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The paradox of contradicting interpretations of «Amoris laetitia»
The recently published Apostolic Exhortation « Amoris Laetitia » (hereafter abbreviated AL), which contains a great spiritual treasure for Christian life in matrimony and family for our age, has unfortunately in short order provoked contradictory interpretations even among the episcopate.
There are bishops and priests who have publicly and openly declared that AL has furnished an manifest opening to Communion for the divorced who have remarried, without asking them to live in continence. Under this aspect of sacramental practice, which according to them would now be significantly changed, would truly consist the revolutionary character of « Amoris Laetitia ». Interpreting AL in reference to irregular couples, one President of an Episcopal Conference has declared in a text published on the very website of that Conference: « One treats of a measure of mercy, of an opening of heart, reason and spirit for which no law is necessary, nor is there need to wait for any directive or directions. One may and one ought to put it immediately into practice ».
Such a view was further confirmed by the recent declarations made by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S. J., who after the Synod of Bishops in 2015 had written that the Synod had laid down « a foundation » for the access to Communion by the divorced who have remarried, « by opening a door », which was left closed in the preceding Synod in 2014. Now, Father Spadaro in his own commentary on AL, says that his predication has been confirmed. The same Fr. Spadaro is said to have been a member of the group which redacted « Amoris Laetitia »-
A way open to abusive interpretations seems to have been indicated by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn himself, who, during the official presentation of « Amoris Laetitia » at Rome, had said in regard to the proposal of irregular unions: « The great joy that this document gives me rests in the fact that it overcomes in a concrete way the artificial clear external division of “regular” and “irregular”. » Such an affirmation suggest the idea that there is no clear difference between a valid and sacramental marriage and an irregular union, between venial sin and mortal sin.
On the other hand, there are bishops who affirm that AL ought to be read in the light of the perennial Magisterium of the Church and that AL does not authorize Communion for the divorced who have remarried, not even in exceptional cases. In principle, such an affirmation is the correct one and the one worth of approval. In effect, every text of the Magisterium ought to be, as a general rule, coherent in its own content with the preceding Magisterium, without any rupture.
Nevertheless, it is not secret that in diverse places divorced and remarried persons have been admitted to Holy Communion, without the obligation of living in continence. Some of the affirmations in « Amoris Laetitia » can realistically be utilized to legitimize the abuse already practiced for some time in various places in the life of the Church (sic).
Some affirmations of « Amoris Laetitia » are objectively open to a bad interpretation
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited all of us to offer our own contribution to the reflection and dialogue on the delicate questions concerning marriage and the family. « The reflection of pastors and of theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest and creative, will help us to reach a greater clarity » (AL, 2).
Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church. This fact is explained by the absence of concrete and explicit affirmation of the constant doctrine and practice of the Church, which is founded upon the Word of God and was reiterated by Pope John Paul II, who said: « The Church, moreover, reaffirms Her own practice, founded upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion the divorced who have remarried. These are those who cannot be admitted, from the moment that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church, signified and actuated by the Eucharist. There is moreover another particular pastoral motive: if these persons would be admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be lead into error and confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of matrimony. Reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance — which would open the way to the Sacrament of the Eucharist — can be accorded only to those who, having repented of violating the sign of the Covenant and their fidelity to Christ, have been sincerely disposed to a form of life which is no longer in contradiction with the indissolubility of marriage. That is, which implies, in the concrete, that when a man and wife, for serious motives — such as, for example, the education of their children — cannot satisfy the obligation of separation, « assume the obligation of living in full continence, that is of abstaining from the acts proper to married couples » (Familiaris Consortio, 84).
