Many people think that irregular unions are some brand new phenomenon that the Church has never encountered before and which requires an entirely new approach.
The truth of the matter is very different. The Church has been dealing with this since Her beginnings. Remember Herod and Herodias? St. John the Baptist showed no “pastoral” compromise for that irregular union and he got beheaded for it. Ditto for St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher who were decapitated in the 16th century by King Henry VIII over his irregular union.
Nothing new under the sun.
That’s why the Catechism has a couple of paragraphs that explicitly cover exactly the Cardinal Kasper proposal. Take a look :
1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.
1651 Toward Christians who live in this situation, and who often keep the faith and desire to bring up their children in a Christian manner, priests and the whole community must manifest an attentive solicitude, so that they do not consider themselves separated from the Church, in whose life they can and must participate as baptized persons:
They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts for justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace.
It’s all there already: the indissolubility; adultery; the impossibility of communion unless they live complete continence; and especially the welcoming pastoral approach required towards these people so that they don’t feel alienated but continue in a relationship with God and the community. It’s all there.
Some people claim that the Church never had “pastoral” sensitivity until Pope Francis came along. Nonsense. St. John Paul II commissioned the Catechism. Read paragraph 1651 again and tell me that you don’t get the warm and fuzzies. Where we may have room for improvement, perhaps, is in applying the above-mentioned pastoral practice in real life. That’s really tricky because you don’t want people in irregular unions to get too comfortable and think that their situation is acceptable in God’s eyes.
Maybe I’m late to the party, but I was actually shocked when I stumbled on these paragraphs. I hadn’t realized that it’s all spelled out. Even though the Catechism was published more than 20 years ago, it remains so topical and current.
Need we remind Cardinal Kasper of what St. John Paul II declared of the Catechism at the time of its publication:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion… a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine. (Source)
We can’t challenge or re-write the Catechism, as Cardinals Kasper and Marx effectively want to do, because it reflects the Church’s definite and immutable teaching. Attempting to do so would be heresy, as Cardinal Brandmüller pointed out.