Cardinal Raymond Burke. (AP)
Commenting on the controversy over Pope Francis's letter on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which suggests that divorced/remarried Catholics may receive the sacrament of Holy Communion at Mass, Cardinal Raymond Burke said, regardless of interpretations, Pope Francis's letter "cannot change" what the Church has always taught on this topic and which was clearly explained in Pope St. John Paul II's letter in 1981, Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World).
“In my judgment, what needs to happen is that the faithful know that whatever is written in Amoris Laetitia [The Joy of Love] cannot change what St John Paul II set forth in Familaris Consortio, because what was set forth is the constant teaching and practice of the Church, and therefore it is magisterial," said Cardinal Burke in a Dec. 15 interview on EWTN's The World Over With Raymond Arroyo.
“Exactly what Pope St John Paul II [wrote] is what the Church has always taught and practised," said Card. Burke, "and my concern is that Amoris Laetitia seems in some way to permit an interpretation which leads to a practice which contradicts the constant practice of the Church. And that simply is a source of the gravest concern for me."
Pope St. John Paul II (d. 2005), left, and Pope Francis. (AP photos)
In Pope St. John Paul II's letter, it states, "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," said Pope St. John Paul II. "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."
The Catholic Church teaches that if a validly married couple divorces and one (or both) spouse remarries civilly, that person is living in a state of adultery. Neither spouse in the civil remarriage may present themselves for Holy Communion unless they repent, go to Confession, and separate themselves from the other spouse. The only option, under Church teaching, is for the man and woman to live togetehr as brother and wife. In that circumstance, they would not be committing adultery.
“The problem is that to engage in sexual union with someone who’s not your spouse is a grave sin," said Card. Burke, "and to live in such a state publicly means that one cannot have access to the sacraments because he or she is not living according to the truth of Christ, and there’s no way that the Church can give permission for someone to do something which Christ himself does not give us permission to do.”
Further, “[t]here can’t be any exception, because if it’s always and everywhere wrong to engage in the conjugal act with someone who is not your spouse, then if you do that and live in that way in a habitual manner, you simply are in a condition in which you, with the help of the Church, with the help of God’s grace, you need to set your life in order," said Card. Burke, "and therefore begin to be able to approach again to receive Christ in the sacraments.”
Pope Francis's letter, Amoris Laetitia, apparently makes it possible -- opens the door -- for divorced/remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion despite their living in an adulterous relationship. 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, Burke among them, 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.
In ending his remarks, Cardinal Burke told EWTN, "We have to remember: the criterion here is the truth. There have been cases – take for example the case of Henry VIII, and his desire to be able to enter a second marriage without having his first marriage declared null. All the bishops of England except St John Fisher went along with the error, but St John Fisher is the saint because he defended the truth."
“And all of us in the Church who are cardinals, bishops, we have a responsibility to defend the truth," said Cardinal Burke. "Whether we seem to be numerous or we seem to be very true doesn’t really make a difference.”
John Paul II served as Pope from 1978 to 2005. He and the Church played instrumental roles in the downfall of communism. John Paul II was canonized, officially recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, in April 2014, under the papacy of Pope Francis.