The debate over Communion for the remarried has intensified, after the Vatican’s doctrinal chief and the Council of German bishops made diametrically opposite statements.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was asked by the Italian magazine Il Timone whether the traditional teaching, reaffirmed by Pope St John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, is still valid.

St John Paul said that the divorced and remarried cannot take Communion, except possibly when they try to live “in complete continence”.

Cardinal Müller said of this condition: “Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

Theologians distinguish between “positive laws”, which can be changed, and divine laws which cannot. The German cardinal thus implied that Communion for the remarried was against divine law.

Cardinal Müller said that changing the discipline is impossible because marriage, like the Eucharist, symbolises union with Christ. “This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”

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