Pope Francis has confirmed that Amoris Laetitia allows the divorced and remarried to receive Communion in some instances.
Last week the website LifeSiteNews published an unsettling report of a leaked letter purportedly written by Pope Francis stating "that there is 'no other interpretation' of Amoris Laetitia other than one admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion in some cases." Here is more from the story.
The letter, dated September 5, comes in response to a confidential document by the bishops of the Buenos Aires pastoral region to priests instructing them on the application of the Pope’s controversial apostolic exhortation.
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The document by the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires interprets for priests in the region the 8th chapter of Amoris Laetitia on how to deal with couples who are remarried after divorces but have not been granted annulments. It follows closely the language of the most controversial parts of the papal exhortation including the infamous footnote 351, which opens the door to what Cardinal Raymond Burke and other faithful bishops have called “sacrilege.”
The bishops’ directive called “Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia” says that in “complex circumstances” when the remarried couple could not “obtain a declaration of nullity,” the priests can nevertheless move forward to grant them access to Holy Communion. If the priest recognizes that “in a particular case there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union,” says the directive, “Amoris Laetitia opens the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351).”
The Pope’s letter affirms this path with effusive praise for the bishops’ work. Writing to the delegate of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region, Monsignor Sergío Alfredo Fenoy, the Pope says, “I thank you for the work they have done on this: a true example of accompaniment for the priests.”
Pope Francis adds: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. And I am certain that it will do much good. May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity.”
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The leaked document is the first time there is explicit confirmation that Pope Francis interprets Amoris Laetitia as allowing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics without the condition that the couple in the irregular situation live as brother and sister without sexual relations, as was always required by the Church.
Original copies and translations of the letters from the Pope and the bishops are available at LifeSiteNews. Although some high-profile Catholic bloggers and reporters initially questioned the veracity of Francis's letter, Vatican Radio has confirmed that the letter is authentic. Here is an excerpt from that story.
The Pope was responding to a document by the bishops entitled ‘Basic criteria for the application of chapter 8 of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ which details ways of ‘accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness’ for Catholics living in irregular family situations. That chapter focuses on the need to support and integrate divorcees into the life of the Church, specifying that “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments”.
"In his letter the Pope underlines the urgency of formation of priests for the practice of discernment, stressing that this is central to the task of accompanying families in difficulty. He calls for in-depth catechesis on the exhortation which he says will “certainly help the growth, consolidation and holiness of family life”.
"Expressing his appreciation for the ‘pastoral charity’ contained in the bishops’ document, Pope Francis insists “there are no other interpretations” of the apostolic exhortation which he wrote at the conclusion of the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015."
As the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) has reported previously, 45 theologians from all over the world addressed to the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a critical analysis of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia in which they condemn 19 statements in this Papal document. Moreover, several priests of the SSPX have offered their own critiques of the exhortation, stressing that the document injects error and confusion into the life of the Catholic Church. And let us not forget the sermon of Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, which followed the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia.
The consequences of Amoris Laetitia are already making themselves felt in the Church: one parish priest, in keeping with his duty, refuses the Body of Christ to public sinners, while another invites everyone to Holy Communion.The President of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declared that Amoris Laetitia will be put into practice immediately in his country and that consequently, in certain cases, divorced-and-“remarried” persons will receive Communion. A deep division is forming within the episcopate and the Sacred College of Cardinals. The faithful are bewildered; the whole Church is suffering from this rift. Calling into question the obligation to observe in all cases God’s commandments, particularly the commandment of marital fidelity, means surrendering to the dictates of current practice and the spirit of the age. In many countries—Germany for example—what is required by divine law has already been trampled underfoot for a long time. Instead of raising what is to the level of what ought to be, they are lowering what ought to be to what is; that is, to the permissive morality of modernists and progressives. Catholics whose marriages have failed but who, given the situation, have very virtuously and sometimes heroically remained faithful to the promise they made before the altar, feel betrayed. It is enough to make one weep."