Holy Communion for couples in a state of permanent and public adultery
Sacrilegious Communions Endorsed
The Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) that published Pope Francis' Letter to the Buenos Aires Bishops relating to the interpretation of chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia, also published the full Buenos Aires guidelines themselves. They permit Holy Communion in some cases for couples in a state of permanent and public adultery who are not committed to living in complete continence.
Up till now, some canon lawyers had hoped canon 915 would safeguard the Church regarding the sacrilegious communion of adulterers. Canon 915 states “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Pope Francis has made his position clear regarding the new guidelines for communion. They are contained in his letter to the Buenos Aires Bishops, and the subsequent guidelines promulgated by those Bishops. Both document are below. Critically, they have a papal rescript appended by Cardinal Pietro Parolin declaring that Pope Francis intends both documents to bear the character of authentic Magisterial teaching. Sourced from https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/letters/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160905_regione-pastorale-buenos-aires.html
LETTER OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE PASTORAL REGION OF BUENOS AIRES
IN RESPONSE TO THE DOCUMENT
"BASIC CRITERIA FOR THE APPLICATION OF CHAPTER VIII OF THE AMORIS LAETITIA"
Mons. Sergio Alfredo Fenoy
Delegate of the Pastoral Region Buenos Aires
I received the letter from the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region "Basic criteria for the application of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia". Thank you very much for sending it to me; and I congratulate you for the work that you have taken: a true example of accompaniment to the priests ... and we all know how much this closeness of the bishop with his clergy and the clergy to the bishop is necessary. The neighbor "closest neighbor" of the bishop is the priest, and the command to love our neighbor as himself begins, for us bishops, precisely with our priests.
The writing is very good and explicitly the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia . There are no other interpretations. And I'm sure it will do a lot of good. May the Lord reward them for this effort of pastoral charity.
And it is precisely pastoral charity that moves us to go out to find those who are far away and, once they are found, to begin a path of welcome, accompaniment, discernment and integration in the ecclesial community. We know that this is tiring, it is a pastoral "body to body" not satisfied with programmatic mediations, organizational or legal, if necessary. Simply: welcome, accompany, discern, integrate. Of these four pastoral attitudes, the least cultivated and practiced is discernment; and I consider urgent the formation in the discernment, personal and community, in our Seminars and Presbyteries.
Finally, I would like to remind you that Amoris laetitia was the fruit of the work and prayer of the whole Church, with the mediation of two Synods and the Pope. Therefore, I recommend a complete catechesis of the Exhortation that will certainly help the growth, consolidation and holiness of the family.
Once again I thank you for the work done and I encourage you to continue forward, in the various communities of the dioceses, with the study and the catechesis of Amoris laetitia .
Please, do not forget to pray and have prayers for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you.
Vatican, September 5, 2016
Buenos Aires pastoral region
Basic criteria for the application of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia
We welcome with joy the exhortation Amoris laetitia , which calls us first of all to grow the love of the spouses and to motivate young people to opt for marriage and family. These are the big issues that should never be neglected or overshadowed by other issues. Francis has opened several doors in family ministry and we are called to take advantage of this time of mercy, to assume as a pilgrim Church the wealth that the Apostolic Exhortation offers us in its different chapters.
We will now stop only in chapter VIII, since it refers to "Bishop's orientations" ( 300 ) in order to discern about the possible access to the sacraments of some "divorced in a new union" . We believe it convenient, as Bishops of the same pastoral Region, to agree on some minimum criteria. We offer them without prejudice to the authority that each Bishop has in his own Diocese to specify, complete or limit them.
l) First of all we remember that it is not convenient to speak of "permits" to access the sacraments, but of a process of discernment accompanied by a pastor. It is a "personal and pastoral" discernment ( 300 ).
2) In this way, the pastor should emphasize the fundamental announcement, the kerygma, that stimulates or renews the personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive (see 58 ).
3) The pastoral accompaniment is an exercise of the "via caritatis". It is an invitation to follow "the way of Jesus, that of mercy and integration" ( 296 ). This itinerary demands the pastoral charity of the priest who welcomes the penitent, listens to him attentively and shows him the maternal face of the Church, while accepting his right intention and his good intention to place his whole life in the light of the Gospel and of the practice of charity (cf. 306 ).
4) This path does not necessarily end in the sacraments, but can be oriented to other ways of integrating more in the life of the Church: a greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, commitment in various ecclesial services , etc. ( 299 ).
5) When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a path of faith, the commitment to live in continence can be proposed. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (see note 329 ) and leaves open the possibility of accessing the sacrament of Reconciliation when that purpose is failed (see note 364 , according to the teaching of Saint John Paul II to Cardinal W Baum, of 03/22/1996).
6) In other more complex circumstances, and when a declaration of nullity could not be obtained, the aforementioned option may not be in fact feasible. However, a path of discernment is also possible. If it is recognized that, in a specific case, there are limitations that mitigate liability and guilt (see 301 - 302 ), particularly when a person considers that he or she would fall into a further fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia opens the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see notes 336 and 351 ). These, in turn, dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the strength of grace.
7) But we must avoid understanding this possibility as an unrestricted access to the sacraments, or as if any situation justified it. What is proposed is a discernment that adequately distinguishes each case. For example, special care requires "a new union that comes from a recent divorce" or "the situation of someone who has repeatedly failed their family commitments" ( 298 ). Also when there is a kind of apology or ostentation of the situation itself "as if it were part of the Christian ideal" ( 297 ). In these more difficult cases, pastors should accompany with patience trying some way of integration (cf. 297 , 299 ).
8) It is always important to guide people to put their conscience before God, and for this the "examination of conscience" proposed by Amoris laetitia 300 is useful , especially in what refers to "how they have behaved with their children" or with the abandoned spouse. When there were unresolved injustices, access to the sacraments is particularly scandalous.
9) It may be convenient that an eventual access to the sacraments be done in a reserved manner, especially when conflicting situations are foreseen. But at the same time, we must not fail to accompany the community so that it grows in a spirit of understanding and acceptance, without implying confusion in the teaching of the Church about indissoluble marriage. The community is an instrument of mercy that is "undeserved, unconditional and free" ( 297 ).
10) Discernment is not closed, because "it is dynamic and must always remain open to new stages of growth and new decisions that allow the ideal to be fulfilled more fully" ( 303 ), according to the "law of graduality" ( 295 ) and trusting in the help of grace.
We are first of all pastors. That is why we want to accept these words of the Pope: "I invite pastors to listen with affection and serenity, with a sincere desire to enter the heart of people's drama and to understand their point of view, to help them live better and to recognize his own place in the Church " ( 312 ) .
With affection in Christ.
The Bishops of the Region
September 5, 2016