving communion.