He is not one of the four cardinals who in 2016 submitted to Pope Francis their “dubia.”
But he fully espouses their cause, when he says that “the source of the confusion is the postsynodal exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia,” and then adds: “So I would be happy if the pope would bring clarity in this regard, preferably in the form of some magisterial document.”
Dutch, 65 years old, a physician and theologian with expertise in bioethics, archbishop of Utrecht since 2007 and until 2016 president of the bishops’ conference of the Netherlands, Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk is not the kind who likes to keep under cover.
He has always opposed out in the open the theses in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried, before, during, and after the two synods on the family.
He was one of the eleven cardinals who in the summer of 2015 publicly took a stance, in a book, in support of perennial doctrine.
He was one of the thirteen cardinals who at the beginning of the second session of the synod wrote to Pope Francis the letter that infuriated him, in defense of the freedom and correctness of the synodal discussion.
And now he is one of the most resolute critics of the confusion generated by “Amoris Laetitia,” as can be noted in the interview presented below, the final part of a much more extensive conversation with Lorenzo Bertocchi coming out in the March issue of the monthly “Il Timone.”
In the other parts of the interview, Cardinal Eijk describes and denounces the “slippery slope” that in numerous countries, starting with his own Holland, is leading to the ever more widespread legalization and acceptance, to the most extreme levels, of euthanasia, of homosexual marriage, of “gender” ideology, with the Catholic Church in its turn pervaded by a crisis of faith that is blinding it to the danger.
But come to mention it, here is how he sees the crisis generated by “Amoris Laetitia,” a crisis that is “cracking the Church apart” without the see of Peter ever issuing a word of clarification.
Q: Your Eminence, what is your thought on the controversial question of access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried couples?
A: The question of whether the so-called divorced and remarried can be allowed to receive sacramental absolution and therefore the Eucharist is cracking the Church apart. One encounters a debate, at times rather vehement, on all levels, among cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity. The source of the confusion is the postsynodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” written by Pope Francis at the conclusion of the synods of the family of 2014 and 2105.
This confusion concerns above all number 305 of the exhortation. One observes that some episcopal conferences have introduced pastoral rules that imply that the divorced and remarried may be admitted to communion under a series of conditions and after a period of pastoral discernment on the part of the priest who accompanies them. However, other episcopal conferences rule this out. But what is true in place A cannot be false in place B. These different interpretations of the exhortation, which concern doctrinal questions, are causing confusion among the faithful. So I would be happy if the pope would bring clarity in this regard, preferably in the form of some magisterial document.
I myself, participating in both synods on the family, argued that one cannot allow the divorced who have remarried in a civil ceremony to receive communion. I also did so in an article about a book that contained contributions from eleven cardinals, published in the interval between the two synods.
Q: Can you briefly explain what your position is?
A: Jesus himself says that marriage is indissoluble. In the Gospel according to Matthew (19:9; cf. 5:32) he seems to admit an exception, meaning that one may repudiate one’s wife “in case of illegitimate union.” Nonetheless, the meaning of the Greek word, “porneia,” translated here as “illegitimate union,” is uncertain: it very probably means a union that is incestuous on account of a marriage between forbidden degrees of kinship (cf. Lev 18:6-18; Acts 15:18-28).
The deeper argument is that one may not allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion on the basis of an analogy between the relationship between husband and wife and that between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:23-32). The relationship between Christ and the Church is a total mutual self-donation. The total donation of Christ to the Church is realized in the donation of his life on the cross. This total donation is made present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Therefore, whoever takes part in the Eucharist must be ready to make a total gift of himself, which is part of the total donation of the Church to Christ. He who divorces and remarries in a civil ceremony, while the first marriage has not be declared null, violates the mutual total gift that this first marriage implies. Violating the total gift of the first marriage still to be considered as valid, and the absence of the will to abide by this total gift, makes the person involved unworthy of taking part in the Eucharist, which makes present the total donation of Christ to the Church. This does not change the fact, however, that the divorced and remarried may take part in the liturgical celebrations, including that of the Eucharist, without receiving communion, and that priests may accompany them pastorally.
In the case in which the civilly divorced and remarried are not able to separate, for example because of their obligations toward the children who belong to both of them, they can be admitted to communion or to the sacrament of penance only by fulfilling the conditions mentioned in number 84 of “Familaris Consortio" and in number 29 of "Sacramentum Caritatis.” One of these conditions is that the must resolve to live as brother and sister, which means to stop having sexual relations.