Bishop of Lincoln: No Communion For Divorced/Remarried Catholics

Michael W. Chapman | December 13, 2016 | 5:11pm EST
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Bishop James Conley, head of the

Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.

(Diocese of Lincoln.) 

Although not a few Catholic bishops and lay theologians have asked Pope Francis to clearly state whether his letter on the family, Amoris Laetitia, permits divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion at Mass, Bishop James Conley, who heads the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., has made it crystal clear to all his priests that couples in such situations -- objectively in a state of adultery -- are not to receive the sacrament. 

"The Lord calls those who are divorced and civilly remarried, or who are cohabiting, to continence," said Bishop Conley in a Dec. 5 letter to the priests in his diocese. "Like every person conscious of grave sin, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who engage in ongoing sexual relationships may not approach Holy Communion." 

According to Catholic Church teaching, any sexual act outside of a valid marriage between one man and one woman is a serious, or mortal sin. Such acts could include adultery, fornication, masturbation, or the use of contraceptives, among other things. If a Catholic sins in such a way, he must sincerely repent, go to confession, and then seriously resolve to not commit that sin again. If a couple in a valid marriage divorces and then neither spouse remarries, each one is free to go to Communion.  However, if one (or both) of them civilly remarry, and live as married couples do, they are considered to be in a state of adultery.  

A Catholic woman receives Holy Communion.  (AP) 


The Church in its Catechism states 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."

Couples that civilly remarry and live as brother and sister, in continence, may present themselves for Communion. 

The Pope's letter, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) is ambiguous in several areas and apparently leaves open the possibility for divorced/remarried Catholics to receive Communion, which is contrary to millennia-old Church teaching. Several German bishops and Argentinian bishops have said this is the intent of Amoris Laetitia. Also, the bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, has instructed his priests to gove Communion to the remarried. Further, he has instructed them to embrace "LGBT families." 

At least five cardinals of the Church and 23 theologians and Catholic intellectuals have publicly called upon Pope Francis to clearly state, yes or no, whether his letter allows for divorced/remarried couples to receive Communion.  the cardinals have also asked the Pope to clarify several other ambiguous sections in Amoris Laetitia. To date, Pope Francis has not responded

Pope Francis.  (AP) 

At leasy one high-ranking Vatican official, Rev. Pio Vito Pinto, has threatened the cardinals for publicly asking for a clarification of the document. 

In his Dec. 5 letter to his priests, Lincoln Bishop Conley also said, "I ask each one of you to continue praying for the Holy Father, who is Christ’s vicar on earth. I ask you to pray for the Church’s bishops, unworthy successors of the apostles. And I encourage you to continue to lead the Church in fidelity, in charity, in hope, and in peace.”

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