Pope Francis has not established « a new general norm in canonical form, applicable to all cases » (AL, n. 300). However, in footnote 336, he declares: « Not even as much as regards sacramental discipline, from the moment that discernment can recognize that in a particular situation there is no grave fault ». By referring himself evidently to the divorced who have remarried, the Pope affirms in AL, n. 305: « By reason of attenuating conditions or factors, it is possible that, within an objective situation of sin — which is not subjectively culpable or which is is not such in a full manner — one can live in the grace of God, one can love, and one can even grow in the life of grace and charity, receiving for such a purpose the help of the Church ». In footnote 351, the Pope clarifies his own affirmation, by saying that « in certain cases, there might even been the help of the Sacraments ».
In the same chapter 8 of « Amoris Laetitia », the Pope speaks of « the divorced who live a new union, … with new children, with proven fidelity, generous dedication, christian commitment, conscious of the irregularity of their own situation and of the great difficulty in turing around without feeling in their consciences that one would fall into a new fault. The Church recognizes situations in which « man and wife, for serious motives, — such as, for example, the education of their children — cannot satisfy the obligation of separation ». In footnote 329, the Pope cites the document, Gaudium et Spes in an unfortunately incorrect manner, because the Council refers in this case only to a valid Christian marriage. The application of this affirmation to the divorced can provoke the impression that a valid marriage can be assimilated, not in theory, but in practice, with the union of divorced persons.
The admission to Holy Communion of the divorced who have remarried and its consequences
« Amoris Laetitia » is, unfortunately, deprived of textual citations of the principles of the Church’s moral teaching in the form in which they were enunciated in n. 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, and in the Encyclical, Veritas Splendor, of Pope John Paul II, in particular in regard to the following themes of capital importance: « the fundamental option » (Veritatis Splendor, nn. 67-68), « mortal sin and venial sin » (ibid. nn. 69-70), « proportionalism, consequentialism » (ibid. n. 75), « martyrdom and the universal and immutable moral norms » (ibid. nn. 91 ff.). A verbal citation of Familiaris Consortio n. 84 and of the similar more salient affirmations of Veritatis Splendor would certainly make « Amoris Laetitia » unassailable on the part of heterodox interpretations. Some generic allusions to the moral principles and doctrine of the Church are certainly not sufficient in a controversial matter which is of delicate and capital importance.
Some representatives of the clergy and even of the episcopate do affirm that even now, according to the spirit of « Amoris Laetitia »’s chapter VIII it has not been excluded that in exceptional cases the divorced who have remarried can be admitted to Holy Communion without it being requested that they live in perfect continence.
By admitting a similar interpretation in the letter and spirit of « Amoris Laetitia », one would have to accept, with an honest understanding and on the basis of the principle of non-contradiction, the following logical conclusions:
The divine Sixth Commandment which prohibits every sexual act outside of a valid marriage, would no longer be universally valid if exceptions were to be admitted. In our case: the divorced would be able to practice the sexual act and they are even encouraged to it for the purpose of conserving reciprocal “fidelity”, cf. AL, 298. One would be able, therefore, to exchange “fidelity”, in a style of life directly contrary to the expressed will of God. Moreover, to encourage and legitimize acts which are in themselves (in se) and always contrary to the will of God, would be to contradict Divine Revelation.
The divine word of Christ: « That man not separate what God has untied » (Mt. 19:6), would, therefore no longer be always valid and for all married couples without exception.
It would be possible in a particular case to receive the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion with the intention of continuing to directly violate the Divine commandments: « Thou shalt not commit adultery » (Exodus 20:14) and « That man not separate what God has united » (Mt. 19:6; Genesis 2:24).
The observance of these commandments and of the Word of God would hold in these cases only in theory and not in practice, inducing thereby the divorced who have remarried « to fool themselves » (James 1:22). One would, therefore, be able to have faith in the divine character of the Sixth Commandment and in the indissolubility of Matrimony without, however, the corresponding works.
The Divine Word of Christ: « He who repudiates his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if a woman leaves her husband and marries another, she commits adultery » (Mk, 10:12) would, therefore, not longer have a universal validity but would admit exceptions.
The permanent, conscious and free violation of the Sixth Commandment of God and of the sacrality and indissolubility of ones own valid Matrimony (in the case of the divorced who have remarried) would, therefore, no longer be a grave sin, nor in direct opposition to the will of God.
