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No heresy in showing mercy to divorced and remarried

VATICAN (CNS): “A heresy is a tenacious disagreement with formal dogma. The doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage has not been called into question on Pope Francis’ part,” Walter Cardinal Kasper, a theologian, told Vatican News on March 5.
In an interview about his new book, The Message of Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love): A Fraternal Discussion, the German cardinal said that the pope’s exhortation on the family should prompt discussion and even debate, but that it was completely out of place to accuse him and others of heresy.
In his book, Cardinal Kasper describes Amoris Laetitia as “a creative renewal of traditional teaching.”
Catholic tradition, he insisted, “is not a stagnant lake, but is like a spring, or a river: it is something alive. The Church is a living organism and thus it always needs to validly translate the Catholic tradition into present situations.”
Speaking more generally, Cardinal Kasper said that reading Amoris Laetitia has helped many engaged and married couples come to a deeper appreciation of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life and about the joys and challenges facing families today.
“It is not high theology incomprehensible to people,” Vatican News reported him saying. “The people of God are very content and happy with this document because it gives space to freedom, but it also interprets the substance of the Christian message in an understandable language.”
Asked about the path of discernment Pope Francis sees for some divorced and civilly remarried to return to the sacraments, including Communion, in some circumstances, Cardinal Kasper said, “Sin is a complex term. It not only includes an objective principle, but there is also the intention, the person’s conscience.”
He continued, “This needs to be examined in the internal forum—in the sacrament of reconciliation—if there is truly a grave sin, or perhaps a venial sin, or perhaps nothing. The Council of Trent says that in the case in which there is no grave sin, but venial, the Eucharist removes that sin.”
The cardinal pointed out, “If it is only a venial sin, the person can be absolved and admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist.” 
He said, “This already corresponds with the doctrine of Pope John Paul II and, in this sense, Pope Francis is in complete continuity with the direction opened by preceding popes. I do not see any reason, then, to say that this is a heresy.”
Cardinal Kasper said that in a world where there is so much violence “many people are wounded. Even in marriages there are many who are wounded. People need mercy, empathy, the sympathy of the Church in these difficult times in which we are living today. I think that mercy is the response to the signs of our times.”
The interview was published just a few days after Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, and Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington DC, the United States of America, issued detailed guidelines for accompanying couples, including those who are divorced and civilly remarried.
Also in early March, Bishop Semeraro, secretary of Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, released a pastoral instruction on “welcoming, discerning, accompanying and integrating into the ecclesial community the faithful who are divorced and civilly remarried.”
The bishop noted that the appropriate amount of accompaniment and discernment would “vary from situation to situation” and that “expecting a new general, canonical-type norm, the same for everyone, is absolutely inappropriate.”
Bishop Semeraro wrote that Amoris Laetitia, “never speaks of a generalised ‘permission’ for all divorced and civilly remarried to access the sacraments; nor does it say that the path of conversion initiated with those who want them must necessarily lead to access to the sacraments.”
At the same time, he said priests must recognise that “it is no longer possible to say that all those who find themselves in a so-called irregular situation are living in a state of mortal sin, deprived of sanctifying grace,” precisely because, as Amoris Laetitia teaches, a host of factors are involved in determining the degree of guilt of the individuals involved.
The bishop elaborated that couples who have remarried civilly without an annulment of their sacramental marriage and who have started a new family will be asked “to make a journey of faith starting from becoming conscious of their situation before God” and looking at the obstacles that would prevent their full participation in the life of the Church.


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