Bishop Pla: “the objective conditions requested by the Teaching of the Church referring to the access to the Sacraments still apply”
Criteria and regulations for the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares as suggested by the Diocesan Bishop Msgr. Juan Antonio Reig Pla
A particular question of the Family Pastoral Work which has been widely discussed is the access to the Eucharist of the divorced and remarried. It is an issue to consider in the whole of the “irregular situations” mentioned in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris laetitia”, in which, following the Synod, it is specifically expressed that the way to proceed is always “according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop” (1). Thus, it is for the Pastoral Ministry of the Bishop to shed light on the way to accompany those in such a situation. As Bishop of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares I assume this responsibility and I make the following guidelines public:
a) As criterion in order to develop a new Family Pastoral Work as in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris laetitia”, I recommend to follow the instructions in the Handbook “To accompany, to discern, to integrate” (2) recently presented at “The Christian Family and the Catholic School, Creative Minorities for the Renewal of Society” Conference, held in the Archbishop’s Palace of Alcalá de Henares on March 10th, 11th, and 12th, 2017.
b) Seeing that in spite of living in a very different way from the Christian requirements, many people asked for the Sacrament of Baptism, the Church proposed in the beginning a Catechumenal itinerary which included an important change in their way of life that had to be verified so as to have access to the Sacraments. The Church did so in the belief that the approach to the Christian community and its way of life was the necessary support for the person to respond to the Grace of God and, thus, to convert to a Christian’s proper life. Penitential itineraries were also developed, which allowing full welcome, again, to the Christian community to those baptized that, after having led a life far from the Gospels, repented of their sins.
In this sense, and as a principle to avoid any gradualness of the law rejected by the Synod of Bishops and disqualified by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation (3), I encourage all our brothers and sisters who are divorced and live in an irregular situation to get closer to the Christian community and participate in its life and accompaniment. Thus, they will be able to start a path that, step by step, will bring them closer to Christ, going deeply into the Gospel of marriage, established by God in the beginning as an indissoluble union of a man and a woman, and transformed by Christ in the living and effective sign of His love for the Church. The aim of this path is that these baptized will be able to live according to Jesus’ words. Only when they are ready to take this step will they receive the Sacramental absolution and the Holy Eucharist.
Therefore, the objective conditions requested by the Teaching of the Church referring to the access to the Sacraments still apply. These objective conditions were expressed by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Exhortation “Familiaris consortio”, 84, ratified by Pope Benedict XVI (“Sacramentum charitatis”, 29) and are included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1650. Likewise, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts published a Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried (June 24th, 2000). We must receive the teaching of Pope Francis explained in Chapter VIII of the Exhortation “Amoris laetitia” following these principles. This Exhortation is set in continuity with the previous Teaching of the Church (cf. “Amoris laetitia”, Chapter III). Its proposal consists of encouraging a greater approach to those people who live a “wounded and troubled love” (cf. AL 291), and in promoting itineraries that allow those who are in irregular situations to go back to a life according to Jesus’ words. The discernment that the Pope is asking of us refers to the path we are called to follow, and not to the aim we must achieve. Because the Church has only one aim to propose to man: the way of life that Jesus taught us and to which we are introduced by the Sacraments.
Consequently, we must particularly bear in mind that the Church, established upon the Sacred Scripture and the Tradition, “reaffirms her practice, […] 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. […] 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 Covenant 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. 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'” (4). That is the objective requirement admitting no exceptions, and the fulfilment of which must be the aim of an accurate discernment in the internal forum; no priest must consider he has the authority to exempt this requirement (5). A help resource for priests and families is the Family Orientation Centre “Regina Familiae”, which, in coordination with the Judicial Vicariate and the Bishop, are the advisory bodies for the irregular situations and for all those who need their help.
Pope Francis’ Exhortation encourages, as already asserted by “Familiaris consortio” 84 (6), to open new paths for the accompaniment to help these people to take steps in order to be able to live the Sacramental truth of their situation “‘offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them’, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit” (7). This is the specific way of living mercy towards these brothers and sisters, by offering them the Love that heals their wounds and enables them to live in full Communion with God and with the Church.
Juan Antonio Reig Pla
Bishop of Alcalá de Henares
March 20th, 2017
(1) Francis, Ap. Ex. “Amoris laetitia”, n. 300. It is a quotation from “Relatio Synodi” 2015, n. 85.
(2) AA.VV., “Acompañar, discernir, integrar, Vademécum para una nueva pastoral familiar”, Ed. Monte Carmelo, Col. Didaskalos, 2017.
(3) Francis, Ap. Ex., “Amoris laetitia”, n. 300.
(4) John Paul II, Ap. Ex. “Familiaris consortio”, n. 84, that quotes: ID., Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, 7 (October 25th, 1980).
(5) Cfr. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried (June 24th, 2000).
(6) “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.”
(7) Francis, Ap. Ex. “Amoris laetitia”, n. 297. The first part of the phrase is a quotation from “Relatio Synodi” 2014, n. 25.Condividi:
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