On Cardinal Kasper’s proposal for divorced and remarried Catholics, Tom Piatak writes:
As many have pointed out, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal simply ignores the central theological problem that has prevented the Church from allowing remarriage after divorce for centuries. After all, it was Jesus Christ, not some unfeeling Vatican bureaucrat, who said, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” And it was St. Paul, not some rigid Scholastic theologian lost in his abstractions, who taught, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.” What Kasper proposes is letting divorced and remarried people receive Communion by expressing contrition for the failure of their first marriage. Kasper says nothing about expressing contrition for the second marriage, which Jesus taught was adulterous. If the only sin were divorce, the Church never would have barred remarried divorcees from Communion, because past sins can be forgiven in the confessional. It is ongoing sin, what Julia Flyte termed “living in sin,” that cannot be forgiven.
From your quotation: What Kasper proposes is letting divorced and remarried people receive Communion by expressing contrition for the failure of their first marriage. Kasper says nothing about expressing contrition for the second marriage, which Jesus taught was adulterous.
In fact, the proposal attributed to Cardinal Kasper is precisely the current practice of the Orthodox Communion, so reconciliation of the Great Schism cannot happen unless the magisterium of the Catholic Church is willing to accommodate it. Of course, acceptance of the present Orthodox practice within the Orthodox Communion would beg the question of why that practice is not also acceptable for present members of the Catholic Church.
In any case, the fundamental question in the case of a second (or third or fourth) marriage while a previous spouse is still alive is whether or not the attempt at marriage to the living previous spouse was sacramentally valid — and this is where the material difference between the present Catholic approach and the present Orthodox approach arises.
>> The present Catholic approach is legalistic, presuming an apparent marriage to be sacramentally valid until it’s proven before two ecclesiastical tribunals that it is not.
>> The present Orthodox approach, on the other hand, presumes that an attempt at marriage fell apart because there was an inherent defect in the marriage. Thus, the sin that’s confessed is that of false pretense of marriage and fornication within that relationship.
And to be frank, the frequency with which Catholic tribunals grant decrees of nullity for failed attempts at marriage tends to give considerable credence to the Orthodox presumption of invalidity. In either case, however, the present relationship is not adulterous if the previous attempt at marriage was not sacramentally valid.
Your quotation continues: Kasper says nothing about expressing contrition for the second marriage, which Jesus taught was adulterous. If the only sin were divorce, the Church never would have barred remarried divorcees from Communion, because past sins can be forgiven in the confessional. It is ongoing sin, what Julia Flyte termed “living in sin,” that cannot be forgiven.
This reasoning rests on the presumption that the first attempt at marriage actually resulted in a valid sacramental union. Where the sin is imitation of marriage in the earlier instance(s), however, it does not apply.
That’s an interesting attempt to reconcile Eastern Orthodox practice with Catholic doctrine, but I don’t think it works. The Orthodox do not contend that the earlier marriage never existed. They concede that marriage is for life (some even claim that it is eternal) and that divorce and remarriage amounts to adultery, but they claim that the Church can tolerate the practice by the use of “economy”. Their position is utterly incoherent, and it seems to be a result of preferring imperial Roman family law to the Gospel.
Actually, it is the historical result of (1) the change in Byzantine marriage law in the 720s requiring all marriages of O/orthodox to take place in church, under ecclesiastical auspices (previously, a “legal marriage” did not require a church blessing), and (2) the fallout from the four marriages of the Emperor Leo IV (Leo the Wise; born 866, emperor 886-912). As regards the latter, the Council of Constantinople of 920 forbade more then three marriages to an O/orthodox Christian under any circumstances, but allowed for remarriage after divorce in some circumstances. Rome never recognized nor accepted the disciplinary decrees of this council.
You wrote: That’s an interesting attempt to reconcile Eastern Orthodox practice with Catholic doctrine, but I don’t think it works.
If we can’t reconcile present Orthodox practice with Catholic doctrine somehow, we reconciliation is impossible. If you have a better way to do it, I’m all ears.
You continued: The Orthodox do not contend that the earlier marriage never existed.
The term “invalid” is NOT a synonym for “never existed.” Rather, in relation to marriage, it means “not sacramental.” There’s no doubt that the relationship existed, and that the couple maintained the appearance of marriage.
I don’t know where you get the idea that the Orthodox allow marriage after a divorce because they conclude that the first marriage was “not sacramental”. They never say anything like that. If anything they treat the second marriage (after divorce) as not fully sacramental, but merely a concession to human weakness. They think it is possible to invoke “economia” as some sort of dispensation from the moral law, and not just from ecclesiastical law.
I appreciate your desire to reconcile current Eastern Orthodox practice with Catholic doctrine, but I simply do not see how it can be done. If that makes reconciliation difficult, well, we still have an obligation to uphold the truth.