German Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich said a strong majority of German bishops supported Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to find a way to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, and that he intended to raise the issue at the Synod of Bishops.
Speaking at the close of the synod’s first day, Cardinal Marx also said it was crucial for the synod’s debate on family issues to be an “open discussion” that extends beyond the synod hall and involves the wider society.
Marx, who is president of the German bishops’ conference, made his remarks in a meeting with journalists. Synod participants have been told that their official speeches during the assembly should not be published, but that they were free to give interviews.
The synod’s opening summary document, read at the start of the first session, downplayed Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to find a “penitential path” that would allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Rather than dwelling on the reception of the sacraments, the synod document emphasized proposals to streamline procedures to make annulments easier to obtain.
Cardinal Kasper’s suggestions have been highly criticized by some Vatican cardinals, who say they could undermine the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Cardinal Marx said, however, that Cardinal Kasper’s ideas had the support of the great majority of bishops in Germany.
Marx also expressed some reservations about seeking the pastoral solution for divorced Catholics in a simplified annulment process. Determining whether a marriage was valid will never be easy, he said. He asked how the church could possibly grant annulments to couples married 20 or 30 years. And if annulments are conceded because the level of faith was not adequate at the time of marriage, he said, how many annulments would the church have to give?
More generally, Cardinal Marx said, if the church starts granting numerous annulments it could weaken its overall message about the sacrament of marriage.