VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Athanasius Schneider is asking the Pope to confirm that those living in irregular unions must refrain from marital relations in order to receive the sacraments.
His Excellency, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, is responding to the Pope's recent apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia" (AL), which he says is being interpreted contrary "to the perennial teaching of the universal Magisterium" by priests and even bishops.
In an approved translation published in Crisis Magazine, he's requesting Pope Francis to reaffirm Pope St. John Paul II's statement in paragraph 84 of his 1981 apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," which states: "Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."
His excellency laments, "This formula is unfortunately and incomprehensibly missing in AL."
Schneider points out that footnote 329 of AL seemingly contradicts this "perennial teaching":
In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living "as brothers and sisters" which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.
Bishop Schneider says he's making this "contribution to reflection and dialogue on sensitive issues surrounding marriage" in response to the invitation Pope Francis made in paragraph two of his exhortation, which reads, "The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity."
Bishop Schneider is viewed by many Catholics as a prominent defender of orthodoxy because he has been urging the Holy See to end the abusive practice of Communion in the hand and to clarify ambiguous phraseology contained in certain documents of Vatican II.
Now his excellency is asking Pope Francis to clarify his recent exhortation, especially chapter eight, which deals with pastoral accompaniment of the divorced and remarried. Schneider reveals,
It is no secret, however, that divorced and remarried couples are admitted to Holy Communion in a number of churches, without their being required to practice continence. It must be admitted that certain statements in AL could be used to justify an abusive practice that has already been going on for some time in various places and circumstances in the life of the Church.
His Excellency says the confusion arises from "the absence of the concrete and explicit affirmation of the doctrine and constant practice of the Church, founded on the Word of God and reiterated by Pope John Paul II."
Especially troublesome to Bp. Schneider is AL's paragraph 305, which reads:
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin — which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such — a person can be living in God's grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church's help to this end.
Footnote 351 to this paragraph adds to the confusion by saying, "In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments."
But as Bp. Schneider points out, the above statement pertaining to the discernment by the divorced and remarried of their worthiness to receive the sacraments is preceded by paragraph 300, which affirms:
[T]his discernment can never prescind from the gospel demands of truth and charity. For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God's will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it.
Bishop Schneider is thus calling for "an authentic interpretation of AL by the Apostolic See" as "certain statements in AL could be used to justify an abusive practice that has already been going on for some time in various places and circumstances in the life of the Church."
To see Bp. Schneider explain the current crisis of confusion in the Church, watch our interview with His Excellency.