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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - In his boldest statement to date on the topic of the Eucharist, Cdl. Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishops' Conference, has declared outright that those in adulterous marriages should be permitted to receive Holy Communion.
In his Wednesday intervention at the Synod, Cdl. Marx said the Church
should seriously consider the possibility — based on each individual case and not in a generalizing way — to admit civilly-divorced-and-remarried believers to the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion when the shared life in the canonically valid marriage definitively has failed and the marriage cannot be annulled, the liabilities from this marriage have been resolved, the fault for breaking up the marital lifebond was regretted and the sincere will exists to live the second civil marriage in faith and to educate children in the Faith.
Marx offered questionable theological opinions about the Church's teaching on marriage in his intervention, opening his speech by discussing the Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes, which he said "developed the teaching on marriage" by interpreting it within "the context of a theology of love." He acknowledged that conjugal love exists for "the procreation and education of children, but not only."
According to Marx, the path to sanctification "is not always straight and does not always lead directly to the intended objective." Rather, he insisted "the sacramental nature of marriage should not be reduced to its indissolubility. It is a comprehensive relationship event that unfolds."
The cardinal also pushed for the possibility of allowing the use of contraception in marriage, raising the specter of "conscience" as the ultimate guide.
We need to make more room for the conscience of the bride and married couples in our preaching and our pastoral outreach. It is certainly the task of the Church to form the consciences of the faithful, but the judgment of conscience of the people cannot be replaced. This is especially true for situations where the partners who experience a conflict in values must make a decision about whether to be open to the procreation of children vs. the preservation of their marriage and family life when the two conflict with each other.
Acknowledging the Church's teaching that divorced-and-civilly-remarried couples are "objectively in a state of continuing adultery," nevertheless Marx argued this should not exclude them from the sacramental life of the Church. He went on to dismiss current solutions for divorced-and-remarried couples — including resuming the first valid marriage or living chastely — as "unrealistic."
"Can we evaluate sexual acts in a second civil marriage exclusively as adultery?" he asked.
After arguing the Eucharist "strengthens the faithful on their path of sanctification," Marx closed his speech with the declaration that the Church "should seriously consider the possibility" of permitting those in adulterous, invalid marriages to receive Holy Communion.
The German Bishops' Conference is no stranger to this position, having floated it as a possibility in the past. And it was Cdl. Marx who last year indicated a possible schism between the German Church and the Holy See when he said Germany is "not just a subsidiary of Rome" and "cannot wait" on the Synod declarations before choosing to act on matters pertaining to pastoral outreach to Catholics. Marx also spearheaded the infamous Shadow Council last May in Rome, a secretive gathering of high-ranking bishops, theologians and journalists pushing progressive change to Church teaching precisely on such questions as Marx discussed Wednesday.
Although various German cardinals, most notably Walter Kasper, have proposed the possibility over the years of Communion for divorced-and-civilly-remarried couples, Cdl. Marx's Wednesday intervention stands out as the first such made during the Synod on the Family with this level of directness. If one thing has been made clear at this year's Synod, it's that liberal prelates are feeling emboldened in ways unseen in the Church for decades.