The Vatican's highest doctrinal official has reaffirmed church teaching barring divorced and remarried members receiving Communion without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriage, reports the Catholic News Service.
But Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, acknowledged that many Catholics' first marriages might be invalid, and thus eligible for annulment, if spouses had been influenced by prevailing contemporary conceptions of marriage as a temporary arrangement.
The archbishop's words appeared in a long article published in the Vatican newspaper yesterday.
Speculation about a change in practice has grown since Pope Francis told reporters accompanying him on his plane back from Rio de Janeiro in July that the next Synod of Bishops would explore a "somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage," including the question of the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
Pope Francis added at the time that church law governing marriage annulments also "has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this." Such problems, he said, exemplified a general need for forgiveness in the church today. "The church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy, and find a form of mercy for all," the pope said.
The Vatican announced on October 8 that an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops will meet on October 5-19, 2014, to discuss the "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation."
Vatican official reaffirms teaching on divorce (Catholic Herald)
Muller refuses to budge on divorcees (Tablet)
Muller rejects remarriage permission in Orthodox church (Vatican Insider)
The Power of Grace (L'osservatore Romano)