Roman Catholics don’t believe in divorce. But they do allow for annulments. These involve ecclesiastical tribunals that rule that a valid marriage never existed in the first place. If it was determined that a couple was too young and didn’t know what they were doing or that they didn’t understand the Catholic theology of marriage, their marriage could be declared invalid. Despite receiving the sacrament of marriage in their wedding, despite living together for decades, despite having children and raising them to adulthood, they weren’t really married, thus ratifying their civil divorce and allowing them to marry someone else.
Catholics who do get a divorce and remarry without an annulment (which is a very expensive and time-consuming process) incur automatic excommunication, meaning that they are not allowed to receive Holy Communion. This affects lots of people, as you can imagine, and cuts seriously into church attendance. So the church is reconsidering its practice, trying to find a way to allow remarried people to take Communion.
A leader of that effort is the retired German archbishop Cardinal Walter Kasper, who, in the course of an interview in Commonweal Magazine, dropped this bombshell that, strangely, has drawn little attention: “I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.” [Read more...]