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L’Osservatore Romano Reports on the German Pastoral Guidelines and Softens and Blurs Its Controversial Parts

On 3 February 2017, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article presenting the new pastoral guidelines concerning marriage as published by the German Bishops’ Conference on 1 February. This fact in itself is already newsworthy and of great importance, especially since the new German guidelines are, first of all, approvingly presented and not at all criticized. Moreover, the presentation of the pastoral guidelines itself seems to be attenuated, and even defective and misleading. As a deeper look into the matter shows, L’Osservatore Romano has somewhat subtly diluted or taken away a few of the controversial aspects of the original German document.

First, let us consider once more the two most controversial aspects of the new German pastoral guidelines with regard to the access of the “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments. As we have reported over the last couple of days, the German bishops have now given much weight to the individual conscience of the “remarried” persons, inasmuch as the document now says: “But, one also has to respect a [an individual] decision in favor of the reception of the Sacraments.” Or, as Archbishop Heiner Koch has now said repeatedly with regard to the new guidelines: “We [German bishops] write that – in justified [sic] individual cases and after a longer process – there can be a decision of conscience on the side of the faithful [i.e., “remarried” divorcees] to receive the Sacraments, a decision which must be respected.” [my emphasis] The German bishops do not require from these “remarried” couples that they must also live as brother and sister in order to have licit access to the Sacraments. Thus it would seem that the German guidelines are not much less liberalizing than the Maltese guidelines which say that individual “remarried” persons may go to Holy Communion if somehow they are in their own conscience “at peace with God.”

The second controversial part relates to those persons who would and should – according to the German bishops – accompany these “remarried” divorcees in their process of coming to such a decision of conscience with regard to their possibly having access to the Sacraments, especially to the Sacrament of Penance and to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. As we have shown, the German document speaks two times of “pastoral caretakers” (“Seelsorger”) and not once does it mention the word “priest” (“Priester”) or “pastor” (“Pfarrer”). The promulgated original German guidelines explicitly say: “Amoris Laetitia proposes a process of coming to a decision which is accompanied by a pastoral caretaker [“Seelsorger”].” [my emphasis]

This more inclusive formulation would mean – and it has been confirmed to me by a speaker for the German Bishops’ Conference – that such a process may be accompanied by a layman or a laywoman who works for a diocese in the larger field of pastoral care. Thus the German guidelines effectively weaken the role of the ordained priest altogether when it comes to the grave decision to admit an unrepentant or habitual adulterer to the Sacraments. How this will practically and more enduringly work out, is still unclear to many Catholic observers.

When we now consider the Vatican’s newspaper’s own presentation of the German guidelines, it is striking that both of these controversial aspects are somewhat, if not altogether, omitted and effectively mistranslated. With regard to the latter problem of the weakening of the priestly role in “discernment” and “accompaniment,” and “integration,” L’Osservatore Romano now says – and here I use the translation of Andrew Guernsey:

In cases where the marriage is not null, however, Amoris laetitiastarts with a process of discernment that should be accompanied by a pastor,” and, in this context, “it opens up the possibility of receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” [my emphasis]

In justice, one ought to give the benefit of the doubt that this is an unintentional mistranslation on the side of the newspaper (I double-checked the Italian word which is “pastore”), since I myself first made that mistake, as well as have others. (See here for a partial translation of the German guidelines, but with the same mistranslation.)

The second and more serious omission, however, might also indicate that L’Osservatore Romano has intended to present a less controversial version of the German guidelines. Nowhere does the Vatican newspaper mention that the German bishops have given wide and authoritative scope to the individual decision of conscience, finally, namely in the matter of inquiring and discerning “remarried” divorcees. Altogether missing is one crucial sentence: “But, one also has to respect a [an individual] decision in favor of the reception of the Sacraments.”

That this permissive aspect is also crucial to the German guidelines may be further seen in the recent reactions to it in Germany. For example, one Catholic organization in Germany – the Forum Deutscher Katholiken (Forum of German Catholics) – draws now a parallel to the German Bishops’ notoriously dissenting 1968 Königsteiner Erklärung (Declaration of Königstein) which firmly opposed Pope Paul VI and his prohibition of the use of artificial contraception. The Forum Deutscher Katholiken now says:

In a document concerning Amoris Laetitia, the German bishops presented the individual decision of conscience as a criterion for the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion. That reminds us of the Declaration of Königstein concerning [artificial and pharmaceutical] contraception after the [1968] papal document Humanae Vitae.

