I guess meanwhile even those far away from the Roman Catholic Church could not avoid to notice that a debate is going on about family and sexuality and how church should see, consider and tackle those problem areas of Christian fabric. There are those in favor of changes and the surveys in Europe show clearly that some of the teaching is not only not understood but simply ignored even by those going to church every Sunday. Others resent changes and one of the loudest prominent voices is now Cardinal Mueller, heading the department watching over the right faith of the church. He is surely a controversial figure and I have the impression he likes like the late Manto Tshabala Msimang to be in that place of controversy and harsh judgements. But he is also an academic and I fail to understand why he argues in the matter divorced-remarried so non-academic and in my opinion simply wrong. Where ever I read about his comments mainly in the German press, he insists that the church teaching cannot be changed. He insists that dogmas can’t change and therefore divorced – remarried cannot receive communion until – so to speak – Jesus comes back and corrects it.
Maybe I am mistaken but I cannot see that this argument meets the request of changes at all. I see from all the surveys that people yearn for lifelong intimacy, faithfulness and most Christians would agree that this is the aim, even if times have changed since Jesus. But they also acknowledge that failure is an option and that in the light of the unconditional love of God there is the mercy factor the church holds dear in tradition and teaching.
Mueller has only to look to the Orthodox Church – the sister church,the other lung of the church as John-Paul II has put it. They have the same teaching and still, there is a way via “oikonomia” to remedy situations of failure. In excluding such an option Mueller indirectly accuses the Orthodox Church of being unfaithful to the teaching of Jesus, which I find quite amazing. Or he maybe is ignorant and has not understood yet, that the letter of the law kills, but he spirit of the law gives life. The Orthodox Church has given room to the spirit and there is a clear feeling in the Western part of the church, that the spirit should govern the whole church and so overcome the split of the 11th century. I can’t remember which Cardinal from South America it was, but he pointed out in an interview, that Cardinal Mueller has to learn that the German way of seeing things either “black or white” does not apply to real life, also therefore not to the life of the church. We all live in shadows of grey. And this gives the light of mercy the special attractive sparkle when seen from outside.
So, I don’t think we need to change the teaching, but we should stop declaring an ideal the measurement for our daily life. And we should not use another sacrament to punish people. The grace of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is in my eyes often a comfort for those going to the trauma of shattered dreams. If the “spiritual communion” has the same effect of God’s closeness as the “real communion” , so John – Paul II, then there is indeed no need to differentiate between them. Let’s keep praying that the Synod of Bishops in October experiencing the spirit which liberates and gives life.