Print Version    Email to Friend
Canon law top dog argues for Joy of Love

VATICAN (SE): In a booklet launched on February 14 directly addressing the controversial Chapter Eight of Pope Francis’ The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), penned at the conclusion of the 2016 Synod of Bishops on Marriage and Family Life, Francisco Cardinal Coccopalmerio sets out to effectively break down barriers that may exist between doctrine and pastoral ministry.

Chapter Eight has been the subject of enormous controversy within the Church, with a group of cardinals threatening to bring a correction order against the pope and bishops’ conferences around the world interpreting its window to the possibility for the divorced and remarried to, in some circumstances, receive communion, differently.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio argues in the short booklet that such circumstances do indeed and can exist and, as the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, speaks with authority.

Although primarily a discussion on the relationship between pastoral practice and doctrine rather than an attempt to quench the flames of controversy, the 30-page booklet does have a semi-official imprimatur (stamp of orthodoxy), as it was published by LEV, the Vatican publishing house.

The Italian cardinal argues that there are circumstances under which Catholics who are divorced and remarried may receive communion.

He speaks of those who wish to change their situation, but cannot realise their desire, saying that the traditional insistence on sexual continence is not always realistic and could also threaten the welfare of children of the union.

He stresses that there are cases as well where the concrete situation does not allow people to act differently, in which case the door to the Eucharistic table can be left open.

Vatican Radio reported that the booklet was launched by Father Maurizio Gronchi, from the Pontifical Urbaniana University, who is also a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It quoted Father Gronchi as saying, “I had asked myself whether the doubts that had been raised regarding a possible violation of the Church’s doctrine could be found; after reading this book it is clear that this is not so.”

He called Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s take on The Joy of Love a new perspective on how the Church views the flux in society, imbuing his work with the call for mercy of Pope Francis and his appeal to reach out to the most wounded and most excluded.

The cardinal also highlights the pope’s appeal to what is referred to as the law of gradualness put forward by Pope John Paul II, which acknowledges the human process of coming to know, love and accomplish moral good through various stages of growth.

In a rather pointed reference to the Doubting Cardinals, veteran Vatican journalist, Orazio La Rocca, points to the canon law top dog’s rebuke of men of the Church who condemn people forever, encouraging them to look at those who have sought a second union with the eyes of transforming their situation into the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the gospel.

The journalist notes that he does this in simple, readable language that is accessible to a broad range of people.

There was no particular significance in releasing the booklet on Valentine’s Day, but it is written to discuss the rich doctrinal and pastoral message the pope offers in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

It puts the top Vatican canonical official in direct opposition to powerful Church people who oppose such an interpretation.

Nevertheless, it places him well in line with the bishops of Germany, as well as Malta.

The bishops’ conference in Malta recently wrote that the divorced and remarried should receive communion if, after a careful consideration of their situation, they are at peace with God.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio believes that canon law is not just a collection of norms created by the will of ecclesiastical legislators, but indicates the duties and rights inherent to the faithful and to the structure of the Church as instituted by Christ.

More from this section