That is to say, the German bishops, back in 1968, had already then determined to leave it up to the individual consciences of the faithful whether or not to use artificial contraception.

The second proof of the importance of the aspect of the individual conscience in the new German pastoral guidelines with regard to Amoris Laetitia is that, already a few days later, one German bishop now proposes to apply this criterion to other moral problems. As the German Catholic author, Mathias von Gersdorff now reports, the Diocese of Limburg published last Sunday (5 February) an article in its diocesan newspaper discussing the idea of now allowing homosexuals to make their own permissive decisions of conscience:

Der Sonntag – the diocesan newspaper for the Diocese of Limburg – is of the opinion that the document of the German Bishops’ Conference which gives a decisive role to the conscience of the individual person could be “a model for other difficult and tricky questions.” Der Sonntag, on 5 February 2017: “The discussion will come as to whether or not it [this “solution” with the individual decision of conscience] is not also applicable to unmarried or homosexual couples who, of course, are not mentioned in the new document [of the German bishops]. [my emphasis; here is a link to the full article which is dated 1 February 2017.]

In light of the possibly grave consequences of the German bishops’ decision to give much scope to the individual conscience of the faithful, one may thus wonder as to whether the Vatican in its own recent presentation of the original German guidelines now tries to soften the strongly liberalizing, if not permissive, tendency of that document. But, at least, the Vatican article is attenuated and ambiguously unspecific, if not intentionally omissive. I have contacted L’Osservatore Romano concerning these omissions and will post an update should I hear from them.

For the sake of integrity and a fuller disclosure, we now post below the entire L’Osservatore Romano article. The translation has been kindly provided by Andrew Guernsey.


“Mercy and Authority”

The German Bishops’ Invitation to a Renewed Pastoral Care for Marriage and the Family

February 3, 2017

Published in L’Osservatore Romano, pg. 6

Translated by Andrew Guernsey


BERLIN – If “the indissolubility of marriage is an essential part of the faith of the Church,” Amoris laetitia “leaves little doubt about the need for a differentiated view of the individual situations of people’s lives.” With the divorced and remarried, “it must be clear that they belong to the Church, that God does not deprive them of his love, and that they are called to live out the love for God and neighbor by being authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ.” This is one of the central passages of the document released yesterday by the German Bishops Conference, “The Joy of Love which is Lived in Families is also the Joy of the Church – an Invitation to a Renewed Pastoral Care of Marriage and Family in light of Amoris laetitia.” Frequently citing the post-synodal apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, the bishops note how Amoris laetitia specifies for some situations the possibility of “receiving the help of the Church and in some cases even the help of the sacraments,” to continue walking in the grace and love of God.

In these guidelines, adopted by the Permanent Council on January 23, the German episcopate offers directives regarding “accompanying, discerning, and integrating” the “weakness” of marriage, according to the magisterium of the Pope. Amoris Laetitia, it is emphasized, “overlooks neither the heavy guilt that many people live with in these situations where the marital relationship has broken and failed, nor the problematic issue that civil second marriages contradict the visible sign of the sacrament of marriage, even if the person involved was left behind without fault.” The exhortation, however, “does not stop at a categorical and irreversible exclusion from access to the sacraments.” Francis writes that “what is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.” Even “with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.” And again: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” In certain cases, the Pope affirms, “this can include the help of the sacraments.”

According to the German Bishops’ Conference, “not all the faithful whose marriage has failed and who are separated and civilly remarried can indiscriminately receive the sacraments. Instead, more differentiated solutions are needed, which take the individual case into consideration, when marriages cannot be annulled.” Those who have a reasonable doubts of the validity of their marriage should be encouraged to “take into consideration the duty of the ecclesial matrimonial judges to verify whether new marriages in the church may be possible.” In cases where the marriage is not null, however, Amoris laetitia “starts with a process of discernment that should be accompanied by a pastor,” and, in this context, “it opens up the possibility of receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”

Numerous directives are stipulated by the bishops. The pastoral care of marriage preparation must be “intensified, to have a more binding character and at the same time a more convincing one.” By following the path of a “catechumenate of marriage” that accompanies the journey to the sacrament as “a conscious journey of faith,” taking into account the concrete situations of life. It will also be necessary “to strengthen efforts in the accompaniment of married life” and “to develop a spirituality of marriage and family.” The accompaniment also ought to be seen as an aid in the problems and concrete difficulties of life: “Only in this way will the accessibility and and humanity of the Church be able to be experienced in people’s daily lives,” writes the German episcopate. One of the indications is regarding the dimension of faith: “Families should be supported as learning places of faith and strengthened in this often difficult task.” [my emphasis]

