From ........ Associated Press

October 14, 1994

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican reaffirmed Friday that Roman Catholics who divorce and remarry may not receive communion unless they get an annulment or abstain from sex with their new partner.

A letter to the world's bishops, issued Friday and approved by Pope John Paul II, seeks to stamp out the growing practice, particularly in the United States, of allowing some remarried Catholics to receive communion if they believe the breakup of the first marriage was not their fault.

The sharp stance by the Vatican could be another blow to the Church's standing in the West, where divorce rates are high and church membership is declining.

But the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States said the letter was a reaffirmation of church teachings and not intended to alienate divorced Catholics.

The letter gave two specific cases in which a remarried Catholic can receive communion: a church annulment of the first marriage or if the remarried person repents for having broken marriage vows and abstains from sex with the new partner.

wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the nine-page letter. Ratzinger heads the powerful Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, watchdog of church orthodoxy.

The letter said the ban on communion also extends to divorced Catholics who live with their new partners outside of marriage.

wrote Ratzinger.

Ratzinger also underlined the church's authority, denouncing the "mistaken conviction" that "personal conscience is considered the final analysis" on the dissolution of a marriage or worthiness for communion.

He said easing church rules on communion and divorce would lead to confusion about Catholic teachings on the "indissolubility of marriage."

Archbishop William Keeler of Baltimore, president of the U.S. bishops conference, issued a statement saying the document is

He said it "reflects the constant teaching" of the church regarding divorce.