More controversial than many other ies at the World Synod of Bishops is the position of Catholics who have remarried after a divorce. Here is an overview.
Why remarried divorcees are excluded from communion in the Catholic Church?
According to Catholic teaching, sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. Since the first marriage is indissoluble from the Church's point of view, someone who marries for the second time after a divorce and has regular sexual intercourse with the new partner is living in permanent adultery. Those who are not willing to renounce it in the new union cannot find sacramental forgiveness – unlike in the case of infidelity – because the sacrament of confession presupposes the will to leave the path of sin. It therefore remains forbidden to those permanently living in adultery. Consequently, they are also not allowed to take communion.
Why the Catholic Church is stricter on this ie than many Protestant churches?
Most Protestant churches see marriage as a "secular thing" and not as a sacrament. Therefore, unlike in the Catholic Church, it has no indelibly binding effect. Jesus' words about marriage ("What God has joined together, let not man put asunder") are interpreted by Protestants as a moral ideal rather than a law.
Can the path of the Orthodox churches be a model?
Some Orthodox churches offer divorced people a second or third marriage in an ecclesiastical context after a "path of repentance".
Unlike the Catholic Church, Orthodoxy does not have a clear sacramental doctrine and ecclesiastical marriage law for marriage. It does not make a clear distinction between blessing and sacrament. In practice, the "path of repentance" is often shortened by those affected and reinterpreted as ecclesiastical permission for a new marriage. Only a few Catholic theologians see it as a model that could be transferred to the Roman Church.
Is the subsequent declaration of the marriage nullity a solution?
According to Catholic doctrine, marriage is valid only under certain conditions. If it is contracted under duress, for example, or lacks the will to have a child, it is invalid. If this relationship breaks down later, the Church can state in retrospect that something essential was missing from the beginning. The marriage was then "void", so the ex-partners are free to remarry. Pope Francis has greatly simplified the procedure for determining nullity. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, many marriages are contracted under family prere; here the annulment procedure is important. In the U.S., Poland and Italy, where many young, immature people marry, annulment procedures are also often sought later on. In German-speaking countries the demand is comparatively low.
There may be regional differences in access to the sacraments?
The practice of receiving the sacraments is inconsistent. In many countries of Eastern Europe and South America, Catholics confess after sinning before receiving Communion, because according to Catholic doctrine, receiving Communion is not permitted without first forgiving sins. In German-speaking countries, only a few Catholics confess, but almost all churchgoers receive communion. They transgress, often tolerated by the pastors, the ecclesiastical rules or have a different conception of what is sin. People in second civil marriages are not infrequently admitted to communion by priests because their condition is not perceived as sinful. To officially allow the practice, conservatives say, would jeopardize the uniformity of Catholic marriage law and sacramental theology and ultimately call into question the indissolubility of marriage.
How proponents of opening up argue?
Reformers say church must bring God's mercy to people who have failed in marriage, too. They find the current application of the doctrine too rigorous. They point out that in life there are always intermediate stages on the way to perfection, but that the church only allows black or white with regard to the sacraments. They also point out that this strict doctrine has grown historically and can therefore also be adapted to new social conditions. Moderate reformers argue for case-by-case solutions, which should be handled at the discretion of each bishop.