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ZAKOPANE, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Poland's Catholic bishops are saying the papal exhortation on marriage doesn't give divorced and civilly remarried Catholics a right to receive Holy Communion without repentance and conversion.
Speaking on behalf of the Polish Bishops' Conference as it ended its plenary session Wednesday evening in Zakopane, Poland, Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the conference, affirmed the pope's exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" (AL) doesn't change Church doctrine "in the case of Holy Communion for people who live in non-sacramental relations."
In his statement, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik reaffirmed that the bishops of Poland don't see the document giving any new opportunities in this regard. Referencing Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, the bishops' emphasised that pastors lead such couples to a "true conversion and reconciliation with their spouse and the children of this union."
The Polish bishops, communicating via Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, pointed out Wednesday that John Paul II's document on marriage only admits to the sacraments those civilly remarried Catholics, who've expressed their commitment to live as brother and sister without having a sexual relationship. They reaffirmed this hasn't been changed by last year's exhortation on marriage by Pope Francis.
The bishops explain that AL addressed issues, regarding the reintegration into the life of the Church of those Catholics, who live in non-sacramental relationships. The bishops indicated they'll be drawing up their own "guidelines" regarding the implementation of AL when they meet this fall. They explained the guidelines will give pastors concrete protocols on how to accompany those Catholics who have subsequently remarried outside the Church after having divorced their legitimate spouses.
Last July, Abp. Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the 117-member Polish Bishops Conference, spoke of accompanying civilly remarried Catholics. After the Polish conference had met with Pope Francis, who was in Poland for World Youth Day, Abp. Gadecki told reporters:
This [Communion for divorced and remarried] cannot be solved in a confessional box in two minutes or even a couple of years. This is a path for the priests and the laity to walk together, knowing that if a marriage has been validly concluded there is no ground to administering Communion to remarried divorcees.
The archbishop noted that the meeting with the Pope was "very warm" and "he listened to the bishops." One of four questions brought up by the bishops at that meeting was the Holy Father's apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" and its need for clarification.
Archbishop Gadecki said the Polish bishops believe the document reflected their "more conservative proposal" they'd voiced during last year's Synod on the Family, which was to "retain the truth of the Gospel," regarding the inability of remarried divorcees to receive the sacraments. Gadecki emphasized, "We cannot deliberately overstep Christ's precept against divorce."
Following the Ordinary Synod on the Family, the Polish Bishops Conference in October 2015 invited divorced and civilly remarried Catholics back to the Church, but only in accord with Church teaching. A statement on behalf of the conference affirmed that such people "though they do not receive Communion, are not excluded from the Church."
In November of 2015, Abp. Henryk Hoser, one of three Polish bishops at the 2015 Synod on the Family, denounced such prelates like those from Germany, who seek permission to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion sacrilegiously without conversion and repentance from sin. Archbishop Hoser declared, "Not following the voice of the Church always leads to undesirable situations." He lamented that "some [bishops] are so determined to introduce innovations that they do not even accept the official teachings of the Church."
Many bishops, including those from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Malta and the Philippines are willing to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion without requiring they first repent "of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ" and then "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence" as mandated by John Paul II in paragraph 84 his exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
Unlike these derelict shepherds, the Polish bishops take seriously their personal responsibility outlined by the Prophet Ezechiel in 3:17–18 where on behalf of God he warns such leaders:
I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: and thou shalt hear the word out of my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me. If, when I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: thou declare it not to him, nor speak to him, that he may be converted from his wicked way, and live: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand.