Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of
the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith at the Vatican. (AP)
Catholic Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who heads the Vatican's office for the Doctrine of the Faith, said divorced and remarried couples must live in continence, as brother and sister, if they want to receive Communion at Mass and this teaching cannot change -- not by a Pope, an angel, a council of bishops, "no power on Heaven or on Earth."
Cardinal Muller explained this point in an interview with the Italian magazine Il Timone, portions of which were translated into English in the newspaper L'Espresso and re-published in the Catholic Herald. The topic is controversial now because of Pope Francis's letter Amoris Laetitia, which not a few bishops have proclaimed permits the divorced/remarried, who are living as man and wife, to receive Communion, although they are objectively in a state of adultery, a grievous sin.
In the interview, Cardinal Muller is asked, "The exhortation of Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, stipulates that divorced and remarried couples that cannot separate, in order to receive the sacraments must commit to live in continence. Is this requirement still valid?"
A woman receives the Holy Eucharist (Communion) at a Catholic Mass. (AP)
Muller says, "Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments."
"The confusion on this point also concerns the failure to accept the encyclical Veritatis Splendor," said Cardinal Muller. "For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the  Synod, a simple vague analogy."
"No!" he said. "This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in Heaven or on Earth, neither an angel, nor the Pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it."
In his 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II wrote, "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," he wrote. "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 convenant 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," wrote Pope St. John Paul II.
Pope St. John Paul II, left, and Pope Francis. (AP photos)
"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,'" wrote the former Pope and Saint.
Cardinal Muller, whose office oversees the proper interpretation and implementation of Church teaching, particularly in moral matters, stated in the interview, “Amoris Laetitia must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.... I don’t like it, it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching. This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine."
Simply, Caardinal Muller is making it clear that the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II on marriage, divorce, confession, communion, and living in continence is in conformity with the traditional and unchanging teaching of the Church and it cannot be changed -- by no power on Heaven or on Earth -- and not even by a Pope or other bishop.
On Feb. 1, the Catholic bishops of Germany issued guidelines that allow, in certain cases, for the divorced/remarried to receive communion even while living in adultery. These guidelines are similar to those issued by the bishops of Malta. To date, Pope Francis has not publicly addressed the scandal.