In the pope’s diocese, the divorced and remarried can receive communion, in other Italian dioceses no. Because every bishop is deciding as he wishes. A manual by Cardinal Antonelli for confessors who want to remain faithful to perennial doctrine
[A new form of “cuius regio, eius religio” – in this case the local bishop rather than the prince or other secular ruler is the “eius”]
by Sandro Magister
ROME, October 14, 2016 – Pope Francis has said plainly right from the first lines of “Amoris Laetitia” that “unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.”
And therefore “each country or region can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.”
In fact this is precisely what is happening, before the eyes of all. In every region, each diocese and parish is applying “Amoris Laetitia” as it sees fit.
In Rome for example, the diocese of the pope, cardinal vicar Agostino Vallini has established – with the approval of his direct superior – that the divorced and remarried can receive communion, with the authorization of their confessor, even if they are not living “in continence,” meaning as brother and sister, “if this decision is difficult to practice for the stability of the couple”:
While this is not the case in Florence. On Saturday, October 8, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, former president of the pontifical council for the family and an esteemed scholar on the subject, laid down for the priests of his diocese – in full agreement with the local archbishop, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori – guidelines for the interpretation and application of “Amoris Laetitia” that are in perfect continuity with the perennial magisterium of the Church, and therefore do not allow communion for the divorced and remarried who are living “more uxorio,” except in one highly particular case already covered by classical moral theology, the “difficult case in which there may be a temporary lack of a clear resolution concerning sexual continence.”
How this apparent exception may be addressed and resolved can be seen in the guidelines from the cardinal, reproduced in part further below.
But first it must be noted that Antonelli again presented his interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” to the priests of the diocese of Trieste on Thursday, October 13. And he will do the same in other dioceses, in the coming weeks.
Not only that. The complete text of his guidelines is hosted in no fewer than five languages on the website of the Pontificium Consilium pro Familia, available for anyone who may wish to use it, all over the world:
> “Amoris laetitia”: per l’interpretazione e l’attuazione
> “Amoris laetitia”: for its interpretation and actuation
> “Amoris laetitia”: pour l’interpretation et mise en oeuvre
> “Amoris laetitia”: para su interpretación y aplicación
> “Amoris laetitia”: para a interpretaçâo y aplicaçâo
This is not the first time Cardinal Antonelli has taken a position publicly on the crucial question of communion for the divorced and remarried.
He did so during the hiatus between the first and second session of the synod on the family, to which Pope Francis was very careful not to invite him:
And he did so three months after the publication of the post-synodal exhortation:
In that contribution at the beginning of summer, Cardinal Antonelli said he was “awaiting the desirable authoritative indications” that would clarify the obscure points of “Amoris Laetitia,” in the first place on the crucial issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.
But his anticipation and that of many was not heeded, in spite of similar requests made to the pope by a large number of bishops and cardinals of every continent.
And this lack of response has reinforced the conviction that the obscurities of “Amoris Laetitia” are the fruit of a deliberate intention of Francis, and that he wants them to remain as such.
Again in this new guide to the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia,” Cardinal Antonelli highlights the obscurity of some passages.
For example, where he complains that “unfortunately ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is silent on the negative general norms,” those that forbid “in every situation, without any exception” acts that are “disordered in themselves, by their very content, also including the unions of divorced and remarried and other cohabiting couples, [. . .] as taught very authoritatively, in the footsteps of the Catholic tradition, by the encyclical ‘Veritatis Splendor’ of Saint John Paul II.”
This silence – the cardinal comments – “can foster the erroneous interpretation according to which in certain cases these unions would be objectively licit, like a good analogous to marriage, even if incomplete.”
But now it’s his turn. The following are points four and five of his presentation, the ones most focused on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried.
Instructions for confessors, in the footsteps of the Catholic tradition
by Ennio Antonelli
4. SUBJECTIVE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
“Amoris Laetitia” certainly does not forget the objective moral law; However, it widely explicates the prospect of conscience and personal responsibility and puts them into the foreground, recommending, among other things, that pastoral practice should take them more largely into account (cf. AL 303).
The document rightly explains that observing of the norms without love may be insufficient before God (cf. AT 304) and, conversely, life in God ’ s grace could be reached even in a situation of objective moral dis order, i f the conditions are attenuated or the subjective guilt eliminated (cf. AL 305).
So, grave objective disorder is one thing; and personal mortal sin, which implies full awareness and deliberate consent, is quite another.
“Amoris Laetitia” confirms the so-called law of gradualness (cf. AL 295), already formulated by Saint John Paul II: the person who “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth” (Familiaris Consortio, 34). This law implies that the conscience may at times be erroneous without ceasing to be upright; a person may act contrary to the moral norm without being guilty or at least without full guilt .
A person may not know the general norm (for example, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is always illicit); he might not perceive the value contained in the norm, and, so , be incapable of choosing what is good and avoiding evil freely, by inner conviction (for example, he may not understand that sexual intercourse is proper to marriage , and has value and human dignity within marriage, as the expression of the total reciprocal gift and the common gift to the children); finally, he may wrongly believe that compliance with the rule, in his particular situation, is impossible, and could even become an occasion of other sins (for example, sexual continence, if the partner does not agree, could lead to sex with other people and to the end of cohabitation, with serious damage to the care and education of the children).
