Archbishop Chaput: Pope Francis Can’t Contradict John Paul II on Marriage

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 3, 2017   

"St. Francis of Assisi encouraged the brothers ... to accept the Gospel without gloss"

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PHILADELPHIA ( - Archbishop Charles Chaput is saying he wants Pope Francis to answer the dubia with clarity and that the current Pope can't oppose the teachings of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II.

In an interview February 27, the archbishop of Philadelphia agreed that Pope Francis should answer the dubia — the widely reported questions from four cardinals seeking clarity on the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (AL). "Yes. I think it's always good to answer questions, clearly," said Abp. Chaput.

Crux editor John Allen asked the archbishop what would happen if the Vatican issued "some kind of binding magisterial declaration" that admitted "divorced and civilly remarried Catholics" to "Holy Communion" without the traditional requirement of "living as brother and sister?" Archbishop Chaput responded, "The teachings of Pope Francis can't contradict the teachings of John Paul II."

In paragraph 84 of his 1981 papal exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed the Church's constant "practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. ... unless they, among other things, take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."

The teachings of Pope Francis can't contradict the teachings of John Paul II.

This was upheld by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. Paragraph 29 of this document reads, "The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mark 10:2–12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist."

Like John Paul II, Pope Benedict made the same exception for couples practicing sexual abstinence:

Finally, where the nullity of the marriage bond is not declared and objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation, the Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister; in this way they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist.

John Allen presented a hypothetical situation to Abp. Chaput of Pope Francis formally and officially removing the stipulation that required divorced and civilly remarried couples to live "as brother and sister."Allen asked the archbishop, "What would that do in your opinion to our witness to marriage?"

Archbishop Chaput indicated that it was an impossiblity for a pope to officially contradict the words of Christ or go against the teachings of a previous pope. "It seems to me," replied Abp. Chaput, "that it's impossible for us to contradict the words of Jesus." He further stated, "[It's] also impossible for a teaching to be true 20 years ago not to be true today when it's the teaching of the pope."

[It's] also impossible for a teaching to be true 20 years ago not to be true today when it's the teaching of the pope.

The archbishop then asked Allen, "And so how can it be true that people can receive Communion when they're living in an adulterous union today. How is that possible, when the Church says it's not possible?"

Allen seemed to imply during the interview, posted in full on Crux's Facebook page, that if Pope Francis clarified his teaching in AL, it might go contrary to what was clearly taught by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For the record Pope Francis did respond to this question clearly in the media on two occasions, coming down publicaly on the side of previous popes both times.

In February 2016, Pope Francis fielded 12 questions during his hour-long, in-flight interview returning from Juarez to Rome. Anne Thompson from NBC asked the pope a question regarding mercy to the divorced and remarried.

In response, Pope Francis emphasized, "The key phrase used by the synod, which I'll take up again, is 'integrate' in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etc."

Thompson then asked, "Does that mean they can receive Communion?"

Pope Francis, with unusual clarity, responded, "This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion."

The Pope immediately gave an anecdotal story to make clear his point:

I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want Communion, as if joining in Communion was an award. It's a work towards integration; all doors are open. But we cannot say from here on they can have Communion. This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn't allow them to proceed on this path of integration.

In March of 2015, Pope Francis gave a similar response concerning the admittance to Holy Communion of the divorced and remarried during an interview conducted by Vatican Radio in Rome with a Mexican correspondent from Televisa. The interview was published one week later in L'Osservatore Romano on March 13.

The journalist, Valentina Alazraki, asked Pope Francis, "Will the divorced and remarried be able to receive Communion?"

The Pope responded, "What the Church wants is for you to integrate yourself into the life of the Church. But there are those who say, 'No, I want to receive Communion, and that's it' — like a rosette, an honorary award. No. Reintegrate yourself."

Archbishop Chaput did acknowledge the confusion Pope Francis has caused for the faithful. During the interview Abp. Chaput admitted:

[He's] being pope in a way that's very different from his predecessors, and that has been confusing for people, and I think it's important for us to help the Holy Father understand that but also to help people understand the Holy Father and to do what we can to help people through the confusion and disappointment.


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