Questioning the Orthodox solution on divorce and remarriage

In the current debate on divorce and remarriage, the practice of the Orthodox Church is often cited as an option. In fact, it is usually referred to in vague terms as part of a way forward or of openness to new solutions, a more flexible pastoral approach or some other means of hinting, without saying definitely, that perhaps there will be a change in Catholic teaching.

This vagueness itself is damaging, and reminiscent of the period before Humanae Vitae, during which moral theologians hinted at various possibilities for a change in moral teaching. The result was great anger and disappointment when Pope Paul VI reaffirmed Catholic teaching in no uncertain terms.

On Tuesday, Fr Dylan James gave a helpful lecture for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (British Province of St Gregory the Great.) He spoke about the Orthodox practice, the concepts of oikonomia, economy or dispensation, sunkatabasis, condescension, and the problems involved with a second, penitential marriage. (There can be a third marriage, but never a fourth - well, not exactly never ...) Pastorally, those who wish to be married for a second time probably don't want to have their divorce and second marriage regarded as sinful and something granted out of condescension. Certainly they would not want the prayers referring to the mercy shown to the prostitute Rahab. Fr James has posted a text for his lecture if you would like to read it.

As ever, it was a great opportunity to meet with other clergy, including several friends from the Ordinariate, including Mgr Keith Newton. The Confraternity has another meeting scheduled in London on Wednesday 21 May when Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be speaking. This will be an evening meeting at 6pm, followed by a light supper. Members will receive further details by email and these will be posted on the Confraternity website. In the meantime, you could join the Confraternity.

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