VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Regarding divorced-and-remarried couples, Pope Francis clarifies, "Integrating into the life of the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion." He adds that to do so "would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn't allow them to proceed on this path of integration."
ChurchMilitant.com reported this clarification that Pope Francis made to reporters less than two months ago while flying back to Rome from Mexico. On the same flight, he spoke about his upcoming apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia," referring to it as "the post-synod document that will be published, perhaps before Easter."
Since the exhortation was released Friday, a media storm has broken out asking if the pope favors giving Holy Communion to divorced and remarried couples. This has been the single biggest question on Catholics' minds starting at the 2014 Synod on the Family and into the Synod of 2015.
A focal point for this question comes in footnote 351 of paragraph 305 of Amoris Laetitia, regarding pastoral care to those in "irregular situations" — couples cohabiting while not validly married. The footnote reads, "In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. ... I would also point out that the Eucharist 'is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.'"
Raymond Arroyo, host on EWTN, comments, "This is the smoking footnote of #AmorisLaetitia, 351. Is this the embrace of the Kasper doctrine?"
Strangely enough, with all the media buzzing about what the pope really thinks concerning this footnote, and the larger issue of invalidly married couples receiving Holy Communion, almost no one has brought up the pontiff's own words — uttered less than two months prior — which speak directly to this question. Nor have they brought up the pope's interview conducted in Rome from the previous year in which he responds to the same question in virtually the same manner. Both go a long way in revealing the pope's mindset on this matter.
The pope fielded 12 questions during his hour-long in-flight interview returning from Juarez to Rome in mid-February. Anne Thompson from NBC asked the pope a question regarding mercy to those who remarried after a divorce.
In response, Pope Francis emphasized, "The key phrase used by the synod, which I'll take up again, is 'integrate' in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etc."
Thompson then asked, "Does that mean they can receive Communion?"
Pope Francis, with unusual clarity, responded, "This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion."
The pope immediately shared an anecdote to clarify his point.
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. It's a work towards integration; all doors are open. But we 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.
The pope gave a similar response in March 2015 concerning the admittance to Holy Communion of divorced-and-remarried Catholics during an interview conducted by Vatican Radio in Rome with a Mexican correspondent from Televisa. The interview was published one week later, on March 13, in L'Osservatore Romano.
The journalist, Valentina Alazraki, asked Pope Francis, "Will the divorced and remarried be able to receive Communion?"
The pope responded, "What the Church wants is for you to integrate yourself into the life of the Church. But there are those who say, 'No, I want to receive Communion, and that's it' — like a rosette, an honorary award. No. Reintegrate yourself."
To understand the agenda behind giving Holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics, please watch "Mic'd Up—Cardinal Kasper: On a Mission."