There can (sic) be cases of grave, permanent, conscious and free violation of God’s other commandments (e.g., in the case of a style of life of financial corruption), in which there would be able to granted to a determinate person, on the basis of attenuating circumstances, access to the Sacraments without exacting a sincere resolution to avoid in the future the acts of sin and of scandal.
The perennial and infallible teaching of the Church would no longer be universally valid, in particular the teaching confirmed by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, and by Pope Benedict XVI, in Sacramentum caritatis, n. 29, according to which the condition of the divorced to receive the Sacraments is (the practice of) perfect continence.
The observance of the Sixth Commandment and of the indissolubility of marriage would not be an ideal realizable on the part of all, but in a certain manner only for an elite.
The intransigent words of Christ which intimate to men the observance of God’s commandments, always and in all circumstances, even when accepting some considerable suffering, or the Cross, for this purpose, would not longer be valid in their truth: « If you hand is an occasion of sin to you, cut it off and throw it away, because it is better for you that one member perish, than that thy whole body be cast into Gehenna » (Mt. 5:30).
To admit couples in an « irregular union » to Holy Communion, by permitting them to practice the acts reserved to married couples in a valid marriage, would be equivalent to the usurpation of a power, which, however, does not belong to any human authority to exercise, because one treats where with a pretense to correct the very Word of God.
The Dangers of the Church’s collaboration in the spread of the “plague of divorce”
In professing Our Lord Jesus Christ’s teaching for all times, the Church teaches us: « Faithful to the Lord, the Church cannot recognize as Matrimony the union of the divorced who have remarried civilly. « He who repudiates his wife to marry another commits adultery against her. If a woman repudiates her husband to marry another, she commits adultery » (Mark 10:11-12). In their regard, the Church undertakes an attentive solicitude, by inviting them to a life of Faith, to prayer, to the works of charity and to the christian education of their children. Ma these cannot receive sacramental absolution, nor approach Eucharistic Communion, nor exercise certain ecclesial functions, so long as there endures a situation among them which contracts objectively with the law of God.” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 349).
To live in an invalid marital union, contradicting constantly the Commandment of God and the sacrality and indissolubility of Matrimony, does not signify that one lives in the truth. To declare that the deliberate, free and habitual practice of sexual acts in an invalid marital union could be, in a concrete case, no longer a grace sins, is not the truth, but a grave lie, and, therefore, can never be an authentic joy in love. To permit, therefore, these persons to receive Holy Communion signifies fakery, hypocrisy and mendacity. Indeed, the Word of God in Sacred Scripture remains valid: “He who says, « I understand », and does not observe His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4).
The Magisterium of the Church teaches us that the validity of God’s Ten Commandments is universal: “Since these enunciate the fundamental obligations of man towards God and his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, some grave obligations. These are fundamentally immutable and their obligation prevails always and at all times. No one can dispense from them ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2072). Those who have affirmed that the commandments of God and the particular Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, can have exceptions, in such cases that there is no imputable fault for a divorce, were the Pharisees and then the Gnostic christians (sic) in the second and third centuries (after Christ).
The following affirmations of the Magisterium remain always valid because they are part of the infallible Magisterium as part of the universal and ordinary Magisterium: “The negative precepts of the Natural Law are universally valid: these oblige all and each one, always and in every circumstance. In fact, one treats here with prohibitions which forbid a determinate action semper et pro semper (i.e. always and at all times), without exceptions, … there are behaviors which can never be, in any situation, the adequate response…The Church has always taught that one can never choose the behaviors prohibited by the moral Commandments, expressed in the negative form, in the Old and New Testaments. Has has been see, Jesus, Himself, reaffirms the inderogability of these prohibitions: « If you want to enter into life, observe the Commandments …: do not kill, do not commit adultery, not do not steal, do not give false testimony » (Mt. 19:17:18). (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor).
