Divorced/remarried Catholics can now receive communion

Divorced/remarried Catholics can now receive communion
Pope gives green light in strict circumstances

In a dramatic move, Pope Francis has given the green light for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion under certain limited circumstances after they discuss the matter with their priest.

Even then, the couple most likely will have to receive Communion in private so as not to cause conflict or confusion among the rest of the congregation.

When the Pope published his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’) earlier this year, much of the attention focussed on whether or not he had given permission for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in some circumstances. Chapter eight of the document dealt with this but theologians disagreed about whether it gave such permission or not.

But now the Pope himself has cleared up the matter. Bishops in his native Argentina have published draft pastoral guidelines based on chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia in which they say that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion under certain strict conditions. In a letter in response, Pope Francis has said that their interpretation of chapter eight is correct.

He stated in his letter: “The document is very good, and completely explains the meaning of chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”

The document, compiled by a group of Argentine Bishops, is called ‘Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia’.

It says that divorced and remarried Catholics ideally ought to abstain from sexual relations and live like ‘brother and sister’ if they wish to receive Communion.

However, where a couple won’t do this and there are circumstances that limit the responsibility or culpability of the divorced and remarried Catholic, then “Amoris Laetitia opens the possibility of access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”.

There might, for example, be a situation involving a Catholic who is married for a second time to someone who is not willing to cease sexual relations and if the Catholic spouse insisted that they live like ‘brother and sister’, the marriage would come to an end adversely affecting their children.

There are currently no plans by the Irish bishops to issue guidelines about chapter eight but the move by both the Argentine bishops and the Pope may lead to a rethink.