“What is at stake is the truth of Christ’s witness,” the cardinal wrote. “The divorced remarried person’s new situation does not permit him authentically to express this witness because his new union is in contradiction to the love of Christ, Who was faithful to death.”
“It is not lack of mercy on the part of the Church if she does not authorize sacramental absolution and Eucharistic Communion even after an authentic conversion of the divorced and remarried person,” he said. “What is at stake is Christ’s fidelity to His own witness, which the Church does not feel free to modify lest she betray the truth that is the foundation of the indissolubility of marriage.”
Cardinal Ouellet offered a theological reflection based on the insights of the Second Vatican Council that went beyond a juridical or legal understanding of marriage to a sacramental approach tied to the notion of the Church herself as a sacrament, or visible sign of God’s grace in the nuptial mystery of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
The Council “reconceived” marriage “in terms of an encounter with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, who ‘abides with’ spouses and gives them a share in His own love,” he wrote.
Married couples are “called to serve a Love greater than their own love, mysteriously present in them despite the vicissitudes of human life,” he wrote.
The cardinal said another sacramental marriage is “impossible” because it would “directly contract the irreversible commitment of Christ the Bridegroom in the first union.”
While Cardinal Ouellet defended the present practice within a sacramental theological framework, he went outside it to show how the Church could show mercy.
“The world is already reconciled with God through the accomplishment of Christ’s Paschal Mystery,” he wrote. “The Church’s mission is to bear witness to this event by proclaiming the kerygma and administering the sacraments.”
“She does not, however, have an exclusive and exhaustive ‘management’ of mercy,” the cardinal wrote, affirming this mercy goes beyond the frontiers of the Church.
The Church must say to divorced and remarried people “who have repented of their faults and are incapable of abandoning their new union: God’s mercy reaches them intimately in their new situation.”
“Just as grace is not bound to the sacramental order in the case of non-Christians or other Christians, in the case of the faithful who suffer from a sacramental handicap, God’s mercy is nonetheless active in their lives.”
“These faithful continue to bear witness to Christ’s absolute fidelity precisely by abstaining from Holy Communion, out of respect for the divine Partner who did not break the first union despite the couple’s failure,” he said.