With his encyclical "Amoris laetitia," Pope Francis has permitted the reception of sacraments for remarried divorcees on a case-by-case basis. The pope has now renewed this view while rejecting a practice that is too liberal.
According to an article in Tuesday's edition of the semi-official Vatican newspaper "Osservatore Romano," Francis endorsed a guidance note from Argentine bishops who see the possibility of communion for Catholics in a problematic situation under canon law opened up by the pope's letter "Amoris laetitia". There are "no other interpretations," Francis wrote to the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires.
Interpretation of a footnote
The pope's document "Amoris laetitia," published in April on ies of marriage and family doctrine, uses a footnote to speak of the Eucharist being "not a reward for the perfect, but a generous remedy and nourishment for the weak".
The comment refers to faithful living "in an objective situation of sin"; according to Catholic teaching, this applies to persons living in a new relationship with an existing ecclesiastical marriage. A debate arose around the binding nature and interpretation of this passage.
In the letter, according to "Osservatore," Francis writes that priests should practice more the pastoral attitude of discernment. Further, the Pope emphasizes that "Amoris laetitia" is the "fruit of the work and prayer of the whole Church, with the mediation of two synods and the Pope".
The Vatican newspaper reproduces the Argentinean bishops' rules of application for "Amoris laetitia" in such a way that an admission to the sacraments cannot be a "permission", but only the result of a discernment process accompanied by a clergyman "personally and pastorally". This path "does not necessarily end in the sacraments"; rather, it can also lead to a different participation in the life of the Church.
If possible, remarried divorcees should be encouraged to live together in sexual abstinence. This, however, does not always represent a practicable solution. If, for example, the person's guilt is limited or there is a threat of harm to the children from the new relationship, "Amoris laetitia" opens the "possibility of access to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist," the bishops said.
However, this is not to be understood as unlimited access to the sacraments, nor is it justified in every situation. For example, the duration of the new commitment, repeated failures of relationships or the evaluation of one's own life situation would play a role.
It is important to examine the conscience of the person concerned. In the case of "unresolved injustices," a reception of the sacrament is "particularly offensive". It may also be advisable that access to the sacraments be done "in a discreet way," especially when conflicts are expected. Also, a climate of understanding and openness should not create "confusion regarding the Church's teaching on indissoluble marriage," the newspaper quotes the Argentine bishops as saying.