VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The provisions of “Amoris Laetitia” allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law.
The intention to change, even if the couple cannot do so immediately, “is exactly the theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as — I repeat — there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin,” the cardinal wrote.
Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s short booklet, “The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia,” was published in Italian by the Vatican publishing house and presented to journalists Feb. 14. It includes material compiled from articles and speeches the cardinal has given about the pope’s document on marriage and family life.
The cardinal was unable to attend the presentation because of a meeting at the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican publishing house.
“To whom can the church absolutely not concede penance and the Eucharist (because) it would be a glaring contradiction?” the cardinal asked in the book. “To one who, knowing he or she is in a state of serious sin and having the ability to change, has no sincere intention of carrying it out.”
Cardinal Coccopalmerio quoted “Amoris Laetitia” to make his point: “Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the church teaches … such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.”
Father Maurizio Gronchi, a theologian and consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 14 that Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s reading of “Amoris Laetitia” is the same as the bishops of Malta, Germany and the church region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those bishops have issued guidelines that include the possibility of eventually allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics access to the sacraments without first requiring an annulment of their sacramental marriage or a firm commitment to abstaining from sexual relations.
Dozens of other bishops around the world, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, head of the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee for implementing “Amoris Laetitia,” have insisted church teaching prohibits persons in an objective state of mortal sin from receiving the Eucharist and those who, in the eyes of the church, are not married to a person they are having sex with are in such a state of sin.
Father Costa told reporters the cardinal’s book is not “the Vatican response” to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of “Amoris Laetitia.” Rather, he said, it is an “authoritative” reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion.
In his document, Pope Francis affirms the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinful state of those who cohabit and those who form a second union while one or both of them are still bound sacramentally in marriage to another person, Cardinal Coccopalmerio wrote.
The only time such persons would not be in a state of mortal sin, he wrote, is if they were ignorant of church teaching, were unable to understand church teaching or “knew the norm and its goodness, but were unable to act as the norm indicates without incurring another fault.”
Cardinal Coccopalmerio cited the case of a woman who enters into a relationship with a man who, along with his small children, was abandoned by his wife. The woman knows the relationship is not in accordance with church teaching, but leaving the man and his small children would devastate him and leave the children without a maternal figure.
In writing that the church could admit such a couple to the sacraments with the “verification of two essential conditions — that they desire to change that situation, but they cannot act on their desire,” the cardinal said the verification must be done with “attentive and authoritative discernment” under the guidance of a priest.
Does “welcoming the sinner justify the person’s behavior and renounce doctrine?” the cardinal asked. “Certainly not.”
Father Gronchi told reporters “Amoris Laetitia” is not reaching out to couples who are “peaceful and tranquil” while living in situations that are not in harmony with the Gospel, rather it is offering guidance, hope and the possibility of sacramental grace to couples who know they are in sinful situations and want to change.
The papal document and the cardinal’s book are “not saying, ‘amnesty for all,'” Father Gronchi said. “It’s about indicating possible paths to conversion, not to amnesty.”
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why bother doing the right thing. why bother going by the rules of the church in regard to marriage. when the rules are going to a place for the sake the few at the expense of the many who already are following church teachings.. the things I learned about marriage in the church all of these years are worth nothing, but managed to hang up a lot of people over these rules including myself. I am scandalized by this article really I am. is the new approach to various marital arrangements going to be a real force for evangelization, I want just like the next person to see people live with a clear conscience, and to live in peace, but I wonder how many others who actually have adhered to the rules will be turned away and scandalized by all of this. I hope the church wins more that they will lose I am all for evangelization. the article proves that is good to have a strong relationship with God. one has to figure out what is good between themselves and God, not church teaching. I almost want to say and will say, to those who did not go by the rules, don’t worry about it hang in there, if you are living in an unsanctioned union according to the church, the church will change it and make it alright for you. just hang in there. The heck with the rest of us who actually have gone by the book on marriage in the church. When I read this article it makes me wish I had not been such a rule keeper especially concerning marriage and the church. For all of you not in a valid marriage according to the church, just wait long enough in regard to any type of marriage arrangement eventually the church will make it ok. . do I sound a little bitter maybe I am right now, but fortunately I have a personality where I forgive easily and move on, not that it is always a blessing to be like this. I am just glad that our good God is not as unpredictable, going back and forth on big issues like the catholic church. When I see what the church is up to it makes me want to say, Thank you Lord for being so steady and faithful. that article has reminded me to say: thank you Lord for your steadfastness.
This is moral lunacy driven by false sentimentality. You can not absolve a sinner of his sin because you feel sorry for him. Absolution is not based on personal hardships. Rather it is based on a commitment by the sinner to stop his sinning (to “sin no more”). Thus it is a moral impossibility to absolve a sin that is still being willfully committed and it is morally false to define sin as being relative to the whims of the sinner. Man does not define his sins, only God does.
The Pope needs to make a clear declaration and not leave up to each bishop or priest interpretation. A person who was in an abusive marriage should strongly be considered for annulment.