Scholars: No, Benedict XVI doesn’t support Kasper in synod debates | CNA | Catholic World Report
A new volume of Ratzinger’s collected works includes a revised essay on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried.
A new volume of Benedict XVI’s collected works includes an updated version of a 1972 essay in which he had suggested that the divorced and remarried could receive Communion—but the Pope had long since abandoned that position, scholars noted.
“In his book The Gospel of the Family, Cardinal Walter Kasper cites a 1972 essay by Joseph Ratzinger…it is unfortunate that Cardinal Kasper failed to mention that Ratzinger retracted the proposal or ‘Vorschlag’ outlined in his 1972 essay,” Dr. Nicholas Healy, an assistant professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., told CNA Nov. 24.
As a priest of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Joseph Ratzinger—who would later become Pope Benedict XVI—published an essay in 1972 which argued for access, under certain limited conditions, to Communion for the divorced and remarried. While affirming the indissolubility of marriage, Ratzinger and similar authors “appealed to certain passages in the Church Fathers that seem to allow leniency in emergency situations,” Healy wrote in a recent issue of Communio.
This line of argument was taken up in a 1977 book by Walter Kasper, who was then a priest of the Diocese of Rottenburg.
That year, Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and in that capacity he participated in the 1980 Synod on the Family, where he stated that “it will be up to the synod to show the correct approach to pastors” in the matter of Communion for the divorced and remarried.
The concluding document of that synod, 1981’s Familiaris consortio, found that “reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.’”
Days after that document was issued, Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Then, in 1991, a canon lawyer, Fr. Theodore Davey, suggested that confession and spiritual direction could open up the way for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion, and cited Ratzinger’s 1972 essay in support of his position.
Cardinal Ratzinger quickly retracted the “suggestions” of his 1972 essay as no longer tenable, because they were made “as a theologian in 1972. Their implementation in pastoral practice would of course necessarily depend on their corroboration by an official act of the magisterium to whose judgment I would submit…. Now the Magisterium subsequently spoke decisively on this question in the person of (St. John Paul II) in Familiaris consortio.”
The issue re-emerged in 1993...