Around the world, secular and Catholic media are reporting that chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia (AL) is potentially opening a door for unchaste divorced and remarried couples to receive Holy Communion. The fear is that it would do so by allowing negligent clerics to merely rubber stamp their malformed consciences. This would be similar to what's been going on in confessionals since the sixties regarding Catholics who practice contraception.
But as panelists on "The Download" noted, paragraph 297 and 300 seemingly gainsay such anti-Catholic interpretation. Reading chapter eight within the context of these two paragraphs is key to understanding this particularly problematic chapter.
Speaking in AL of the discernment the Pope envisions between a priest and parishioners living in irregular unions, he writes in paragraph 297 of chapter eight,
Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.
On February 18 of this year, flying back from Mexico, the Holy Father was asked if the divorced and remarried could receive Holy Communion as part of their reintegration into the Church. To this he responded,
Integrating in the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion. 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 were an award. ... [W]e 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.
Returning to paragraph 297, the Pope, speaking of such a person who flaunts objective sin, continues,
Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest.
In paragraph 300 Pope Francis speaks against priests "rubber stamping" a penitent's faulty conscience.
Priests have the duty to accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church. ... Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow.
The Pope then continues paragraph 300 discarding the notion of gradualness, affirming prelates who are saying (here and here) that this document needs to be read in light of the perennial magisterium of the Church. Pope Francis writes,
Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. "Familiaris Consortio," 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church. 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. These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant "exceptions."
Failing to read chapter eight within the context of these two paragraphs results in an incomplete and potentially erroneous interpretation of the document.
Speaking of such an erroneous interpretation of AL, Cdl. Raymond Burke has lamented,
The secular media and even some Catholic media are describing the recently issued post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ... as a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church. ... Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful and potentially a source of scandal. ... It is also a disservice to the nature of the document as the fruit of the Synod of Bishops.
Watch the panel discuss these issues in "The Download—'Amoris Laetitia.'"