Fifth and central mistake (of Fr. Keller's essay): “If she (Irma, a hypothetical penitent used by Fr. Keller to illustrate his opinion. cf Peters' article HERE) were to just come up for communion, I couldn’t deny her. First of all, everything I know about her relationship has come from within the sacrament of Confession. Outside of the sacrament, I can’t ‘use’ that information in any way, certainly not by publicly denying her communion.”
Keller is largely correct about the rules on the seal of confession,* but his knowledge of Irma’s marriage status is not sacramental: Irma’s status as canonically/civilly married to Francisco in El Salvador and as civilly married to Tony in the USA is a matter of public record—even if the public records are difficult to access in this highly unusual case. Keller notes, by the way, that Irma’s family is in America, too, and they all know she was married, per Keller.
Here we see, in any case, the fundamental problem of approaching the question of holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics as does Amoris, that is, without any reference to Canon 915 (or to Canon 916, but the failure to deal directly with Canon 915 in situations like Keller’s is worse), which canon, as has been stated many times, requires ministers of holy Communion to withhold the sacrament from those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin”. There is no question whatsoever that Irma’s case fits the classic situation of “public and permanent adultery” (CCC 2384) and that Keller should withhold the sacrament from her upon pain of dereliction of his duties under Canon 915 as a priest of Jesus Christ and minister of the Catholic Church.
But, dear reader, do you see how Keller, relying only on the import of Amoris, could walk right into that grave error?
Amoris assumes, without ever quite stating it, that individual consciences (which, yes, can be very complex, and often deal with hard cases, and are never fully knowable to another, and might be only partly informed, and so on, and so on), are the final arbiter of whether a would-be communicant must be given the sacrament, as if only Canon 916 (which most people would recognize as being the canon that looks at conscience) were on the books, and by which canon one could, in some hypothetical case, see an objectively grave sinner approaching for holy Communion without that act itself being sinful, while Canon 915, meanwhile, which requires minsters to make a distribution decision in accord with objective criteria, simply does not exist.
The pervasive and steadfast refusal of nearly all “Amoris supporters” (I dislike the term but it saves time) to face squarely the ancient tradition behind and unambiguous rule of Canon 915 is what dooms virtually all defenses of Amoris so far to irrelevance at best and to pastoral and even doctrinal disasters at worse.
*About that seal issue, a few more words are in order. Strictly speaking, Keller is belatedly introducing a game-changing fact, asserting that all of his information about Irma is Confessional. Well that, of course, would destroy any application of his example to most real life Amoris cases (and to any other morals case) because seal information cannot be used for anything to the detriment of the penitent. Even if a penitent accurately confessed a grave sin, but for which he or she was not sorry, and later presented for holy Communion, the priest could not withhold Communion, as I (along with many others) would agree. But Keller’s phrasing might lead some to think that the canonically public status of marriage, even of civil marriage, is insufficient to act on in the external forum unless such status is also actually known by some decent portion of the community. That is incorrect and by Keller’s own narration, a number of other people know about Irma’s first wedding.