85. Saint John Paul II offered a complex criterion that remains the basis for the evaluation of these situations: “We know pastors who, for love of the truth, are obligated to discern the situations well. In fact, there’s a difference between those who sincerely tried to save their first marriage and were abandoned entirely unjustly, and those who through a grave fault destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Further, there are those who contracted a second union in view of the education of their children, and at times are subjectively certain in conscience that the preceding marriage, irreparably destroyed, was never valid.” (Familiaris Consortio, 1981, n. 84). It’s thus the duty of priests to accompany the people involved on the path of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the guidance of the bishop. In this process it will be useful to make an examination of conscience, through moments of reflection and penance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved towards their children when their conjugal union went into crisis; if they made an effort at reconciliation; what’s the situation of the abandoned partner; what consequences have the new relationship had on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; [and] what example it offers to young people who have to prepare themselves for marriage. A sincere reflection can reinforce trust in the mercy of God that is not denied to anyone.
Moreover, it cannot be denied that in some circumstances “the guilt and responsibility of an action can be diminished or annulled” (Code of Canon Law, 1735), because of different conditions. As a consequence, the judgment on an objective situation must not lead to a judgment on “subjective guilt” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, declaration of June 24, 2000, n.2a.) In determined circumstances people find great difficulty in acting any other way. Therefore, while upholding the general norm, it’s necessary to recognize that the responsibility for certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, taking account of the correctly formed consciences of people, must take up these situations. The consequences of the acts committed are also not the same in all cases.
Section 85 was adopted by a vote of 178 to 80.