Crux has a case study, creating a compelling story in which a pastor might permit a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic to recieve communion. I have only one thing to say about this case study.
The priest should encourage the woman to pursue an annulment.
According to the scenario:
She wanted to pursue getting an annulment, although it was almost impossible to get any information or help from her parish in El Salvador.
Wouldn’t this be a good place for her pastor in the US to be willing to accompany her? Shouldn’t the tribunal in the US use some discernment about the missing information?
True, she might not get the annulment. But the process itself has merit. It helps to reveal truths that might have remained hidden. It helps clarify the person’s reasons for wanting to return to full communion with the Church. It may also clarify that the person was more culpable than they had otherwise realized, thus allowing her the opportunity for repentance, conversion and closer union with Jesus.
The author presumes she would not get the annulment. This is by no means certain. If she can show immaturity and ignorance, and if her putative husband does not raise objections, she might very well obtain it. And BTW, in this story, the putative husband has disappearred. This is one of the features that supposedly makes for a compelling scenario for pastorally permitting communion.
Irma had no idea where Francisco might be. She didn’t really even know if he was still alive. She had no family in El Salvador. She had brought no church or legal documents with her when she came to the States.
Evidently, she must have divorced him in abstentia, if she really couldn’t find him, otherwise she would be a bigamist, even under civil law. But isn’t there a legal procedure for declaring a long-missing person to be presumed deceased? If the person meets the criteria of being presumed dead, what does canon law say about her ability to contract a valid Catholic marriage?
And, in most countries, it might even take a shorter period of time than the several years the hypothetical pastoral process described in the article seems to have taken.
All in all, this “case study” is not compelling. The hypothetical situation it describes could be handled by “discernment and accompaniment,” through the annulment process. Good. holy, faithful priests have been handling situations like this all along. The pastor should not give the person permission to receive communion, without first pursuing the annulment process.