Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does there exist an 'internal forum' solution for divorced and remarried Catholics?

The situation of those whose marriages have, sadly, broken down and who have entered into new unions without the Church's blessing is a common object of the pastoral attention of priests. It can be very tempting to propose a solution that does not reflect the Church's constant teaching in this regard. It is not 'pastoral' to admit people in this situation to absolution and Holy Communion unless they undertake to live as 'brother and sister' and, then, to only receive the sacraments in places where scandal would be avoided.

A couple of years ago I wrote a paper on the subject. I have now provided a link to it in the sidebar of this blog. I hope it is helpful.


  1. This is certainly a big problem. Some years ago I predicted that one area that the "enemy" would attack (I know he has done it many times in the past but now it is more serious)is that of confessional confidentiality. I believe (I sense) very serious damage is being done to souls by some priests within the secrecy of the confessional (and we might include in the internal forum). The concept of internal forum is not well understood by some priests and it is abused by others - sometimes it is simply a matter of turning a blind eye or saying something in the confines of someone's living room or kitchen.

    At the same time we have a situation in some parishes where it is simply understood by a majority of parishioners (including some in their old age, and some daily Mass-goers) that it is is quite acceptable for people to live together rather than - or in prepartion for - getting married. Priests like myself who preach according to the catechism are now being seen as "loveable eccentrics" who should be kept in the dark or placed in situations where they can do nothing about a situation they most certainly know about. In saying these things I am not breaking any seals. Parish priests often sense things are wrong, and through experience and, I believe through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are granted some insight into certain situations. The more a priest remains in a parish the more likely he is to "know" about things. Experienced parish priests are often good psychologists and, if they pray, they can be very sensitive to what is probably going on even when very little is said. However, in some cases the problems are clear because some people are quite open about their views.

  2. Excellent and very thorough exposition of the issues, Father! It should be in the hands of all pastors - especially here in the US.

    Reading the admonitions regarding refusal of Holy Communion to those publicly living in irregular marriages makes one wonder how clergy – and especially members of the US hierarchy – can regularly disregard them, and very publicly at that.

    The ‘subjective certainty’ referred to also recalls the argument from conscience regarding Contraception advanced by many following Humanae Vitae in 1968. But I recall that this was also to be dealt with in a similar manner pastorally – though not all priests adhered to that then, or even now perhaps. While it differs in that divorce and remarriage are publicly known while contraception is not, the danger of scandal to others may not be present (not ‘manifest’). Nevertheless the objective status of souls is similar and must also be dealt with pastorally out of concern for eternal salvation.


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