Is change on the horizon for divorced American Roman Catholics?

We noted in a blog post last year the global Vatican synod comprised of about 200 bishops from across the world that focused upon a number of high-profile matters.

One of those issues was divorce, with our blog post dated October 20, 2014, stating that one topic “at the forefront of interest and concern is official church doctrine concerning divorced Catholics.”

That matter continues to be an upper-tier and pressing concern for Roman Catholic Church officials, given the many millions of divorced church members from across the world who want to continue practicing their faith in all its dimensions.

One important participatory sphere is that of communion, which is a continuously troubling subject for church authorities. Traditionalists — of which there are many in Rome and elsewhere — argue vehemently that divorced parties should not take communion, since they have broken their marriage vows. Their stance, as noted in a recent national media story, is that “the indissolubility of marriage is ordained by God and therefore nonnegotiable.”

Vexing to them is that many divorced church members want to negotiate the matter, and now. Some of those members take communion notwithstanding official church doctrine. Many others have left the church for Protestant churches.

The matter is indeed far from insignificant. Church researchers estimate that about 11 million American Catholics have divorced. Troubling questions abound regarding the stance that the church should officially take toward them.

There are growing indications that many church authorities — including the pontiff himself — want to see some adjustments in official church doctrine that are more accommodative to divorced members who want to stay with the faith.

More will doubtlessly be heard on the matter. A second Vatican synod is slated for later this year, with divorce being a topic that will be discussed, with the expected participation of Pope Francis.

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