Ok everyone, last German bishops blog for the duration of #Synod15! (At least, I think. I hope?)

As they near the end of an eventful three weeks, the 13 small groups of the Synod on the Family, divided by language, have released their last reports before the conclusion of the meeting on Sunday.

For those of you just joining us, the German-speaking group of bishops has been in the spotlight during the Synod as some of the main proponents of what has become known as the “Kasper proposal”, by which Cardinal Walter Kasper has promoted allowing some divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive sacramental Communion after a ‘penitential path’, among other controversial proposals.

"Yo, that's me!"** Cardinal Walter Kasper leaves the Vaticans Synod Hall after a session of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 13, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA. ** Not an actual quote

“Yo, that’s me!”** Cardinal Walter Kasper leaves the Vaticans Synod Hall after a session of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 13, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA. ** Not an actual quote

This proposal has been shut down multiple times by the Church over the years, and yet, it continues to crop up, particularly amongst German bishops. Hence this blog. And this one. And this one. Oh and also this one. 

In their small group report on the third part of the synod’s working document, the German bishops suggest that divorced-and-civilly-remarried couples discern in the “internal forum” their ability to receive the sacraments, following their conscience and aided by their confessor.

Echoing their previous reports, the German bishops said that there are “no simple and generic solutions” to the problem of the divorced-and-remarried, but further clarification and depth are needed to see “these questions in the light of the Gospel, the Magisterium of the Church, and the gift of discernment.”

In the final paragraph of their document, the German bishops suggest that “a path of reflection and penance… in conversation with the confessor, contribute to the personal formation of conscience and to a clarification to what extent access to the sacraments is possible” for couples in these situations.

This idea of the “gift of discernment”, the bishops said, comes from St. John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, paragraph 84, which reads:

“Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.”

Interestingly, the German bishops fail to mention or discuss the rest of paragraph 84, in which St. John Paul II says that while the divorced-and-remarried should be included in the life of the Church, “the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried.”

"Seriously, did you not read the whole thing?" ** Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, Aug. 5, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater/CNA. **Also not a real quote

“Seriously, did you not read the whole thing?” ** Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Aug. 5, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater/CNA. **Also not a real quote

St. John Paul II wrote that the only way a divorced-and-civilly-remarried couple could receive Communion would be if they,:

“repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”

"Pretty sure this koala can read in context better than some of these bishops." Credit: Galaxy FM via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“Pretty sure this koala can read in context better than some of these bishops.” Credit: Galaxy FM via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Among other controversial statements, the German bishops questioned whether each marriage between baptized Christians is necessarily sacramental.

According to the Council of Trent, for a sacramental marriage to occur, both spouses must be baptized and consent to marriage with its essential properties of exclusivity, indissolubility, and openness to life; and, finally, if either of the spouses is Catholic, then the celebration of the rite must follow canonical form.

While the intent to live out these necessary tenets is needed in each spouse for a sacramental marriage to occur, personal faith is separated from intent and is not necessary for a sacramental marriage, as St. John Paul II explained in Familiaris consortio and elaborated on in subsequent addresses to the Roman Rota.

The German bishops also included a paragraph regarding “responsible parenthood,” in which they state that the encyclical Humanae vitae and the apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio need to be “re-assessed” and the “preparedness to have children awakened against a mentality often inimical to life and to some extent to children.”

"Oh, you know two of the most influential Church documents in the past century? Yeah...we'd like to...re-asses them." German Cardinal Marx. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA **By now I'm assuming you know I'm not using actual quotes.

“Oh, you know two of the most influential Church documents in the past century? Yeah…we’d like to…re-assess them.” German Cardinal Marx. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA **By now I’m assuming you know I’m not using actual quotes.

They also asked if everyone would please stop stealing their lunch money and being such meanies to them. More or less:

With great consternation and sorrow we have become aware of utterances made in public by some synod fathers about people, contents and the synod process. These are in contradiction to the spirit of journeying together, the spirit of the synod, and its ground rules. The images and comparisons used are not just undifferentiated and false, but also hurtful. We decisively dissociate ourselves from them.

Published Oct. 21, the prelates’ observations came in the third set of small group reports released during this year’s synod of bishops on the family. The 10-person, papally-appointed drafting committee will now take each groups remarks into consideration when drafting the final document of the Ordinary Synod on the Family.

An English translation of the full text of the German small group’s final report can be found here: German small group report translation 2015.