People, look East

My blog neighbor Joanne McPortland has posted an excellent primer on the whole Orthodox-Catholic-Why-Can’t-We-Get-Communion-If-We’re-Divorced-And-Remarried debate:

Cardinal Kasper and others are reminding us that justice and mercy are inseparable. In practice, what the West can learn from the East is not that marriage is no big deal (because it is the biggest of deals for us both) or that automatic and unthinking open Communion is the way to go (because No). Instead, we are to look at how the East practices oikonomia with those who seek to enter a second marriage. The process takes place in the deeply personal relationship between priest/confessor and parishioner/penitent. Every case is unique, and resolved uniquely according to the priest’s (and through him, the bishop’s) understanding of the circumstances of this person in this community. The Orthodox solution applies the law, but with a flexibility born of acknowledging that it is the Church’s task to bring people to Christ in community, in the midst of an imperfect world.

In Western Catholic practice, before divorce became so prevalent that canon law was revised to refer specifically to the divorced and remarried, the Orthodox solution was often the Catholic solution, too. Divorced and remarried Catholics might seek counsel from their pastor or confessor, and under certain circumstances be admitted to Communion quietly, where no scandal would result. The rise in divorce rates, the fall in understanding of the meaning of Marriage, the growth in size of parishes, the increased use of the annulment have all done as much as canon law has to place the focus on epikaia rather than oikonomia in the West.

Despite the media flap, Catholic law and Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage are not likely to change this October or next. But Catholic pastoral practice might—nudging Catholic parishes to be more welcoming of those in irregular situations, Catholic pastors to get to know better those smelly sheep and why they’re so driven to seek the sheepfold, and divorced and remarried Catholics to move closer and more honestly to a true understanding of Marriage and the Eucharist.

There’s a lot to absorb. But it’s the clearest and most comprehensible study of this situation I’ve read so far. Check it out. 


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