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EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories (Alberta-NWT) issued pastoral guidelines September 14 affirming that chastity is a prerequisite for reception of Holy Communion.
The Alberta-NWT guidelines implementing "Amoris Laetitia" (AL), Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, reaffirmed that Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried must refrain from marital relations if they desire sacramental confession and Holy Communion.
If ... they are unable to separate for the sake of the care of children, they will need to refrain from sexual intimacy and live in chastity "as brother and sister" (cf. "Familiaris Consortio," 84). Such a firm resolution to live in accordance with the teaching of Christ, relying always on the help of His grace, opens to them the possibility of celebrating the sacrament of Penance, which in turn may lead to the reception of Holy Communion at Mass.
In a statement accompanying the guidelines, Abp. Richard Smith of Edmonton noted Catholics "may be under the misapprehension that they may receive the Eucharist as long as they simply speak to a priest."
The guidelines partially blamed this misrepresentation of Church policy on the media.
[T]hrough media, friends, or family, couples have been led to understand that there has been a change in practice by the Church, such that now the reception of Holy Communion at Mass by persons who are divorced and civilly remarried is possible if they simply have a conversation with a priest. This view is erroneous.
The role of accompaniment, which is at the heart of AL, involves formation of conscience and living a Catholic lifestyle, the bishops clarify. "The gentle and clear guidance of the pastor as he helps the couple to form a right conscience will assist them greatly to live in accordance with their objective situation," the guidelines state.
The bishops realize that even though it "may be difficult," nevertheless, Catholics living in adulterous relationships "are bound to live with the consequences of that truth as part of their witness to Christ and His teaching on marriage."
In order to avoid sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion, the guideline warns that such Catholics must first intend to correct their lifestyle to be able to make a sincere sacramental confession of all serious sins. "Such confession must be motivated by true contrition," the bishops affirm, "which necessarily involves sincere repentance and renunciation of sin and a firm resolution to amend one’s life."
In July, Abp. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, the first bishop in the United States to issue guidelines implementing AL, issued similar directives.