JAN 13th 2017 By Deacon Nick Donnelly Commonwealth
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The Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo have told divorced and civilly "remarried" Catholics, with valid first marriages, that if they are sexually active they can decide for themselves to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion, if "he or she are at peace with God". The Maltese bishops' document, Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, states the following:

9. Throughout the discernment process, we should also examine the possibility of conjugal continence. Despite the fact that this ideal is not at all easy, there may be couples who, with the help of grace, practice this virtue without putting at risk other aspects of their life together. On the other hand, there are complex situations where the choice of living “as brothers and sisters” becomes humanly impossible and give rise to greater harm (see AL, note 329). 

10. If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).

By allowing divorced and civilly "remarried" couples to be sexually active and to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion the bishops of Malta have abrogated the following binding magisterial documents of the Catholic Church:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1650

Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10:11-12) the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, section 29

The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God's love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires.  There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church's pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved.(92) The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist...At the same time, pastoral care must not be understood as if it were somehow in conflict with the law. Rather, one should begin by assuming that the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but "a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful"  Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, taking care to observe the Church's established and approved practice in this regard. This path, if it is to be possible and fruitful, must be supported by pastors and by adequate ecclesial initiatives, nor can it ever involve the blessing of these relations, lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage

Pope St John Paul II, Familaris Consortio, section 84

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."[180]

Comment

 Cardinal Burke said the following in his recent interview with The Remnant about the bishop of San Diego allowing divorced and civilly "remarried" to decide for themselves if they can receive Holy Communion:

Recently I read a column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, commenting on an application of AL in the Diocese of San Diego. He said, correctly, that if this interpretation of AL should be correct and acceptable then the Church's teaching on marriage is finished. And we can't have that, of course, because it's the law which God wrote on the human heart from the very creation; it’s the order, the law, which Christ confirmed in His teaching in a most clear way, as is recounted in Matthew Chapter 19 in which He confers the grace of a Christian sacrament. So the dubia must be answered. The questions have to be answered in accord with the Church's tradition in order that the Church carry out her mission for the salvation of the world. If the Church were simply to accept the way of our culture, with regard to marriage, then she will have betrayed herself and betrayed her Lord and Master, and that we just simply can't permit.