Vatican’s Top Canonist: Civilly Remarried Can Receive Sacraments

News: World News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  February 15, 2017   

Cdl. Coccopalmerio: Continence isn't required for those who feel they can't change

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ROME ( - The cardinal charged with issuing binding interpretations of the Church's Code of Canon Law is contradicting longstanding Church teaching and saying the sacraments must be given to active adulterers and fornicators who desire to change but feel they can't.

In his 30-page booklet presented at a Vatican press conference February 14, Cdl. Francesco Coccopalmerio is saying civilly remarried and unmarried couples aren't required to stop sinning when they feel that practicing continence will lead to greater sins.

The sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist "must be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment," he wrote.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts explained that this only applies to couples who meet "'two essential conditions: that they wish to change this situation but cannot realize their desire because they would feel 'in their conscience that they would fall into a new sin.'"

This booklet, Chapter Eight of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, was published February 8 by the Vatican's press, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Cardinal Coccopalmerio raised eyebrows when he declined to be present at the press conference that publicized his booklet.
"Let's be clear about something," one experienced priest commented. "In Rome, book presentations are not usually made by the author of the book. However, the author is usually in the room. It is pretty odd that His Eminence was not there for the roll-out of the booklet."

Two other presenters took the place of the absent cardinal: Orazio La Rocca, Vaticanista for the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica, and Fr. Maurizio Gronchi, professor of theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.

During the press conference, La Rocca made known that Coccopalmerio's "pastoral solution" has been practiced by priests for years.

It's petty to deny Communion because the law says so.

"Such practice has been undertaken by many priests for years 'but finally it's been codified, written down, thanks to the synods, to this great Pope,'" La Rocca claimed. He also dismissed the fact that canon law forbids offering the sacraments to those who publicly live in objective sin, saying "it's petty to deny Communion because the law says so."

In his booklet, Coccopalmerio offers the example of a woman who is cohabitating with a man in order to take care of his three children and to keep him from committing suicide. In the example, she remains sexually active with the man to keep the relationship together so that the man would not "turn back to the previous situation, [and] the children would be left without a mother."

The Church condemns this type of analysis called "situational ethics," which says a person can do evil in order that good will come of it.

Father Gronchi was asked at the conference about passages in the booklet that "break with Church teaching." The professor responded, "It's a break with doctrine? Where is the break? There isn't any contradiction."

Saint Paul, however, condemned situational ethics in chapter three of his letter to the Romans: "[W]e are slandered, and (as some affirm that we say) let us do evil, that there may come good, whose damnation is just." This is echoed in paragraph 1789 of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church which states, "One may never do evil so that good may result from it."


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