Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest canon law court in the Catholic Church) corrects confusion spread by those who say the Church is going to change teaching about divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion. On June 29, EWTN aired an interview of Cardinal Burke by Thomas McKenna, president of Catholic Action for Faith and Family. McKenna asked Cardinal Burke about proposals that the upcoming extraordinary synod of bishops will change the Church's teaching on remarriage after divorce. Cardinal Burke explained that this could never happen and that Cardinal Kasper caused confusion when his talk to bishops in April was publicized.
The Church can't bend to the culture when the culture errors, said Cardinal Burke:
"Some people say 'Well the culture is predominantly divorcist and therefore the Church in her practice has to adapt herself to the situation of the culture.' That is not the nature of the Church. When the Church confronts a culture that is in some way weak or defective, or failing, as our culture is, Her mission is to call the culture to conversion and to teach ever more strongly the truth about marriage and to help, of course, individuals to live according to that truth. I think for instance of example in France and also in the United States, of associations of those who are divorced who meet regularly to encourage one another to remain faithful to their marriage (to their first marriage) because they believe very sincerely in the Lord's teaching that marriage was in fact, or is in fact, a way to salvation, and so these are the kinds of things that we ought to be encouraging …" See YouTube.
In a divorcist culture, divorce persons believe they are single again, and if feel like it, they should start dating again to find a "new spouse." In some particular situations, marriages are not valid. The Catholic Church with a decree of invalidity recognizes these situations officially. But all marriages wherein someone filed for divorce are not invalid.
Recently, on June 24, the Vatican released the survey results from the consultation of bishops that was part of the preparation for the upcoming synod about the Family. In the Vatican's document "Instrumentum Laboris" they emphasized the interest in avoiding petitioning for decrees of invalidity with improper discernment, and the witness made by separated persons who remain faithful to their marriage vows:
"Various responses and observations want to see more attention given to separated and divorced persons who have not remarried but have remained faithful to their nuptial vows. Oftentimes, these people seem to have the added suffering of not being given proper care by the Church and thus overlooked. Such persons also have difficulties and a need for pastoral attention. Moreover, the responses emphasize the importance of a pastor’s due care in seeing whether a marriage annulment is possible so as not to introduce cases without proper discernment. In this process, many responses ask for a concerted effort towards reconciliation to see if the separated parties can be reunited. Some responses refer to the great Christian witness made by separated persons who, courageously accepting their situation of suffering and solitude, remain faithful to their marriage vows."
Cardinal Burke, without naming organizations, spoke of such persons in both France and the U.S. In France, "Communion Notre Dame de l'Alliance" is a private association of the faithful recognized by the Conference of Bishops of France and Belgium. In Vermont, "Solitude Myriam" describes itself on their website as a group of persons who "continue their vocation of marriage. They learn to receive grace for their family in faithfulness to their sacramental marriage vows, even as they live ‘in solitude’, without their spouse.”
In the U.S., another group organized by Mary's Advocates, a non-profit organization upholding marriage, support each other and use a book translated from Italian to English as their program manual, "The Gift of Self" by Maria Pia Campanella. The initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that is supporting marriage featured as it's June book review this book: "The Gift Of Self: A Spiritual Companion For Separated And Divorced Faithful To The Sacrament Of Marriage."
The USCCB's review stated, "The greatest strength of Campanella’s book is her articulation of the vocation of the separated person to live out his or her marriage vows as a particular witness of God’s eternal love for fallen humanity, and the practical path she offers to the realization of this call." See: ForYourMarriage.org
As Cardinal Burke said, when the Church faces a culture that is week or failing, the Church's mission is to call the culture to conversion. “Communion Notre Dame de l'Alliance" in France, "Solitude Myriam" in Vermont, and those following the path in the book "The Gift of Self," by their own private example are calling the culture to conversion.
Spero columnist Bai MacFarlane is the founder of Mary's Advocates.