298. The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”.(Familiaris Consortio 84)
John Paul II recognized certain situations, and there is undeniable witness of many unions and families arising from or nurtured by a new relationship. The last century’s last pope also acknowledged that sometimes the divorced person has been unjustly treated:
There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”.(Ibid)
Pope Francis certainly recognizes that grave suffering and conflict occurs when a remarriage follows closely after a divorce. His example:
Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family. It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family.
The synod bishops write:
The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place “by adequately distinguishing”,(Relatio Synodi 2014, 26) with an approach which “carefully discerns situations”.(Ibid.)
The pope emeritus adds:
We know that no “easy recipes” exist. (Benedict XVI, Address to the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan (2 June 2012), Response n. 5: Insegnamenti VIII/1 (2012), 691.)
And the council bishops:
In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (Gaudium et Spes, 51).
The questions sit with the Church today: Can we treat every remarriage as the same? Another aspect Pope Francis does not treat here or elsewhere in this document is when a person in a second marriage joins the local parish with the desire to become Catholic. Provisions are made for the unbaptized converts. But not for those already baptized, no matter what the circumstances of their faith, belief, or marital practices were in the past.
Any other comments, friends?
For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.