[PENANCE AND DIVORCE]
LETTER OF INNOCENT I
5. You [sc. Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, 405-75] have also asked what rule should be observed in the case of those who, after baptism, have given themselves over all their days to the pleasures of incontinence and then, at the very end of their life, demand penance and reconciliation to communion.
6. In these cases, former rules were harder; later rules have made room for compassion and been more considerate. Former custom held that penance should be allowed; but communion refused. Those were times of frequent persecutions; and so, lest, by granting opportunity of communion, men should be put at their ease about reconciliation and not prevented from lapse, communion was rightly refused: penance, however, was permitted, lest there should be a total refusal. The demands of the times made absolution harder. But since our Lord has given back peace to His churches, and fears are now put aside, it has been decided to give communion to the departing: both on account of the divine compassion, as a viaticum for those about to start on their journey, and, also lest we should seem to be following the sharp and harsh rule of the heretic Novatian, who refused to give absolution. Let the last communion then be allowed as well as penance: that men of this sort, even at the last, by permission of the Saviour, be saved from eternal ruin.
12. You have also asked about those who, after divorce, have married again. It is clear that both parties are adulterers. Those who, while the wife is living, although their marriage has evidently been dissolved, hasten to another union evidently cannot be other than adulterers: so much so that the women to whom the persons in question have united themselves, have themselves evidently committed adultery, according to that which we read in the Gospels: "Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another, committeth adultery: likewise he that marrieth her when she is put away, committeth adultery" [Matthew xix. 9]. All such then are to be debarred from the communion of the faithful.
[Epistle 6, to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse.]