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Cardinal Marx elected German bishops’ president; Cardinal Lehmann preaches on divorce, remarriage

March 13, 2014

The German bishops have elected Cardinal Reinhard Marx to a six-year term as president of the nation’s episcopal conference, one of the most influential in the Church. Cardinal Marx succeeds Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the retired archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau.

Born in 1953 and ordained to the priesthood in 1979, Cardinal Marx was appointed auxiliary bishop of Paderborn in 1996 and bishop of Trier in 2001. Pope Benedict appointed him archbishop of Munich and Freising in 2007 and named him to the College of Cardinals in 2010.

In 2013, Pope Francis named Cardinal Marx to the eight-member Council of Cardinals, an advisory body that assists the Pope in the reform of the Roman Curia and the governance of the universal Church. Last week, Pope Francis named Cardinal Marx the coordinator of the newly-formed Council for the Economy, a 15-member body entrusted with the task of supervising the economic management, structures, and administrative and financial activities of the Roman Curia, the institutions connected to the Holy See, and Vatican City State.

In a March 13 homily to the German bishops, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz said that the Gospel account of the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 7:53-8:1) should be applied to discussions of divorce and remarriage.

After reviewing the textual history of the passage and recalling that some rigorists in the early Church did not think that the sin of adultery could be absolved, Cardinal Lehmann said that Jesus showed the scribes and Pharisees, who wanted the woman to be stoned, that they, too, were sinners. “One thinks of the rigorists of all time in the Church ... All are sinners like the woman, all have need of forgiveness.”

The prelate added that Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman, his restoration of her dignity before God, and loyalty to his example of mercy to sinners are important in the Church’s discussion of divorce and remarriage, especially as applied to confession, which is intended to offer sinners forgiveness and to save people from “the sentence of God” and “also from social death.”

Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman, however, is not a call to laxism-- a reference to Christ’s words, “Go, and sin no more”-- but a “call to a new life,” Cardinal Lehmann continued.

The passage is crucial in understanding guilt and forgiveness, he concluded. “If we pastorally, spiritually, and theologically practice this more, then more doors could open than we think at the moment. Amen.”


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: abc - Mar. 15, 2014 5:45 PM ET USA

    German Bishops would have a bit more credibility (about the sincerity of their feelings of mercy, not about the justness of their speech, of course) in this issue if they were not the same guys who decided to deny communion to those who stop paying the Church Tax.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Mar. 14, 2014 3:02 PM ET USA

    Every time I see the frustration below I feel empathy and compassion for the frustrated. But in justice I must defend the prelates who are simply articulating what is on their hearts. There is no mystery. The rigorists have the answers. Speaking of rigorists I was conversing with a couple married 77 years and their niece one day, and I asked the couple if they had ever argued. The wife said no, but the niece said yes; "He just knew when to shut up." There is a certain wisdom in that.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 14, 2014 12:35 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Marx needs to read again the passage from St. John's gospel. It concludes with very meaningful words "from now on do not sin any more" (8:11). Without that conclusion it would not have much meaning as a moral teaching, and would rather sound like giving the woman a license to sin. Book of Sirach 15:20, "God has not given any one a license to sin."

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Mar. 13, 2014 7:25 PM ET USA

    Jesus said "sin no more". He did not say that she should continue in her sin. I do not know whether the woman was married or not. I Just know that Jesus told her that she had had many "husbands". I do not know how this relates to remarriage at all.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Mar. 13, 2014 12:50 PM ET USA

    When, oh WHEN are these guys who are supposed to know better going to get it through their thick skulls that marriage is not a matter of mercy?!? Yes, violations against the marital covenant require mercy, but getting married itself is a matter of a legal contract and the question of mercy doesn't settle whether or not that contract is binding. A priest cannot declare a marriage null in the confessional! AARGH!