Interpretation of “amoris laetitia” now official

Interpretation of 'amoris laetitia' now official

Pope's letter Amoris Laetitia © Cristian Gennari (CBA)

The debate about the doctrinal letter "Amoris laetitia" goes into the next round. An interpretation of Argentine bishops and a praise of the pope about it were published in the Vatican official journal.

On Internet pages of right-wing conservative Catholics, a reference to the debate about the papal teaching letter "Amoris laetitia" appeared again at the beginning of the week. In the official journal of the Apostolic See, the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" (AAS), a letter of the Pope should be published, which approves a "liberal" interpretation of "Amoris laetitia" regarding the communion admission for remarried divorcees. Thus, this interpretation becomes part of the papal magisterium. Another cementing of alleged heresy? What is at stake?

"Amoris laetitia" was published by Pope Francis in April 2016 after two synods of bishops on marriage and the family. On 5. September 2016, the bishops of the Buenos Aires pastoral region published guidance for their priests. The title "Basic criteria for the application of the eighth chapter from 'Amoris laetitia'". The eighth chapter deals primarily with pastoral care for couples in difficult life situations.

"Meaning fully grasped"

Also on 5. In a letter to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy, Francis praised the work. He finds in the handout the sense of his controversial chapter of "Amoris laetitia" fully grasped, where it is about "accompanying, distinguishing and integrating" in difficult life situations. "There are no other interpretations," Francis wrote succinctly.

In terms of content, the Argentine bishops' guidance states the following: No "unrestricted access to the sacraments" for Catholics in any circumstance; consideration for sensitivities in parishes; adherence to the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage; encouragement of remarried divorcees to sexual abstinence or participation in church life without sacraments – and, in individual cases and after a "journey of discernment" together with a clergyman, the possibility of seeking the help of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Publication in the AAS

Both documents, the guidance as well as the Pope's response letter, can now be found in the online edition of the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" from October 2016. The printed edition is not yet available. Through publication in the AAS, general ecclesiastical laws are promulgated, i.e. they come into force. But in the AAS there are also speeches, letters or reports about events. Depending on the genre, the texts have different meanings.

In this case, noteworthy is a "Rescript from an Audience with His Holiness" signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. A rescript is a type of administrative act to settle legal ies in individual cases. In this case, the "Pope has decided that the above two documents are promulgated as authentic Magisterium through publication on the Vatican website and the 'Acta Apostolicae Sedis'".

Date makes one wonder

However, the reader stumbles over the date of Cardinal Parolin's rescript: 5. June 2017 (!) – and that in the files from October 2016? This is not unusual, however. The preparation of the AAS drags on for months; texts have to be checked several times, some of them translated. And so it happens that the printed acts of 2016 do not appear until early 2018. In the meantime, additions can be made to the online edition. The two documents date from early September 2016, are included in the October 2016 files, and are supplemented by the June 2017 rescript before going to press.

This makes it clear: the Pope understands the Argentine guidance and his letter on it, which was probably hung lower at the time, as part of his magisterium. The late rescript of June 2017 is probably also a result of the heated debate in which the Pope's actual concern has already been explained dozens of times by theologians.

The Argentine letter, also in connection with the two now official confirmations, is neither a legal text nor a casuistic instruction manual. It describes prerequisites, attitudes, concerns and possible approaches for chaplains who accompany married couples in complex, difficult stages of life. This is an open process, an important and difficult task, as Francis repeatedly emphasizes.

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