The Magisterium of the Church still teaches us, more clearly: “A good and pure conscience is illuminated by sincere faith. In fact, charity wells us, in its pace, “from a pure heart, from a good conscience and from a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5) [Cf. 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 24:16] (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1794).
In the case in which a person commits moral acts objectively grave in full knowledge, with a sane mind, with deliberate decision, with the intent to repeat this act in the future, it is impossible to apply the principle of non-imputability of the fault by reason of attenuating circumstances. The application of the principle of non-imputability to these divorced and remarried couples would represent a hypocrisy and a Gnostic sofism. If the Church would admit these persons, even in only 1 case, to Holy Communion, She would contradict what She professes in doctrine, offering Herself a public contra-testimony to the indissolubility of Matrimony and contributing in this wise to the growth of “the plague of divorce” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n 47).
So as to avoid such an intolerable and scandalous contradiction, the Church, infallibly interpreting the Divine truth of the moral law and of the indissolubility of Matrimony, has immutably observed throughout 2000 years the practice of admitting to Holy Communion only those divorced who live in perfect continence and “removed from scandal”, without any exception or particular privilege.
The first pastoral duty which the Lord entrusted to His Church is teaching, doctrine (cf. Mt. 28:20). The observance of God’s commandments is intrinsically connected to doctrine. For this reason the Church has always rebuffed the contradiction of doctrine and life, qualifying such a contradiction as Gnostic or as the heretical Lutheran theory of “simul iustus et peccator”. Between the faith and life of the children of the Church there ought to be no contradictions.
When one treats of the observance of an expressed commandment of God and of the indissolubility of Matrimony, one cannot speak of opposed theological interpretations. If God has said: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, no human authority could say: “in some exceptional cases or for a good purpose, you can commit adultery”.
The following affirmations of Pope Francis are very important. where the Supreme Pontiff speaks to the proposal of integrating divorced and remarried persons into the life of the Church: “this discernment will never be able to prescind from the requirements of truth and charity proposed in the Gospel by the Church … The necessary conditions of humility, modesty, love for the Church and Her teaching are to be guaranteed, … One avoids the risk that a determinate discernment leads one to think that the Church supports a double morality” (AL, 300). These praiseworthy affirmations in «Amoris Laetitia », however, remain without concrete specification in regard to the question of the obligation of the divorced who have remarried to separate from one another or at least live in perfect continence.
When one treats of the life or of the death of the body, no doctor would leave anything in ambiguity. A doctor cannot say to his patient: “You should decide on the application of this medicine according to your own conscience and respecting the laws of medicine”. Such a comportment on the part of a doctor would, without a doubt, be considered irresponsible. And, yet, the life of an immortal soul is more important, since upon the health of the soul depends its destiny for all eternity.
The liberating truth of Penance and of the mystery of the Cross.
To affirm that the divorced who have remarried are not public sinners signifies the simulation of a falsehood. Moreover, being sinners is the true condition of all the members of the Church militant on earth. If the divorced who have remarried say that their voluntary and deliberate acts against the Sixth Commandment of God are not in in fact sins or grave sins, they fool themselves and the truth is not in them, as St. John says: “If we say that we are without sin, we fool ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He who is Faithful and Just will forgive our sins and purify us from all iniquity. If we say, “We have not sinned”, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
The acceptance on the part of the divorced who have remarried that they are sinners and even public sinners takes nothing from christian hope. Only the acceptance of reality and truth makes them capable of undertaking the path of fruitful penitence according to the words of Jesus Christ.
It would be very salvific to renew the spirit of the first Christians and of the age of the Fathers of the Church, when there existed a living solidarity of the Faithful with public sinners, and, moreover, a solidarity according to truth. A solidarity which has nothing to do with discrimination; on the contrary, there was in that age a participation of the whole Church in the penitential path of public sinners by means of the prayer of intercession, of tears, and of acts of expiation and charity on their behalf.
The Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, teaches: “Even those who have wandered away from the Commandment of the Lord and continue to live in this condition (divorced and remarried) can obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, if they persevere in prayer, in penitence and in (acts of) charity” (n. 84).
During the first ages, public sinners were integrated into the praying community of the Faithful and had to implore the intercession of the Faithful, on bended knee and with arms raised up. Tertullian gives us a touching testimony: “The body cannot rejoice when one of its members suffers. It is necessary that its whole entire self grieve and work for its healing. When you extend your hands to the knees of your brothers, it is Christ whom you touch. Equally, when they pour out their tears for you, it is Christ who suffers with you” (De paenitentia, bk. 10, ch. 5-6). In the same manner, St. Ambrose of Milan says: “The whole Church has taken upon Herself the yoke of the public sinner, suffering with him by means of Her tears, prayers and sorrows” (De paenitentia, bk. 1, ch. 81).
It is true, that the Church’s forms of penitential disciple have changed, but the spirit of this discipline should remain in the Church for all times. Today, some priests and bishops, basing themselves on some affirmations of AL, are beginning to make the divorced and remarried understand that their condition is not equivalent to the state of an objective public sinner. These tranquilize them by saying that their sexual acts do not constitute a grave sin. Such a mindset does not correspond to the truth. These deprive the divorced and remarried of the possibility of a radical conversion to obedience to the Will of God, by leaving these souls in a deceit. Such a pastoral mindset is very easy, in the open market, it costs nothing. It does not cost tears, prayers and works of intercession and fraternal expiation on behalf of the divorced who have remarried.
In admitting, even in only exceptional cases, the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion without asking them to cease to practice the acts contrary to the Sixth Commandment of God, by declaring presumptuously, moreover, that their acts are not grave sin, one chooses the easy road, one avoids the scandal of the Cross. Such a pastoral practice for the ‘divorced and remarried’ is an ephemeral and deceitful pastoral practice. To all who pedal such an easy path at a cheep price to the ‘divorced and remarried’, Jesus turns, even today, with these words: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a scandal to me, because you think not according to God, but according to men! Then Jesus said to His disciples: « If any wills to follow Me, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow Me. » (Mt. 16:23-25),
In regard to the pastoral care of the ‘divorced and remarried’, today there is also a need to revive the spirit of following Christ in the truth of the Cross and of penitence, which alone brings a permanent joy, by avoiding the ephemeral joys which serve deceitful reasons. The following words of Pope St. Gregory the Great show themselves to be truly timely and illuminating: “We ought not habituate ourselves to much to our earthly exile, the conveniences of this life ought not make us forget our true Fatherland let our spirit become sleepy in midst of conveniences. For this reason, God unites to His gifts His own visitations or punishments, so that all which is enchanting in this world, becomes bitter for us and there be enkindled in the soul that fire which spurs us always a new towards the desire of heavenly things and makes us progress towards them. That fire wounds us in a pleasant way, it crucifies us sweetly and it saddens us joyously” (In Hex, bk. 2, ch. 4, n. 3).
