Two more cardinals back Communion for divorced and remarried

by John L. Allen Jr.

Within the last 24 hours, two Italian cardinals have stepped into the fray over whether divorced and remarried Catholics ought to be able to receive Communion, with both coming down on the permissive side of the argument.
Whether that will be enough to overcome strong opposition to any change among some bishops, however, remains to be seen.

Under current Church rules, a Catholic who is divorced and remarried without an annulment — meaning a declaration that they were never married because their first union didn’t meet one of the tests in Church law for validity — cannot receive Communion.

In a Vatican briefing today, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio said that in cases of “urgency and necessity,” such Catholics ought to be readmitted.

Coccopalmerio offered a specific example of a woman who married a man who had been abandoned by his first wife, through no fault of his own, and left to care for three children. The woman who married him, and who is now helping to care for his children, is considered to be in an “irregular” situation.

“She cannot abandon that union or those children,” he said. “In these cases, we have to do something.”

Coccopalmerio, considered one of the top Church lawyers in Catholicism, is president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, more or less the Vatican’s equivalent of an attorney general’s office.

Individual cases of divorced and remarried Catholics, he said, could be examined “by a bishop or a group of bishops” in order to find a “positive solution.”

He invoked a story told by Jesus in the New Testament about someone falling into a well on the Sabbath, a day when work is forbidden, to explain his position.

“You can respond two ways,” Coccopalmerio said. “You could do nothing in order to respect the law, or you could act because it’s a case of necessity and urgency.”

“Does acting risk breaking the law of the Sabbath? Absolutely not, that law remains, but there are cases that force me to act.”

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In the case cited, a mother abandons her husband and children. Why wouldn't the Church grant an annulment? Perhaps the change would be to 'fast track' the paperwork.