Thursday, February 2, 2017

Can the Orthodox Way End the Divorce and Remarriage Debate?

First appeared in Crisis Magazine on January 13, 2017

On his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil (2013), Pope Francis speaking about the season of mercy and the Church as a mother dispensing mercy, praised the pastoral practice of the Orthodox Churches on marriage and divorce, the pastoral care for the divorced and remarried Orthodox faithful and the possibility of giving Communion to couples who have contracted second marriages after divorce. The Holy Father specified: “with reference to the issue of giving Communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive Communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage.” He added: “… the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem—and here I close the parenthesis—must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.”

The theology or the principle of oikonomia followed by the Orthodox Churches allows these Churches to dissolve first marriages and bless a second or a third marriage on a case-by-case basis and under specific conditions. Cardinal Walter Kasper is one of the proponents in support of the Orthodox principle of oikonomia. What is the Orthodox understanding of the indissolubility of marriage? What are the differences in the pastoral care of marriage in East and West? A familiarity with the development of Orthodox theology and pastoral practice on marriage, divorce, and Communion for divorced and remarried couples should discourage any Catholic attempt to adopt Eastern practices.

... continue reading in Crisis Magazine