In the one and the other the pope has made it known what kind of implementation he wants for the eighth chapter of “Amoris Laetitia,” the one about communion for the divorced and remarried. His approved spokesmen: the Argentine bishops and his cardinal vicar
by Sandro Magister
ROME, October 4, 2016 – There was a big stir all around the world over the letter of commendation written by Pope Francis to the Argentine bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, praised for how they have been able to give the right interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” – meaning that of Francis himself, the only authentic one because, as he says, “there are no others” – on the crucial point of communion for the divorced and remarried:
But in reality it is not yet clear what status the text of the Argentine bishops may have. It bears the generic signature of “Los Obispos de la Región,” and it does not appear in any official publication of their dioceses. It was initially distributed to the clergy of Buenos Aires – the source of the leak – and only afterward did it appear on the online news agency of Argentine episcopal conference, the AICA, with the caution that “in his every bishop has in fact the authority to clarify it, expand on it, or annotate it.”
Meanwhile however, in Rome, in the diocese of which Francis is bishop, the absolutely official guidelines on how to interpret and apply “Amoris Laetitia” are in place. They have been made public by the pope’s cardinal vicar, Agostino Vallini, who gave them solemn proclamation on September 19 in the cathedral of Saint John Lateran.
There was not on this occasion, as far as can be ascertained, a letter of the pope’s commendation. But it is unthinkable that the cardinal vicar of the diocese of Rome should have made these guidelines official without the supreme proprietor of the diocese having first read and approved them.
So now we know with certainty which is the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” that Francis himself authorizes in his diocese.
It is none other than the one that can be read in the 17 pages of the text signed by Cardinal Vallini, published in its entirety on the official website of the vicariate of Rome:
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There are two observations that can be gathered from all of this.
The first is that Pope Francis has so far given free rein not to one but to two interpretations of “Amoris Laetitia” approved by him personally: that of the Argentine bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, and that of his vicar for the diocese of Rome.
The Argentine interpretation makes access to the sacraments easier for the divorced and remarried, while the Roman does so much less.
So it can be deduced from this that for Pope Francis, the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” presented by Cardinal Vallini with all the trappings of official status is the minimum threshold below which one cannot descend without betraying his intentions.
While the Argentine one, the more “open,” is the solution more agreeable to him. So much so that he has rewarded it with a letter of commendation, in spite of the fact that it is only an outline for further integration and application on the diocesan level – or perhaps this very fact is a point in its favor.
The second observation is that actions often speak louder than words. And that therefore all the conditions and precautions recalled for example by Cardinal Vallini can be overturned – and in reality already are in many places – by practical behaviors that go well beyond them.
Once “Amoris Laetitia” has opened the floodgates, in fact, it is difficult for communion for the divorced and remarried to remain confined to the “internal forum” and to take place “in a discreet manner.”
In the authoritative magazine “Il Regno” the president of the Italian moral theologians, Basilio Petrà, has even theorized as “unnecessary” the reliance upon the priest and internal forum, meaning confession, to “discern” if a divorced and remarried person can receive communion:
“The enlightened believer could reach the decision that in his case there is no need for confession.”
And he explains:
“It is [in fact] entirely possible that a person may not have the adequate moral awareness and/or not have the freedom to act otherwise and that, in spite of doing something considered objectively grave, may not commit a grave sin in the moral sense and therefore not have the duty to confess in order to receive the Eucharist. ‘Amoris Laetitia’ at no. 301 clearly alludes to this doctrine.”
As if to say: everyone free to go his own way.