CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Pope moves on communion for divorced and remarried

VATICAN (SE); A few words of Latin strung across four lines inserted into the Acta Apostolica Sedis, or the monthly Holy See gazette, dated June 5, has put a new perspective on the ongoing debate prompted by Chapter VIII of The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), around which a long discussion over the possibility of divorced and remarried receiving communion in certain circumstances has evolved.
 
The four brief lines penned by the secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, relate to an exchange of letters between Pope Francis and the bishops of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region over a plan to open the way for some divorced and remarried people to receive communion.
 
Pope Francis had already voiced his agreement in a letter to Bishop Sergio Fenroy giving approbation to a 10-point plan emphasising the importance of discernment and discretion presented to him by the bishops in the Argentinian pastoral district to allow the practice under certain circumstances.
 
“This letter is just right,” La Croix quoted Pope Francis as writing to the bishop. “It fully explains the meaning of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There is no other interpretation. And I am sure it will do a lot of good.”
 
But its inclusion in the Acta Apostolica Sedis gives the pope’s words a lot of clout, putting it into the category of official magisterium, a status that does not claim infallibility, but does include it in a body of authority known as the teachings of popes.
 
The teaching now sits in the area between doctrine and pastoral advice, although as La Croix quotes Father Jean-François Chiron, from the Catholic University of Lyon, as saying, “It is very difficult to distinguish the pastoral from the doctrine in this context.”
 
But he goes on to say that it is a precise interpretation of what has been a controversial chapter and comes down in favour of communion in specific circumstances.
 
“It now forms part of the official Magisterium,” he clarifies.
 
Although not infallible, it does demand an obedience of faith, a level that necessitates reverence of the will and the intellect, and strengthens its doctrinal significance.
 
Much noise has been made by a small group in the media demanding a response from Pope Francis to the doubting cardinals and other groups on the content of the much talked about and much criticised chapter of The Joy of Love, and Father Chiron believes that the pope now has indeed responded.
 
“The main purpose of this development could be to remind people that, as soon as the authentic Magisterium comes into play, any form of orchestrated public disagreement is proscribed,” the French academic says.
 
Although there is still flexibility in the area of acceptance, it is now no longer acceptable to ignore this interpretation from the pope himself.
 
Father Chiron notes wryly that up until the ascent of Pope Francis to the Chair of Peter, some theologians that took magisterium extremely seriously have become a bit wishy washy in their respect for these texts.
 
However, they demanded a response from the pope and now they have one.

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