Vatican Doctrinal Chief: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Isn’t Changing Church Discipline

News: Investigations
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  May 5, 2016   

Cardinal Gerhard Müller confirms Pope's exhortation is meant to be read in light of Church teaching and practice

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VATICAN ( - Cardinal Gerhard Müller is saying "Amoris Laetitia" (AL) does not say divorced and remarried can receive Holy Communion.

At a talk this week to seminarians in Oviedo, Spain, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is confirming that the Pope's apostolic exhortation must be read consistent with Church teaching and discipline. The German Catholic newspaper "Die Tagespost" reported on this event Monday and will publish his entire lecture later this week.

Cardinal Müller discredited the various interpretations of AL that claim Pope Francis has opened the door for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion without confession or without living in complete continence — contrary to the longstanding discipline of the Church.

Addressing AL's controversial footnote 351, which many claim changes Church practice in this regard, Cdl. Müller remarked,

Without going into details, it is enough to point out that this footnote refers to objective situations of sin in general, not to the specific case of civilly remarried divorcees. The situation of the latter has peculiar features which distinguishes it from other situations. The footnote does not apply to the previous discipline. The standard of "Familiaris Consortio" 84 and "Sacramentum Caritatis" 29 and their application in all cases is still valid.

Paragraph 84 of "Familiaris Consortio" says of those living in irregular unions:

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.

Paragraph 29 of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" says of the divorced and remarried:

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.

These papal arguments, Müller commented, "are not based on the subjective guilt of these brothers and sisters, but on the visible, objective way of life, which is opposite to the words of Christ."

Cardinal Müller noted that if AL really wanted to "rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, then it would have clearly expressed and stated its reasons," affirming that the document contains "no statement to that effect."

He added, "At no point has Pope Francis called the arguments of his predecessors into question."

Cardinal Müller reiterated the key point to the seminarians, "The Church has no power to change the Divine Law. Not even a pope or council can change that." He also lamented that it's a "misreading" of ALthat has resulted in such polemics.

Addressing the controversial paragraph 301 in AL that seems to imply that those living in an objective state of mortal sin are not necessarily deprived of sanctifying grace, His Eminence clarified, "It is not possible to live in God's grace while living in a sinful situation."

The panel discusses the apostolic exhortation on "The Download—'Amoris Laetitia.'"


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