Card. Ratzinger’s Response to Amoris Laetitia…from 1998


Back in 1998 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and its (then) prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, released the document Concerning Some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful. While it was written nearly twenty years ago, Ratzinger and the CDF were responding to many of the same “pastoral solutions” advocated for today as the proper implementation of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. 

While the retired pope largely remains silent these days, the below excerpt from 1998 refutes the errors and false mercy promulgated by many within the Church today.


Many argue that the position of the Church on the question of divorced and remarried faithful is overly legalistic and not pastoral.

“A series of critical objections against the doctrine and praxis of the Church pertain to questions of a pastoral nature. Some say, for example, that the language used in the ecclesial documents is too legalistic, that the rigidity of law prevails over an understanding of dramatic human situations. They claim that the human person of today is no longer able to understand such language, that Jesus would have had an open ear for the needs of people, particularly for those on the margins of society. They say that the Church, on the other hand, presents herself like a judge who excludes wounded people from the sacraments and from certain public responsibilities.

“One can readily admit that the Magisterium’s manner of expression does not seem very easy to understand at times. It needs to be translated by preachers and catechists into a language which relates to people and to their respective cultural environments. The essential content of the Church’s teaching, however, must be upheld in this process. It must not be watered down on allegedly pastoral grounds, because it communicates the revealed truth.

“Certainly, it is difficult to make the demands of the Gospel understandable to secularized people. But this pastoral difficulty must not lead to compromises with the truth. In his Encyclical Veritatis splendor, John Paul II clearly rejected so-called pastoral solutions which stand in opposition to the statements of the Magisterium (cf. ibid. 56).

“Furthermore, concerning the position of the Magisterium as regards the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful, it must be stressed that the more recent documents of the Church bring together the demands of truth with those of love in a very balanced way. If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32).”

[An earlier version of this article appeared at the website OnePeterFive]

Posted on October 7, 2017, in holiness, life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. What I find more confusing is determining when a document arrives at the point of magisterial teaching; and whose interpretation is magisterial.

  2. Thomas Fleming

    I find this to be a knotty problem. We want divorced ppl to continue in the Faith but we also don’t want to normalize divorce.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      @Thomas Fleming It is not a “knotty” problem at all. It is a question of obedience and discipline which many people around the world have been taught to equivocate.

      I was amazed when I came here to Ecuador and saw almost no one married in the Church. Perhaps only about 10% of the couples who go to Mass (at least bi-weekly) are married in the Church. I estimate that at my 10:00 Sunday Mass about 1/5 of the 800-900 people come to communion. Many of them are the youth below marrying age.

      Extreme patience is required. We cannot allow them to come to communion as if their situation is being condoned. Thank goodness my 80 Catechists in the parish are very solid and no one comes to Holy Communion who is not married in the Church (or at least living the single life in their home). The Ecuadorians, in general, are very respectful of the Church.

      If anyone can approach Holy Communion, then we are really giving to the dogs what is meant for the Faithful alone. Remember that the ancient Church had Porters to ensure that the unbaptized were not present for the Sacrifice (The Mass of the Faithful). Today, we need to ensure that those who are divorced and remarried fix their marriage and regularize it before daring to approach the Holy of Holies.

  3. The Catechism is the answer to all our questions if the faithful read and follow what is set forth there how many more holy people would be in the church. May God have mercy on us in this time when the church SEEMS to falling into pieces. This trial will not last long I suspect. Vivat Christus Rex

    • Why the Catechism? It is a summary, so it doesn’t have everything. I find it useful to go back to source documents. It is easily done nowadays on the internet. I never assume that a summary has everything that I would find important. I found the most important things in my life in Scripture. They were not taught to me outside of my personal reading of Scripture. We may be surprised at what we will find there.

  4. The Scritures say you cannot divorce and remarry. Period! That is enough for me. The no fault divorce in our secular society also is not helping.

  5. There ‘Truth’ will always win. Pope Benedict VXI and Pope St. John Paul II are ABSOLUTELY correct.
    Just because I may feel uncomfortable with the truth does not make the truth wrong. We must conform to Churc teaching. Not the Church conforming to our way of teaching.

  6. Meanwhile, Pope Francis’ Revolution continues unabated.

    Cf. @Pontifex & Collaborators Moving to Render Can. 915 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law Irrelevant?

  7. What about the merciful spirit from “Amoris…” ?Who are we, to judge life of others? Saturday’s laws could be important, but the person is more important than the Law. Read the Scriptures, doesn’t it there? I think that we must show more important things than the permission of something, more love, more understanding. People’s lives are important for the Church’s life. Past is past, we must evolve in Christ! Magisterial writings are important, but, we must read the Time signals, and we must love the sinner but not the sin. This is the best way to understand divorced people, not their lives, divorced from God.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      @Lea Please read Michael’s post above. No one is above God’s eternal laws. Doctrine cannot change anymore than God can change.

      I say it all the time in my sermons; “we don’t get to define doctrine to God. It is the other way around.” We have two choices. We can obey God and his eternal laws or we can take our chances and suffer the consequences.

      I’m like Pascal, I’d like to be safer than sorrier by keeping my spiritual insurance current (i.e. practicing the ancient faith as handed down by the Apostles and their authentic eye witness as disciples). Then too, I much prefer the morality of the canonized saints as compared to the modern progressive theological engineers.

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