The Church’s spirit of authentic penitential discipline in the first centuries has perdured in the Church through all ages even unto today. We have the moving example of Bl. Laura del Carmen Vicuna, born in Chile in 1891. Sr. Azocar, who took care of her, narrates: “I remember that when I first explained the Sacrament of Matrimony, Laura fainted, having understood without a doubt my words that her own mother was in a state of mortal sin so long as she remained with that man. At that time, in (the town of) Junin, only 1 family lived in conformity to the will of God”. From then on, Laura multiplies her prayers and penances for her mother. On June 2, 1901, she was to make her first Communion, with great fervor; she wrote these following resolutions: “1) I desire, o my Jesus, to love Thee and serve Thee for my entire life; for this, I offer Thee all of my souls, my heart, my entire being. — 2) I prefer to die rather than offend Thee with sin; therefore, I want to distance myself from all which could separate me from Thee. — 3) I promise to do everything possible so that Thou may be always more known and loved, and to repair the offenses which the men who do not love Thee inflict upon Thee every day, especially those who receive (Communion) among those who are near to me. — O my God, grant me a life of love, of mortification and of sacrifice!” But her great joy was overshadowed in seeing her own mother, present at the ceremony, not take communion (on account of having not repented of her sin). In 1902, Laura offered her own life for her mother who was living with a man in an irregular union in Argentina. Laura multiplied her prayers and self-denials to obtain the true conversion of her mother. A few hours before dying, she called her to her self. Understanding that she was at the last moment of live, she exclaimed: “Mommie, I am about to die. I asked Jesus and I have offered my life to Him for the grace of your return. Mommie, will I have the joy to see your repentance before dying? Overcome, her mother promised: “Tomorrow morning I will go to church and I will confess.” Laura, already blind, turned to the priest and said: “Father, my mother in this moment promises to abandon that man; you be witness to this promise!” and she added, “Now I die content!” With these words she breathed her last, on January 22, 1904, at Junin, in the Andes (Argentina), at the age of 13, in the arms of her mother who then refound her faith by putting and end to that irregular union in which she was living.
The admirable life of the young Blessed Laura is a demonstration of how much a True Catholic seriously considers the Sixth Commandment of God and the sacrality and indissolubility of Matrimony. Our Lord Jesus Christ recommends to avoid even the appearance of approbation of an irregular union or adultery. That Divine command, the Church has always faithful conserved and transmitted without ambiguity in Her doctrine and practice. By offering her own young life, Bl. Laura was certainly not representing one of many diverse doctrinal or pastoral interpretations. She did not give her life for a possible doctrinal or pastoral interpretation, but for a divine immutable and universally valid truth. A truth demonstrated with the offer of their life by a great number of Saints, from St. John the Baptist even to the simple faithful of our days, whose names are known to God alone.
The Necessity of a true “veritatis laetitia” (Joy from Truth”)
« Amoris Laetitia » contains, surely and fortunately, some theological affirmations and spiritual and pastoral indications of great value. Nevertheless, it is realistically insufficient to affirm that AL should be interpreted according to the doctrine and traditional practice of the Church. When in an ecclesiastical document, which in our case is deprived of a definitive and infallible character, there are found elements of interpretation and application which might have dangerous spiritual consequences, all the members of the Church, and in the first place, the Bishops, as brotherly co-workers with the Sovereign Pontiff in an effective collegiality, have the duty to point out respectfully this fact and to ask for an authentic interpretation.
When one treats of Divine faith, of the Divine commandments of the sacrality and indissolubility of Matrimony, all the members of the Church, from the simple faithful to the highest representatives of the Magisterium, ought to make a common effort to conserve intact the treasure of the Faith and his practical application. The Second Vatican Council has in effect taught: “The totality of the Faithful, having the anointing which comes from the Holy One (cf. 1 John 2:20,27), cannot error in believing, and manifests this property by means of the supernatural sense of the faith of the whole People (of God), when « from the bishops even unto the last faithful laymen » (St. Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, bk. 14, ch. 27) shows a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. And, in truth, through this sense of the faith, which is suscitated and guided by the Spirit of truth, and under the guide of the sacred magisterium, Who enables, if He is obeyed faithfully, one to receive no longer the words of men, but truly the word of God. (cf. 1 Titus 2:13), the People of God adheres indefectibly to the Faith transmitted to the Saints once and for all (cf. Judges 3), with right judgement It penetrates into it more deeply and applies it to life more fully.” (Lumen Gentium, 12). The Magisterium, for its own part, ” is not above the Word of God, but is at its service, since it teaches only what has been transmitted (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 10).
It was the Second Vatican Council itself which encouraged all the Faithful and the bishops above all to manifest without fear their worries and observations for the sake of the good of the whole Church. The servile and politically correct are causing a pernicious evil in the life of the Church. The famous bishop and theologian of the Council of Trent, Melchior Cano, O.P., pronounced this memorable phrase: “Peter has not need of our lies and adulations. Those who, with closed eyes and in an indiscriminate manner defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff, are those who compromise most of all the authority of the Holy See. These are destroying Her foundations rather than strengthening them.”
