With the upcoming Synod of the Family some Catholics are biting their nails that there is going to be a revolution in church discipline and that suddenly all divorced and re-married Catholics will be permitted to receive communion.

Probably not according to Cardinal Pell.

The fathers of the church realize that Our Lord’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is clear. They can’t really change the discipline of the church to allow for open ended remarriage after divorce without contradicting the teaching of the Lord.

Thomas Williams, a priest who received a dispensation from his vow of celibacy to marry comments on the situation here and rightly claims a unique viewpoint on the topic.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the after a painful divorce the annulment process can also be painful, drawn out and very difficult. However, in my experience those who go through this process also find it to be very liberating and healing. I have known converts longing to come into full communion with the church who patiently submit to the annulment process and witness to the fact that through the experience, thought penitential, was purifying. It was a time for them to come to grips with the failed marriage and find closure. It was also a time for them to grow in their trust in Christ, their trust in the church’s process (even though difficult) and their growth in faith as individuals.

As Cardinal Pell, and many others have said, the church cannot change her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the discipline and the teaching of the church must be consistent.

However, the annulment process can be adjusted.

The members of the Synod on the Family must take into account the huge changes that have occurred within the human family over the last fifty years.

Consider for a moment how the whole landscape of marriage and family life has changed.

Sixty years ago, for the most part, the family still existed on a local level.  Mom and Dad had a good number of kids. Most families lived near their grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. First and second cousins, in laws and their families were all part of a local tribe usually held together by ties of ethnicity, religion and social class.

From the mid 1960s all of that has disappeared. In the USA the rise of the suburban nuclear family and increased mobility has dashed the old extended family to smithereens. We now live isolated existences far away from our extended  family. We went away to college. We traveled. We married men and women from other religions, other races, other countries and other cultures. Continue Reading