Amoris Laetitia 298: No Remarriage Is Quite the Same As Another

amoris laetitia memeRegarding a remarried person, we cannot hope to summarize using one classification:

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.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Amoris Laetitia 298: No Remarriage Is Quite the Same As Another

  1. Liam says:

    To step back and take an even larger view, it might be worth noting that, in the eastern tradition, even remarriage after *death* (not just ecclesiastical divorce) of the spouse is treated gingerly. No more than two more remarriages, and such remarriages are treated as penitential concessions to human needs. (Overcoming such need is valorized.)

  2. FrMichael says:

    The Gaudium et Spes quote is taken way out of context. GS is speaking of married couples, not these civilly-recognized shackups.

    “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.”

    I mentioned long ago in a comment on this blog that dealing with second marriages from people seeking to enter the Church– especially with respect to streamlining the process if possible– is a topic that the synod should have been looking at. Instead the synods went down the rathole that eventually led to chapter 8 of AL.

    • Todd says:

      On your first point, perhaps not. GS 47 seems to speak generally about marriage. The first sentence locates the discussion in “human and Christian society.” Human society, for better or worse, does recognize a second civil marriage. The long witness of many civil marriages is that there are positive qualities that may be interpreted as virtuous to maintain. And of course, non-Christians also offer a positive witness, as amongst us Catholics, we’re only talking the sacramental difference. And even there …

      As for good fruits in “irregular” marriages, I would count that as part of the mystery of grace and suffering. A lot of people get into trouble, or seem to. And good things still happen to them. Go figure.

      • Devin Rice says:

        AL works as a coherent whole if the second union (recognized as a 2nd civil marriage to the outside world) does not mask itself as a marriage. Whatever the subjective situation of the couple, the Church (in the person of her pastoral ministers) has the duty to try and the place the couple into a state corresponding with the Gospel.

        Interestingly, in the phrasing of this section, Pope Francis places the quote from GS in the mouths of couples living in irregular situations, and not to the Synod nor (apparently?) to himself. It seems to address how a couple may subjectively justify extramarital relations and reduce culpability.

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