Issues beneath issues at Synod 2015 | George Weigel | CWR
There has been much talk and discussion about divorce, remarriage, and nullity, but more attention should be paid to the serious matters “beneath the surface” of those debates
ROME. Since Pope Francis announced that two Synods would examine the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family and work to devise more evangelically dynamic responses to that crisis, a lot of attention has focused on issues of Catholic discipline: How does the Church determine that a marriage never existed and thus grant a decree of nullity? What is to be done about the sacramental situation of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics? How does the Church best prepare its sons and daughters for marriage?
Beneath these visible questions lie more basic questions of the Church’s self-understanding. So one hopes that Synod 2015 will focus some of its attention on these very serious matters “beneath the surface” of the current debate.
1. Can Catholics be both sinner and saved?
Proposals to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion, after a penitential period but without a decree that the prior marriage never existed (an “annulment”), seem to some to reflect Martin Luther’s old claim that Christians are always simul iustus et peccator, “both sinner and saved.” Fifty years of ecumenical dialogue and serious theological work have not found a way to square this claim with classic Catholic understandings of sin and grace. Would the admission of the divorced and civilly remarried to Holy Communion eviscerate the Church’s classic understanding of God’s life within us, how we can reject that grace by certain grave sins, and how we are restored to friendship with God?
2. How does the Church help its people climb the ladder of love?