"Does the text allow for divorced and remarried catholic to receive holy communion, at least in some cases? After reading chapter eight (where the question is addressed) we need to conclude that this text does not change the discipline of the Church regarding the admission of divorced and civilly remarried Catholic to the Eucharist, a discipline based in doctrinal reasons, as affirmed by Familiaris Consortio 84 and Sacramentum Caritatis 29."—Fr. Granados
When Fr Granados’ words are combined with Pope Francis’ own words on the flight back from Mexico, it is clear that not only is doctrine not being changed, but neither is the discipline. When asked whether the divorced and re-married could receive communion the Pope replied:
“This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn’t mean receiving Communion. I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want Communion, as if joining in Communion were an award. It’s a work towards integration; all doors are open. But we cannot say from here on they can have Communion. This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn’t allow them to proceed on this path of integration.”—Pope Francis
Those who jumped to conclusions and were worried and concerned may breathe easy. The sky is not falling.
Cardinal Schönborn also told reporters that, for him, Amoris Laetitia “is, first and foremost, a ‘linguistic event’, as was Evangelii gaudium.” He said “something has changed in ecclesial discourse” and that a new language had evolved in which “the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned.”
He also noted less of a distinction between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ marriages and relationships. “My great joy as a result of this document resides in the fact that it coherently overcomes that artificial, superficial, clear division between “regular” and “irregular”, and subjects everyone to the common call of the Gospel,” he said.
“This pervasive principle of ‘inclusion’ clearly troubles some people,” some of whom think it favors relativism, he continued, but highlighted Pope Francis’ intentions for the document, quoting no. 35: to make a “more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them."
The only key to the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching. Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium (3). The very form of the document confirms the same. It is written as a reflection of the Holy Father on the work of the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops. For instance, in Chapter Eight, which some wish to interpret as the proposal of a new discipline with obvious implications for the Church’s doctrine, Pope Francis, citing his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, declares:
I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street” (308).
In other words, the Holy Father is proposing what he personally believes is the will of Christ for his Church, but he does not intend to impose his point of view, nor to condemn those who insist on what he calls “a more rigorous pastoral care.” The personal, that is, non-magisterial, nature of the document is also evident in the fact that the references cited are principally the final report of the 2015 session of the Synod of Bishops and the addresses and homilies of Pope Francis himself. There is no consistent effort to relate the text, in general, or these citations to the magisterium, the Fathers of the Church and other proven authors.
What is more, as noted above, a document which is the fruit of the Synod of Bishops must always be read in the light of the purpose of the synod itself, namely, to safeguard and foster what the Church has always taught and practiced in accord with her teaching.
In other words, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline, but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time.
There has been a lot of commentary in the last few hard days about Amoris Laetitia.
What I have been trying to get across is that 1) Amoris did not change Catholic doctrine or law, and that 2) even though there are insinuations and serious problems not to be glossed over in the document which will cause division among those already inclined to division, 3) both sides are challenged in the exhortation to greater compassion and fidelity.
I received in email some comments about Amoris Laetitia from a thoughtful source who has been keeping a close eye on the machinations of the Synods, et al., for years. I have edited it heavily, while preserving the core.
Again, edited for public consumption, with my now oft-imitated treatment (Fr. Z's fisks have been removed: see the original article for his embedded comments). So, crawl back in through the window and off of the ledge… read on:
First, The Big Question: who won the battle?
The question refers, of course, to the battle between the Kasperites and Catholics [note the distinction] over the question of the admission of the civilly divorced and remarried (CDR) to penance and holy communion. There are some corollary issues (pre-maritally cohabitating couples, same-sex couples, and simple adultery and fornication). But the Big Question concerns CDRs. Prior to the opening of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, none of us knew that the Kasperites were going to use the CDR issue as the thin-edge-of-the-wedge, or, if you prefer, the Trojan Horse, that Archbishop Bruno Forte stealthily snuck into the Synod’s Interim Report after the first week of the 2014 Synod. [refer to original article]
In answer to the Big Question, above, Catholics won the battle technically speaking, but the Kasperites won the battle in real terms.
Explanation: Read sections 297-312 of Amoris Laetitia. Technically speaking, the Pope does not spell out that CDRs can be admitted to the sacraments of Penance or Eucharist. Try to understand just how important a victory this is for our side. We won.The Pope knows this. Kasper knows this. Heck, even the NCReporter knows this. Just plain forget all the exegesis of footnotes that you may be reading about on the internet. The Pope does not draw a straight line from X to Y. He. Does. Not. And he knows that he would have had to that just that in order to change Church doctrine and discipline. In the end, he could not do it and he did not do it. For a long time I feared that he would, and I was not alone.
