Divorce is not a sin, and in some circumstances it is even a valid course of action, an outspoken former Vatican official has told an Italian newspaper.
"In itself, divorce is not a sin, and in certain cases it could even be recommended, to resolve patrimonial or civil problems," Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda told the daily La Stampa.
Catholic World News reports that until his retirement in May 2004 at the age of 75, Cardinal Pompedda was the Vatican's top judicial official, as prefect of the supreme tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
With his remarks to La Stampa Cardinal Pompedda came to the support of Spanish Jesuits who had recently suggested that the Church should allow Catholics who are divorced and remarried to receive Communion.
The Italian prelate had been asked to comment on an article that appeared in a Spanish Jesuit journal in December, in which Fr Eduardo Lopez Azpitarte argued that Catholics who encounter marital difficulties are often treated harshly by the Church. The Jesuit author argued that divorce is not a sin, and that Catholics who divorce and remarry are not excommunicated.
Cardinal Pompedda supported that view. The cardinal- speaking with some authority, since he had once been the Vatican's top canon-law official- said that there is no provision in canon law requiring the excommunication of someone who remarries despite an earlier valid union. He argued that "the principle of the indissolubility of marriage does not prevent us from regarding divorce as licit."
Although the Church does not recognise divorce, the cardinal said, the Code of Canon Law does allow for the separation of married couples. In some cases, he continued, there are legal complications that "simple separation cannot resolve." Those cases justify civil divorce, he concluded.
The question of whether Catholics should be allowed to receive Communion after divorce and remarriage has prompted some intense debate in recent years. The Vatican has consistently answered in the negative, upholding the traditional teaching that a valid marriage can never be set aside, and a second union is therefore adulterous. In October, after a lively discussion of the issue, the Synod of Bishops affirmed the existing norm, barring remarried Catholics from the Eucharist.
Divorce is not sinful, former top canonist says (Catholic World News 13/1/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Supremo Tribunale della Segnatura Apostolica
Pre-marriage classes to stop divorce: bishop's call (Catholic Weekly 15/1/06)
Revealed: the battle plan to save marriage (Sydney Morning Herald 9/1/06)
Married to the EU, but Malta says no to divorce (Reuters 21/12/05)
New office will focus on marriage, family (Catholic Weekly 11/12/05