50 thoughts on “L’Osservatore Romano Reports on the German Pastoral Guidelines and Softens and Blurs Its Controversial Parts”

  1. You’d think it was some piece of confectionary they were talking about instead of the Body & Blood of Jesus Christ given up for us on the Cross so that we could attain our immortal salvation through Him. He decided the terms whereby we could avail ourselves of this precious gift of Himself by way of the Ten Commandments which no-one has the power to change in any way. “If you love Me keep My commandments” John 14:15, obviously means nothing to these usurpers but woe betide them if they try to enforce their philosophy on to the faithful.

  2. So looks like the Catholic Church now teaches two doctrines on the indissolubility of marriage.

    We need a dramatic and clear resistance.

    Unless this goes on long enough that it transforms itself into a “purely disciplinary teaching”…

    • Well, the Church did these same things, long ago, in the matter of other sins crying to heaven for vengeance- Usury, Unjust wage scale, abortion providers/supporters; that is, sacramental discipline was jake with letting the supporters/perps of the Four Sins crying to Heaven for vengeance receive Holy Communion.

      • I have a feeling this won’t stand. At this point, left as long even as it has been so far, it is going to be VERY messy in the attempt to fix it, that’s for sure.

        It’s one thing to ignore a state of manifest, grave sin. It’s another thing to produce a document that both allows adulterers to receive communion AND at the same time denies it to them. And that is how the absurdity is playing out. At some point the “clarification” is going to have to be made and at that point, orthodox priests forced to comply world wide OR the heretics will.

        Some priests will not comply. I think we may see more guts from priests than bishops, at least among the Traditionalists. Which applies to the communing of others you list plus Freemasons as well.

      • Those sins you mention were committed, but never permitted. There is a huge difference. We have always had sinners but we also have always had the laws they broke.

  3. The Trojan Horse which gets the “primacy of conscience” principle firmly established in the Church.

    Then comes the end game…..Communion for those engaged in sodomy.

    There’s a “Rainbow” over Rome.

  4. Mark10:5-12.
    5 But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,[a] 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
    We are followers Of Jesus Christ, not the world.

  5. Paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia said that it was up to local churches to decide on doctrine and pastoral practices. We now have this idea being developed and approved from the top. The Church is being deliberately split into different sects each with different teachings on moral theology. Given that each sect can decide on doctrine there will be further splits until we exceed the Protestants in the number of sects. Forget about Christ’s admonition to be one. But who was he to tell us what to do?

    • But doesn’t that also mean that we faithful Catholics can have our little sects too? We could “Restore All Things In Christ” and be left alone.

    • Not to worry. We won’t exceed the number of sects of the protestants. The end of the world will surely arrive before that.

  6. This just gets worse and worse. Pray for Pope Francis. Pray that he has good intentions and will he’ll be judged with mercy. Pray he doesn’t know the havoc he is spreading through out the world and the Church. It could be he does have good intentions – Lord have Mercy on him!

    • Hi Barbara – Francis has as good of intentions for the Bride Of Jesus as Judas Iscariot had for Jesus. I pray this – “Let God Arise, and let His enemies be scattered: And let them that hate Him flee from before His Face”. It would be a sign of God’s Mercy on the Church if Francis would flee, and his compatriots would be scattered. If they don’t do that then I pray that those lost to Apostasy suffer the same fate as those who offended God in the days of Noah. It is foolish to fall prey to sympathy for the devil. We can pray for the enemies of Christ, but not for a false form of Mercy for those who refuse to repent and reject that which offends God most.

        • Hi Margaret – It is an awesome prayer. My family prays that prayer regularly when we pray the Chaplet of the Holy Face, and every Sunday Morning before we go to Mass, when we pray the “Prayers Against Satan and the Rebellious Angels Published by order of His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII”. A most effective prayer when said as a family, especially in times such as these.

  7. Why can’t those who discern that their state is o.k. with God not be allowed to receive the Sacrament of Marriage? Is anyone asking why not?

    • Hi Robert – Because Jesus called divorce and remarriage, while the spouse from the first marriage is still living, adultery. Jesus did not offer any exceptions, and never made the things that offend God dependent on what the offender decides are the offenses. Jesus did not die on the cross so sinners would not need to reconcile themselves to God, Jesus died in the cross so that sinners could reconcile themselves to God through His Sacrifice on the Cross.