Some of you will rightly insist that this “victory” of ours is only a formal one (in the theological sense of “formal”). I agree. BUT… I’ll take it! Remember: This was NOT the outcome that Pope Francis along with Cardinal Kasper and Friends wanted. Since the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals in February 2014, when Pope Francis invited Kasper to address the entire College of Cardinal, Kasper and Friends have wanted to change Church teaching (they maintained they only wanted to change its discipline). They wanted the “Kasper Proposal” – that adopts the Eastern Orthodox practice of admitting “repentant” CDRs to Communion – to be formally adopted by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis made it clear to everyone that he was backing the Kasper Proposal, and Pope Francis knows how to use his absolute power! For example, he personally chose over 1/3 of the voting members of both Synods, he personally chose those who wrote all of the Synod documents, he named as Cardinals a couple of Synod bishops who backed the Kasper Proposal during the 2014 Synod, he demoted Cardinal Burke after the 2014 Synod, thus depriving the Cardinal of an ex officio place in the 2015 Synod. And I could go on. Nevertheless, the Pope was denied this victory twice, first at the 2014 Synod and then at the 2015 Synod. It became clear to Pope Francis that the Kasper Proposal was going to divide the bishops and that the division would be rancorous. So he pulled back. [The Holy Spirit protects His Church!]As I said, we will take this. It’s not everything we wanted. We wanted the ban on Communion for CDRs that is found in the 1981 Post-Synodal Apostolic Letter, Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, to be ratified. The Pope did not do that either. But … and this is a big but… by not formally retracting the teaching in FC 84, he let it stand.
Hence, Catholics can maintain that Church teaching and discipline have not formally changed.
Why are marriage and the family in trouble? Amoris Laetitia reviews a lot of the reasons, some of which go back to Adam and Eve, and some of which are contemporary expressions of that original sin of pride. The Holy Father also speaks with understanding and compassion of the difficulty that many young people have today in forming lifelong commitments. And he calls the Church to take the ministry of marriage preparation with ever greater seriousness, seeing it as an essential instrument of evangelization, especially for those who have trouble understanding that commitment is liberating.
In reading his apostolic exhortation, I came back to a conversation I had with Pope Francis some months after his election. I said that I wanted to present his vision of the Church accurately. So was I right in saying that he stressed God’s mercy so that, through an experience of that mercy, people would come to know God’s truth? He assured me I was. It is within that dyad of mercy and truth, which can never be separated, that I suggest the Church read and absorb Amoris Laetitia.
Many are attempting to distort the application AL, but the document does not open the door for communion for the divorced and remarried. Neither does the document bless irregular unions of any kind. AL, some would agree with Cardinal Schönborn, is an attempt to revise the language we use when speaking with and about sinners who, if prodded kindly, might come to their senses and who along with the rest of us take up the daily working out their salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Of course, when certain groups have tried to change the daily language we use—and quite successfully, one might with sadness add—we are right to be suspicious of language shifts. The relativization of language by well intentioned and not-so well intentioned feminists has led to the tragedy of euthanasia and the abomination of abortion becoming palatable ideas even among civilized people.
Given the democratization of theology and the adoption of worldly policies in groups such as the Episcopal Church (TEC), the United Church of Canada (UCC) and other groups which have been compromised beyond repair by their trysts with the zeitgeist, we are right to be suspicious of our hierarchs and their allies (the rabid regressive (c)atholic media, e.g., National Catholic Distorter and most or all of the secular media) bearing theological gifts in the form of slippery language that open the door to confusion and, if some could have it, an abandonment of doctrine.
The Church rightly preserves certain expressions—take for example the return of 'consubstantial' to the Nicene Creed in the latest English translation of the Mass—because she knows that the language of Faith requires precision to protect souls from a diet of damnation served up by clever men and women who lack a devotion to theological nuance. Those same men and women would, if they could, water down the very Gospel of Christ in order to serve their disordered inclinations.
The Holy Spirit, as mentioned here and elsewhere, protects the Church founded by Jesus Christ on the Apostles. That is to say, the Holy Spirit protects the Catholic Church led by the Apostle Peter, the apostle to whom Christ Himself gave exclusively the keys to the Kingdom, from teaching error in faith and morals.