Should Catholics who divorce and remarry be allowed to receive Communion? Synod of Bishops in Rome debate controversial question.Getty Images/Fuse

The synod of bishops on the family that began on October 5 in Rome is the first to take place in more than 30 years. Pope Francis called the conference to look at the Catholic Church’s teachings on family and marriage, and one of the most controversial questions under review is whether Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church ought to be allowed to receive Communion.

However, CruxNow.com reports that even though the conference is at its halfway point it is unclear where the Church stands on the matter.

No one is challenging the Church’s teaching that marriage is for life and there seems to be a consensus that annulments need to be easier to attain, but there has been a ‘sharp debate’ on whether Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church without an annulment should be able to receive Communion and other sacraments.

In February, German Cardinal Walter Kasper brought forth the idea of allowing the divorced and remarried to return to Communion after a time of penance.

On Friday, another German cardinal, Reinhard Marx of Munich, suggested a case-by-case approach suggesting that there’s a difference between someone who walked out on their first marriage and someone who got a divorce because they were abandoned.

Cardinal George Pell of Australia warned of “doctrinal backflips” and told the synod that “pastoral practices and moral codes separated from Catholic doctrines are not merciful, but misleading and sometimes damaging in the long term.”

In an interview with the CruxNow, president of the US bishops’ conference, Archbishop Joseph Kurts of Louisville said he’s wary that a change on divorce and remarriage sends a message that the Church really doesn’t expect married couples to make it.

Nothing will have been definitively decided when the meeting ends on October 19. The conference’s role is to lay the groundwork for another, larger Synod of Bishops next year, says CruxNow and, under Church law, synods can only make recommendations to the pope, so in the end, it is up to Pope Francis.