I said that the observance of the moral law could mistakenly be deem ed impossible for a person, because in reality, with the help of God’s grace, it is always possible to observe the commandments, even to be chaste according to their standard of living.
The Magisterium of the Church teaches engaging His authority in the highest degree:
– “God does not command the impossible, but in commanding urges you to do what you can, and in asking what you cannot do, He helps you so that you can do it” (Council of Trent, DH 1536).
– “If anyone says that even for the man justified and constituted in grace the commandments of God are impossible to observe: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, DH 1568).
– “Keeping God ’ s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible. This is the constant teaching of the Church’s tradition” (St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 102).
For those who pray, cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and invoke, with humility and trust, the help of his grace, it becomes possible to keep the commandments and, if he is a remarried divorcee, it becomes possible for him to observe sexual continence. According to a famous metaphor, repeatedly used by St. John Paul II, the Christian life is as difficult as climbing a mountain, but the believer should not renounce going up; he must rather get going promptly and courageously strive to reach the summit.
In fact, the law of the gradualness does not mean that the law will be obligatory in a more or less distant future. “They cannot, however, look on the law as me rely an ideal to be achieved in the future: They must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step by step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations” (St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 34 ).
Therefore, one must not stay in a situation that is contrary to the law; one should not l ay down at the foot of the mountain. On the other hand, when teaching the doctrine, pastors must not lower the mountain and, in accompanying the individual believer personally, they must help him to climb at his pace, according to his strength, setting out on the road immediately, ready to rise again after a fall, and determined to continue with God’s help.
5. PASTORAL ACCOMPANIMENT
“Amoris Laetitia” asks that priests and other pastoral workers, in preaching and teaching catechesis, propose the Christian concept of marriage in its entirety (cf. AL 303; 307).
On the other hand, it recommends avoiding further aggravation of the situation of people who are already oppressed by suffering and misery, by blaming their conscience (cf. Al 49).
With respect to this, it can be recalled that one must sometimes tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater one , and that in confession and personalized accompaniment the priest can licitly, by his silence, leave the penitent in ignorance, if he deems, at least for the moment, some grave objective disorder cannot be corrected (e.g., contraception or irregular sexual cohabitation). With his silence he does not endorse evil; he does not cooperate with it; he prevents only aggravation, careful so that the material sin does not become formal sin. Interpersonal dialogue is not required to be as completeness as public teaching.
However, the priest must not remain silent even before the individual Christian, who while living in a situation of grave moral disorder that is publicly known, intends to receive Holy Communion, the sacrament of spiritual and visible ecclesial unity, which requires harmony in the profession of faith and objective consistency in the form of life.
“The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved” (St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37).
Objective and definite contradiction creates scandal and engages the responsibility of the ecclesial community and, especially, of the pastors. The priest, if he is aware of the irregular situation, should respectfully and lovingly admonish the person concerned, because he takes into account not only his judgment of conscience; accordingly, the person’s admission to the Eucharistic communion may be postponed as long as a discernment has not been made “with the priest, in the internal forum” (AL 298; cf. 300) and the person has not accomplished, under his guidance, an appropriate ecclesial process (cf. AL 294; 300; 305; 308).
Since negative general rules always oblige, without exception, the Christian in an irregular situation is bound before God to do everything possible to get out of the objective disorder and harmonize his behavior with the norm.
It may be that his conscience, mistaken in good faith, was not aware of it; however, the priest accompanying him must guide him, with love and prudence, through his discernment and in accomplishment God’s will for him, until he assumes a form of life consistent with the Gospel.
The steps for which there may be room along this path are the following:
a) verification of the validity of the previous marriage and possible annulment, through the procedural facilities introduced by Pope Francis on 15 August 2015 in the two Motu Proprio “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” and “Mitis et Misericors Iesus”;
b) celebration of a religious marriage or radical sanation of a civil marriage;
c) ending the cohabitation , if there are no impediments;
d) practicing sexual continence, if other solutions are not possible (cf. Saint John Paul II, FC 84);
e) in the case of an temporarily invincible error and, hence, refusal of sexual continence, assessment of the possible rectitude of conscience in the light of the personality and the global experience (prayer, love of neighbor, participation in the life of the Church, and respect for its doctrine, humility and obedience before God); require the person to commit himself at least to pray and grow spiritually in order to properly understand and faithfully accomplish God’s wi ll for him, as it will become manifest;
f) finally, sacramental absolution and Holy Communion may be given, but care must be taken to maintain confidentiality and avoid any scandal (cf. AL 299);
g) the priest needs charity and wisdom in order to bear witness God’s mercy to all and always offer forgiveness, while discerning whether forgiveness is truly received by the penitent with the necessary conversion. (Nevertheless, it does not seem that a Christian, as long as he remains in an objectively disordered situation, can claim the right to receive the sacraments, by appealing to his inner dispositions and his judgment of conscience. Chapter VIII of “Amoris Laetitia” seemingly does not want to give orders but only advice).