As Katholisch.de, the official website of the German bishops, reports today, Cardinal Willem Eijk, the Dutch cardinal and Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht, requested that Pope Francis bring light into the confusion concerning the question as to how to deal with “remarried” divorcees in the Church. In an interview published today in the Dutch newspaper Trouw Cardinal Eijk (64) says: “People are confused, and that is not good.”
Cardinal Eijk refers here to the ambiguous teaching stemming from the pope’s document Amoris Laetitia. As Katholisch.de puts it:
Francis pleads for the idea to make possible, in individual cases, that the remarried divorcees have access to the Sacraments – after a careful pastoral examination, and even if the previous canonical marriage still exists.
Cardinal Eijk now proposes that the pope write an additional document in which doubts should be removed. Eijk himself supports a stricter interpretation of the Canon Law in this regard. In his view, Catholics may not be allowed to remarry if their divorce has not been presented to the Church’s marriage tribunal. Otherwise, according to Eijk, these couples may not have access to Holy Communion. As he puts it, according to a translation of Mark de Vries:
“We have the words of Christ himself, that marriage is one and can’t be broken. That is what we maintain in the archdiocese. When an ecclesiastical court has declared a marriage null, it is officially confirmed that there has never been a marriage. Only then, one is free to marriage and receive the sacraments of Confession and Communion.”
As Katholisch.de reports, Cardinal Eijk also criticizes the debate about this topic within the Catholic Church: one bishops’ conference sets up different rules than another. He says: “But what is true in one place cannot be suddenly untrue in another place.”
Cardinal Eijk’s statement has considerable weight inasmuch as he is a respected expert in questions of moral theology. Additionally, he is not a retired prelate and thus he takes much more risk in making such a stance. He was, in 2015, among the signatories of the Thirteen Cardinals’ Letter to Pope Francis requesting a fair procedure during that second Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family.
Moreover just ahead of the 2015 Second Family Synod, Cardinal Eijk was among eleven cardinals who published a book in defense of the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, which was entitled Eleven Cardinal Speak on Marriage and the Family: Essays from a Pastoral Standpoint. In that book, Cardinal John Onaiyekan (Nigeria) had the following words to say which now ring with a piercing tone:
The synod [on the family] has not been called to decide whether or not divorced and remarried couples can receive Holy Communion. This is certainly not the purpose of the synod. Nor has the synod been called to discuss the issue of homosexuality and whether or not two Catholic men or two Catholic women can present themselves at the altar for marriage. […] These are issues that are already clear in our doctrines. Synods are not called to change the doctrines or teachings of the Church. [emphasis added]