Our Lord taught us, without ambiguity, by explaining in what consists true love and the true joy of love: “He who keeps My commandments and observes them, he is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21). In giving men the Sixth Commandment and the observance of the indissolubility of Matrimony, God has given them to all without exception and not only to an elite. Already in the Old Testament, God declared: This commandment which I prescribe to thee today is surely not above your strengths, nor beyond your doing” (Deuteronomy 30:11) and “If you want to, you will observe the Commandments; being faithful will depend upon your goodwill (Sirach 15:15). And Jesus said to all: “If you want to enter into life, observe the Commandments. Which ones? And Jesus replied: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mt. 19:17-18). The teaching of the Apostles has transmitted the same doctrine to us: “Since the love of God consists in the observance of His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
There is no true, supernatural and eternal life, without the observance of God’s commandments: “I precept you to observe His commandments: I place before you life and death. Choose life!” (Dt. 30:16-19). There is, therefore, no true life nor true joy of authentic love without the truth. “Love consists in living according to His commandments” (2 John 6). The joy of love consists in the joy of truth. The authentic Christian life consists in the life and joy in the truth: “For me there is no greater joy than that which I find in knowing that my sons live obeying the truth” (3 John 4).
St. Augustine explains for us the intimate bond between joy and truth: “I ask all of them if they do prefer the joy of truth to that of the lie. And they do not hesitate here more than for the reply to the question regarding happiness. Because the happy life consists in the joy of truth, all of us want the joy of truth” (Confessions, bk. X, ch. 23).
The danger of widespread confusion in regard to the indissolubility of Matrimony
Already for a time, in the life of the Church, it has been demonstrated that in some places there is a tacit abuse in the admission of the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion, without asking them to life in perfect continence. The scarcely clear affirmations in chapter VIII of AL have given new dynamism to the self-declared propagators of this admission to Holy Communion, in single cases, of the ‘divorced and separated’.
We can now establish that the abuse began to spread into practice mostly because it was thought in some manner to be legitimate. Moreover, there is a confusion principally as much as regards the interpretations of the affirmations reported in chapter VIII of AL. The confusion reaches its apex since all, whether the supporters of the admission of the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Communion, or those who oppose them, sustain that « The doctrine of the Church in this matter has not been modified. »
With due reckoning of historical and doctrinal differences, our situation shows some similarities and analogies with the situation of general confusion during the Arian crisis of the 4th Century (A.D.). In that epoch, the traditional Apostolic Faith in the Divinity of the Son of God was guaranteed by means of the term, “consubstantial” (homoousios), dogmatically proclaimed by the universal Magisterium of the First Council of Nicea. The profound crisis of faith, with a quasi-universal confusion, was caused principally by refusing, avoiding the use and profession of the word “consubstantial” (homoousios). Instead of using this expression, there was spread about among the clergy and above all the episcopate the use of an alternative formulae which in fine were ambiguous and imprecise, as for example, “similar in substance” (homoiousios) or simply “similar” (homoios). The formula, “homoousios” of the universal Magisterium of that time expressed the full and true Divinity of the Word in such a clear manner as to not leave space for equivocal interpretations.
