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German cardinal defends Synod document, says Church teaching can change

October 17, 2014

Speaking to reporters in Rome on October 16, Cardinal Reinhard Marx defended the interim report released by the Synod of Bishops and reiterated his early statement of support for a change in Church teaching regarding the reception of Communion by Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

"Saying that the doctrine will never change is a restrictive view of things," the cardinal told reporters at a Vatican press office briefing. Cardinal Marx, who is president of the German bishops’ conference, said that most of the country’s bishops backed the proposal by his fellow German, Cardinal Walter Kasper.

“We cannot change the Church,” Cardinal Marx said, “but we have not understood everything yet.” He stressed that the Church should serve all of the faith, not dividing them “into first class or second class or third class.”

The German cardinal said that in his own country, pastors must take special care to help Catholics who marry others who do not share their faith. He reported that about half of all marriages by German Catholics today are not recognized as sacramental marriages, because Catholics are taking spouses who are not baptized. Cardinal Marx said that the final report from this month’s Synod meeting will be only a stage in a longer process, leading to another round of discussions at the Synod meeting next October, which will also be dedicated to the family. He said that while Cardinal Kasper had introduced the theoretical possibility of extending Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, “for now there are no concrete proposals” for implementing that idea. Also at a Vatican press conference, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, France, said that the Synod fathers should not merely repeat familiar language regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage. “That’s not what the Holy Father wants,” he said.


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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 19, 2014 8:15 AM ET USA

    A) Church teaching cannot change B) Anyone who proclaims that it can change is a rebel C) Anyone who amplifies such a message shares in the rebellion... This Synod was supposed to be "on the family..." It would seem now to be undermining the family & promoting confusion within the Church.

  • Posted by: christhavemercy821235 - Oct. 18, 2014 4:52 PM ET USA

    On half of the marriages where one spouse is not Catholic, why is the percentage so high? Isn't Church law Catholics should not marry non Catholics?

  • Posted by: Andrej - Oct. 18, 2014 1:30 PM ET USA

    The one positive element of all of this: when the popular climate of licentiousness emboldens Cardinals to expose their own corruption it becomes much easier for the laity to identify rotten Bishops and reject them.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Oct. 18, 2014 11:26 AM ET USA

    “That’s not what the Holy Father wants,” he said. If that is so, let the Pope speak up for himself, instead of Synod participants hiding behind his skirts. And even if he "wants" it, so what? Rather, what is 'possible' is at issue. I believe history tells us that one Pope had even been an Arian before he had to speak with authority on the subject. Who are we to judge - let the Pope speak for himself.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 18, 2014 9:35 AM ET USA

    Does Card. Marx also drive through red lights? I understand that in Germany there is a huge fine for that.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Oct. 18, 2014 7:07 AM ET USA

    We need to read over and over again the words of St. Vincent of Lerins--doctrine can develop, but not turn back on itself, or say that what the Church taught in the past is no longer true. A valid marriage is a lifelong commitment, so either show that the marriage wasn't valid in the first place, or, if you are abandoned, learn to live with that cross and let the Church community help you cope with the sin.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Oct. 17, 2014 5:51 PM ET USA

    Where do we get these people? Where does Jesus get these people? I ask only half-rhetorically. Something is very wrong when a cardinal says things like this. Half of marriages in the German church are not sacramental because one spouse is unbaptized? Seems the answer to that is evangelization. Wouldn't the Catholic spouse want to bring the non-Catholic spouse to Christ? But perhaps I am naive.

  • Posted by: Defender - Oct. 17, 2014 5:33 PM ET USA

    The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Part II.