    • Church teaching. Personal opinions about one’s state are not primary and certainly not authoritative. Objective fact is. So if you are married and get a civil divorce and then enter into a new civil marriage, you are living in an objective state of sin, ie committing adultery.

      There is a process for figuring out the “complex concrete” situations {annulment} but the Church has never taught that the personal opinion/decision of conscience is primary when objective facts say otherwise.

  8. I was reading an article regarding the Ordinariate. They recall, as can I from my former Anglican days, that the Church of England consented to adultery, even though her official teaching was that marriage was indissoluble. The same is happening now in the Catholic Church. Whilst the official teaching cannot be changed formally, the Modernists can intend to change the practise.

    Thus, Pope Francis and his Company have become the “New Pharisees”, who in like fashion to the Pharisees of old, add their false man-made interpretation on the Law of Christ, however they are opposite. Whilst the Judaic Pharisees emphasised the letter over the spirit, the New Pharisees emphasise the spirit over the letter, whereas the Catholic view is both. One must be obedient to the letter, whilst also applying the spirit. For example, the Church teaches to refrain from servile work on the Dies Dominica (The Lord’s Day), but if you, out of charity, need to help a neighbour, then charity trumps the letter of the Law, as Our Lord says: Therefore it is lawful to do a good deed on the sabbath-days (Matt 12:12).

    However, our venerable Pontiff is now asking for better instruction in marriage counselling (which he calls the “new catechumanate” – there’s that word again, “new”), which is just ironic. It is like spilling water on the floor, telling the people around not to worry about cleaning it up, and then later complain that it hasn’t been cleaned! I fear that the Pope will be known as “Pope Francis the Hypocrite”. However, I suppose he will be known by worse names. Yet, I cannot imagine what the Romans will call him. On Saturday, posters criticising the Pope were papered around the City. Looks like the locals have had enough of Francis, and it looks like “The Francis Effect” is now wearing away. Oh, and of course the Pope said obeying the Decalogue paralyses Christians and takes hope away: “Obeying all the commandments, all of them…’ Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward.”

    It also happens that during the early hours of Monday morning (6th Feb), I was not able to sleep due to sore feet (from walking on Saturday). I had also developed a blister. These were aggravated from walking to Mass and back on Sunday (the Church is a 5 minute walk down the road).

    However, whilst I begged Our Lord to take the pain away, I was suddenly made aware of my sins, and my soul felt as if pained by revelation of how it had offended the Lord by sin. I went to my altar, lit a candle, then took my large wooden rosary, and knelt down at the side of my bed (which my altar is next to). On the wall at the head of my bed is a Crucifix, underneath which is an icon of my Patron (St. Mark the Evangelist), and on either side of that are images of Our Lord and Our Lady. By this time, the pain in my feet was searingly painful. In my soul I could hear the Lord telling me to offer my suffering for the Church and the world.

    So, for the whole night I kept praying, offering my pain for the Church and the world. At the point when I prayed for the Church, I felt great sorrow and anger, which I can only say came from the Lord. The sorrow was so intense, I couldn’t stop crying whilst I looked up at Our Lord dressed in gold, with His Heart exposed, and His Holy Face smiling down at me. I sincerely asked Him why He allows His Church, and thus Himself, to be beaten down like this. I also spoke to Him about my own feelings, which I shall not detail here. When I started praying for the Pope and the bishops, I felt great anger, and I can only understand this to be Our Lord Himself allowing me to experience His own feelings. Whilst praying for Holy Mother Church, I felt as if I would die from sorrow. I asked Him why He wants me to be a Priest, and when I asked Him to help me to remain faithful, I felt great comfort from Him. I also prayed to Our Lady of Fatima, whose image I also have. She is my special Patroness as I was born on Her feast day, so She takes care of me!

    Alas, at the end of the night, the pain in my feet had gone as I had asked. And then I remembered that I had asked Our Lady to cure the blister, which seemingly has almost gone now. My feet are not completely cured, but I don’t have any pain, although I can’t walk on them properly, but I am thankful to Jesus and Mary for their (real!) mercy to me. Also, the time seemed to fly by as I knelt and prayed and cried! I can’t explain the feeling I have now. But, what I wanted to stress was how I suddenly had the above mentioned feelings when I mentioned certain things regarding the Church. Oh, when I mentioned the Modernists I felt like I was going to scream in rage, which is unlike me. I believe the Holy Spirit made me feel what He feels regarding this, I really do. If it was, all I can say is: the Lord is very angry!


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