In this document and its companion, Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions, such information is offered precisely for sharing with such parishioners and others. Rather than some distant ideal never or only very gradually to be achieved, the Catholic vision of a fulfilled life must be offered in all its richness so that people may strive to conform their lives to it (Familiaris Consortio 34).
Priests can play a vital role in offering pastoral support and guidance to couples who are divorced and remarried. It is important to stress, however, that conscience is a person’s “most secret core and sanctuary” where, alone before God, the person takes responsibility for their own moral decisions (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 16).
Thus no priest can take from couples the responsibility to make their own morally upright decisions in this area. Where the Church can best help is in assisting individuals to conform their conscience to truth. Only an experienced and prudent conscience, formed and informed by sound principles, will be a reliable guide in the face of an emotionally difficult situation such as this.
A priest or other advisor can assist people to make conscientious decisions: firstly, by listening to a person’s own understanding of their situation and grasp of the moral demands upon them; secondly, by helping that person clarify their situation and reflect on the relevant issues at stake; thirdly, by ensuring that they understand the relevant doctrine and norms such as the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the relationship between Marriage and the Eucharist.
The goal of such a dialogue with a priest or advisor is for a person to identify for themselves what is the ‘next step,' even if it is not the final step, that ought to be taken so that a person comes into right relationship with God and the Church.
Often priests or advisors will do best to encourage a Catholic who has remarried or is contemplating remarriage after divorce to approach the Church tribunal in order to establish whether their previous marriage is still binding in the eyes of God and the Church and, if it is, to appreciate the implications of a second marriage for their life in the Church.