Vatican official suggests reinventing the wheel

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 17, 2016

Archbishop Kevin Farrell (who will be known as Cardinal Farrell in just a few days) is not pleased with Archbishop Charles Chaput.

The prefect of the Vatican’s new dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life is disappointed because the Archbishop of Philadelphia has forthrightly stated that, Amoris Laetitia to the contrary notwithstanding, the Church (at least in Philadelphia) still upholds the age-old teaching that Catholics are divorced and remarried may receive the Eucharist only if they renounce sexual activity.

You already knew that there’s a lively debate on that issue. But pay careful attention to the argument employed by Cardinal-designate Farrell—keeping in mind that he now heads the Vatican office dealing with issues of marriage and family life. Rather than re-stating Church teaching, he suggests:

I think there are all kinds of different circumstances and situations that we have to look at—each case as it is presented to us.

What an interesting proposal! To implement it, the Church might set up a juridical body in every diocese to examine troubled marriages, taking every case at it is presented, weighing the different circumstances, and determining whether or not a sacramental marriage had taken place. We might call this body a marriage tribunal. And then we might notice that it already exists!

Does Archbishop Farrell mean to say that the existing tribunals do not examine different circumstances, and do not take each case as it is presented? If so, then by all means fix the tribunals, so that they do their work properly. If not, his argument makes no sense.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: WNS3234 - Nov. 19, 2016 10:54 AM ET USA

    Our (my) experience with Diocesan Tribunals echoes Mr. Mandock's yet I think it notable that this is our experience in the USA. I don't know about the Canadian, Mexican, or the numerous countries in Central and South America practices. Whereas there IS a universal Code, its application via Canonists seems to be presumed inadequate. In the recent past two solutions were applied to irregular situations: 1/ Brother-Sister relationship and 2/ "Internal Forum," of which little could or should be said

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Nov. 18, 2016 4:05 PM ET USA

    This is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. Something else is afoot.

  • Posted by: Ken - Nov. 17, 2016 8:05 PM ET USA

    I wonder if the College of Cardinals has learned its lesson with this pope's election.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 17, 2016 1:47 PM ET USA

    My experience with marriage tribunals is that they are exhaustive, comprehensive, deliberating, just, and merciful bodies that do exactly what they are intended to: "examine troubled marriages, taking every case at it is presented, weighing the different circumstances, and determining whether or not a sacramental marriage had taken place." The Cardinal designate is just spewing more Vatican sophistry. It seems as if the Vatican intends to fill up what is lacking in the sacrifice of Obama.