The most contentious debate at last fall's Synod of Bishops on the Family -- and one that's sure to feature prominently in next month's synod -- was about whether the church should ever permit divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. I was surprised when that debate found its way into morning Mass at the World Meeting of Families Wednesday. In his homily, Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, came down squarely in the "no" camp.
At the synod, some bishops had proposed that divorced and remarried Catholics might be given access to the sacraments after repenting and performing some penitential practice determined by their bishop. Cardinal Onaiyekan made it clear that he found that suggestion unacceptable.
Reflecting on a reading from the Book of Ezra, the cardinal said that the "wicked deeds" mentioned in the text referred to "irregular marriages." Then he said it is not possible for one to repent of an irregular marriage and ask for God's mercy while remaining in the irregular marriage. He urged the assembly to pray for the bishops and especially for Pope Francis.
Cardinal Onaiyekan contributed an essay to the Ignatius Press book Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family, which is due out Friday.
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)