In the years, 357-360 (A.D.), nearly the entire episcopate had become Arian or semi-Arian on account of the following events: in 357 Pope Liberius signed one of the ambiguous formulae of (the Council of) Sirmium, in which the term “homoousious” had been eliminated. Moreover, the Pope excommunicated in a scandalous way St. Athanasius. St. Hilary of Poiters was the only Bishop to undertake grave remonstrations with Pope Liberius for such ambiguous acts. In 359, the parallel Synods of the western episcopacy at Rimini (Italy) and that of the eastern at Seuleukia, accepted expressions which were completely Arian, worse than the ambiguous formula signed by Pope Liberius. Describing the situation of confusion in that epoch, St. Jerome expressed himself thus: « The world groaned and found itself, with shock, to have become Arian » (« Ingemuit totus orbis, et arianum se esse miratus est »: Adversus Luciferianum, 19)
One can affirm that our epoch is characterized by a great confusion in regard to sacramental discipline for the ‘divorced and remarried’. And there there exists a real danger that this confusion expands on a vast scale, if we avoid proposing and proclaiming the formula of the universal and infallible Magisterium: « The reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance — which would open the way to Eucharistic Communion — can be accorded only to those who, … assume the commitment to live in full continence, that is, to abstain from the acts proper to a married couple.” ( John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, n. 84). This formula is, unfortunately, incomprehensibly absent from « Amoris Laetitia ». « Amoris Laetitia », instead, contains, in an all-together inexplicable manner, the following declaration: « In these situations (of the ‘divorced and remarried’), many, recognizing and accepting the possibility of cohabitation “as brother and sisters” which the Church offers them, find that, if there are some expressions of intimacy lacking, « it is not rare that fidelity is put in danger and that the good of the children come to be compromised » (Al, 298, footnote 320). Such an affirmation leaves one to think of a contradiction with the perennial teaching of the universal Magisterium, as it has been formulated in the text cited from Familiaris Consortio, 84.
It is becoming urgent that the Holy See confirms and proclaims anew, eventually under the form of an authentic interpretation of Al, the cited formula of Familiaris Consortio, 84. This formula could be considered, under certain aspects, as the “homoousios” of our days. The lack of a confirmation in an official and explicit manner of the formula of Familiaris Consortio, 84, on the part of the Holy See could contribute to even greater confusion in sacramental discipline with gradual and inevitable repercussions in the field of doctrine. In this manner, one might come to create such a situation to which one in the future could apply the following exclamation: « The whole world groans and finds itself, with shock, to have accepted divorce in practice » («Ingemuit totus orbis, et divortium in praxi se accepisse miratus est »).
A confusion in sacramental disciple in regard to the ‘divorced and separated’, with the consequent doctrinal implications, would contradict the nature of the Catholic church, as She has been described by St. Irenaeus, in the second century (A.D.): « The Church, even though She is spread throughout in the whole world, keeps this preaching and this Faith, which She has received, with the same care as if She lived in one house; and in the same manner, She believes in these truths, as if She had one soul and one heart; She proclaims, teaches and transmits them, with unanimous voice, as if She had only one mouth » (Adversus haereses, Bk. I, ch. 10, n. 2; from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St. Mark, the Apostle, March 25).
The See of Peter, that is the Sovereign Pontiff, is the guarantee of the unity of Apostolic faith and sacramental discipline. Considering the confusion which has come to be among priests and bishops in the sacramental practice as much as regards the ‘divorced and remarried’ and as much as regards the interpretation of AL, one can consider legitimate an appeal to our dear Pope, Francis, the Vicar of Christ and « sweet Christ upon earth » (St. Catherine of Sienna), so that He order the publication of an authentic interpretation of « Amoris Laetitia », which should necessarily contain an explicit declaration of the disciplinary principle of the universal and infallible Magisterium in regarding to the admission to the Sacraments (sic) for the ‘divorced and separated’, as it has been formulated in n. 84 of Familiaris Consortio.
During the great Arian confusion of the Fourth Century, St. Basil the Great made an urgent appeal to the Pope of Rome to indicate with his own words the clear direction to obtain finally a unity of thought in faith and charity (cf. Epistle 70).
An authentic interpretation of Al, on the part of the Apostolic See, would bring about a joy in clarity (« claritatis laetitia » for the whole Church. Such a clarity would guarantee a love in joy (« amoris laetitia »), a love and a joy which would not be according to the minds of men, but according to the mind of God (cf. Mt. 16, 23). And this is what counts for the joy, life, and eternal salvation of the divorced who have remarried and for all men.
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan