Joining six other Catholic bishops, a seventh bishop has signed on to a letter defending the Biblical and traditional teaching on marriage and divorce in the Catholic Church, a document that challenges the teaching of Pope Francis and some other bishops who claim that "divorced and remarried" couples -- people living in adultery -- may receive Holy Communion at Mass even though they are living in a state of serious sin.
A person who dies in a state of such "mortal" sin, objectively faces eternal damnation, according to Catholic teaching.
Bishop Andreas Laun, the emeritus auxiliary bishop of Salzburg, Austria, signed the letter, Profession of the Immutable Truths About Sacramental Marriage, late last week, according to LifeSiteNews. The letter states that Pope Francis's teaching is "alien to the entire Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith."
On Dec. 31, three bishops from Kazakhstan released the letter. Several days later, two Italian bishops signed on, including former U.S. Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. On Jan. 5, Cardinal Janis Pujats, the Archbishop Metropolitan of Riga, Latvia, put his name to the document. He was then followed by Bishop Laun of Austria.
Back in April 2016, Pope Francis released his letter ("apostolic exhortation") Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) on marriage and the family. In Section 8 of the letter, it states that "it is possible that in an objective situation of sin [i.e., adultery of divorced and remarried] ... a person can be living in God's grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church's help to this end."
In the footnote (351) for that quote, Pope Francis says, "In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments," i.e., Holy Communion. The Pope further states in the footnote that the "confessional must not be a torture chamber" and that the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."
In response to the Amoris Laetitia, bishops from Buenos Aires, Malta, Germany, and other places have stated that it is permissible to give Communion to people living in a state of mortal sin, e.g., the "divorced and remarried," those living in a state of adultery.
Recently, Pope Francis affirmed that interpretation by publishing the Buenos Aires bishops' instruction as "authentic magesterium."
The idea that a Catholic in a state of mortal sin -- a willful turning away from God -- would deliberately receive Communion without first repenting, going to Confession, and forswearing that sin is contrary to the 2,000-year-old teaching of the church.
This situation, Amoris Laetitia vs. the traditional teaching of the Church and the Bible, has caused widespread confusion among clergy and lay people. Some bishops and priests say Amoris Laetitia is wrong and other bishops, along with the Pope, say it is correct.
Thus the new letter challenging the Pope's teaching.
As the now seven bishops state in their document, "According to the doctrine of the Church, only the sacramental matrimonial bond constitutes a domestic church. The admission of so-called 'divorced and remarried' faithful to Holy Communion, which is the highest expression of the unity of Christ the Spouse with His Church, means in practice a way of approving or legitimizing divorce, and in this meaning a kind of introduction of divorce in the life of the Church."
The novel application of Amoris Laetitia, in practice, is "a means of spreading the 'plague of divorce,'" state the bishops.
"It is a matter of spreading the ‘plague of divorce’ even in the life of the Church, when the Church, instead, because of her unconditional fidelity to the doctrine of Christ, should be a bulwark and an unmistakable sign of contradiction against the plague of divorce which is every day more rampant in civil society," reads the bishops' letter.
"This practice therefore represents a substantial alteration of the two thousand-year-old sacramental discipline of the Church," state the bishops. "Furthermore, a substantially altered discipline will eventually lead to an alteration in the corresponding doctrine."
In other words, if you allow people living in adultery to receive Communion, this eventually will change the doctrine of marriage, as well as Confession and Communion.
"We are not allowed to be silent," state the bishops. “It is our duty before the faithful who await from us a public and unequivocal profession of the truth and the immutable discipline of the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage.”
In concluding their letter, the bishops state, "We affirm therefore in the spirit of St. John the Baptist, of St. John Fisher, of St. Thomas More, of Blessed Laura Vicuña and of numerous known and unknown confessors and martyrs of the indissolubility of marriage:
"It is not licit (non licet) to justify, approve, or legitimize either directly or indirectly divorce and a non-conjugal stable sexual relationship through the sacramental discipline of the admission of so-called 'divorced and remarried' to Holy Communion, in this case a discipline alien to the entire Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic faith."
As the Catholic Church has always taught and as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Chuch: "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' 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." (1650)
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