Amoris Laetitia's exception of the exception - possible explanations?

Some of the irregularly married were allowed by JPII to receive private Communion provided cohabitation was necessary for the stability of the marriage (children’s sake) , the old one irretrievably broken down, the Tribunal was unable to nullify (due to merely technical barriers) land a commitment made to live as brother and sister.

I am convinced that AL, and clarifications from the Pope re the Argentinian Bishops Guidelines, demonstrates that Pope Francis is open to discussing a further exception to the above exception.

I respect others if they hold a contrary view…however this is the assumption behind my question here and I am not looking to have that assumption debated here.

That is, for some of the above with the correct disposition and a reasonable expectation that living as brother and sister would also destabilise the marriage…these may possibly, after case by case discernment, be able to have the sacraments of Penance and then Communion also made available to them.

I am seeking theological discussion as to how this changed practice might be explained by traditional moral philosophy/theology concepts.

Possible bases seem to involve discussions over only venial culpability in sins of grave matter, interpretations of what “firmness of intention to change” actually might consist in if access to confession is required, what qualifies as significant “scandal” if communion were public and whether the traditional principle of double effect re scandal can apply here?

I think the culpability issue might be the basis of allowing communion based on what Pope Francis wrote.

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it
is possible that in an objective situation of sin –
which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully
such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can
love and can also grow in the life of grace and
charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this

So you would see this as a repeated failure to live in perfect chastity requiring regular confession before receiving anonymous Communion?
I was thinking the Pope is saying more than this for some couples…because the above is presumably already possible and in operation since the time of JPII.

My personal approach to such questions of exceptions to general laws is that if nobody is able to at least name some hypothetical examples where the exception would probably be appliable, the exception needs further definitions/clarification. And only someone able to formulate a hypothetical case is one, that actually might understand the exception.

Hence, i search with such situations for at least one (preferably more) hypothetical cases in which the exception would apply.

E.g. with JPII exception this is little problem.

A and B are D&R catholics, with prior non-invalid-declared marriage and have children; they confess, repent and intent to sin no more (as they do not commit the adultery the sex between them would be), so they have a valid confession and therefore are free to receive other sacraments as well.

As people of opposite sex living together in the same household is not in itself sinful (what would be the sin?), but only might be a near occasion of sin, the respective suggestions/rules of Church against cohabitation are in the end just guidelines by the Church to increase the likelihood of avoiding sin; exceptions to guidelines meant to reduce the likelihood of sin are of course no problem for the Church to make, cause they are just instruments for the goal of avoiding sin and any instrument can be altered if for some purposes a different configuration would serve the goal better.

If somehow today catholics are much more pious and disciplined than catholics of former times and therefore would never be intimate while cohabitating, the Church could even consider to entirely wave all suggestions/rules against any cohabitation (of course, a throughful discussion and estimation whether catholics today are realy that much more pious and disciplined should prefeerably happen beforehand)

But here i have problem with example; a sinful action might happen if A and B D&R catholics with prior-non-invalid declared marriage have sex (namely in case the prior marriage was valid, which is at least sometimes difficult to know); they might lack culpability (for example, because they erroneously think prior marriage was invalid); it might not be a sinful action at all (for example, because prior “marriage” was actually invalid).

But when they confess they must have intent to sin no more, that is usually intent to not commit sinful action; that usually requires that one carefully identifies possible sinful actions and avoids them; which usually would mean they refrain from sex as that at least potentially is a sinful action.

So i cannot formulate an example for this exception in case of two willing D&R catholics. Hence, at least i do not understand it.

(A single D&R catholic in a second “marriage” with an somewhat uncooperative “spouse” might be different; but i think the case of two willing D&R catholics to be the more problematic issue regarding the exception and that such cases supposedly sometimes also fall under this exception)

I do not know what will come. I was only speculating on what has been said so far, and even that was only one point. I am trying to honor your original request.

I think there may also be a reduced culpability for some who truly believe, after counselling with their priest, that their current marriage is truly a marriage and not adultery. In such a case, they are not in a state of mortal sin, at least on this account.

While I believe the Pope is opening some possibilities, the limits of doctrine will still mean some, maybe most, divorced and remarried will not be able to receive communion. This has been a source of some confusion. One side wants an answer yes or no, while the Pope has spoken against viewing people as categories. The answer will always be, maybe, or sometimes, or depends on the specific circumstance.

The one thing I am not concerned about (where I live) is scandal. People are too mobile and few people know intimately the specific situations of everyone’s past.

We had several examples back during the two synods. Without redoing months of work, some dealt with converts who re-married in good faith, that is with zero actual sin. Then we have the case where the annulment process fails, that is the second marriage is the valid marriage.

If a question is “Is X ever allowed, yes or no?” then the answers “sometimes” and “depends on specific circumstances” is actually the answer “yes”.

And actual confusion arises in that some people tried to ask in this “yes/no” answer question regarding the issue and received as answer effectively “A yes/no answer is not possible, as the correct answer is sometimes.” meaning there is already a disagreement about the meaning of the questions being asked, as the other side will identify the “sometimes” as “yes” and be confused, why a claim that “yes/no” answer is not possible is followed by a seemingly “yes” answer.

No problem (*) with the second case. But with the first, there might be a problem.

And nobody needs to redo months of work, just spell out one or several examples how the converts who re-married in good faith get to confess validly and need not live as brother and sister if they know that their prior marriages probably were valid. After all, if they know their prior marriages were valid, they know that they are not in a valid marriage and they know that any sex between them would be adultery and for valid confession they must have intent to avoid sin.

(* At least no fundamental problem; it would still sound to 1960 catholics like quite a thing)

I suppose some would find this statement internally contradictory.
Is “validity” a juridical or divine term? And who decides?

If its juridical then its decided by a Tribunal process … so then isn’t the first marriage in fact still the “valid” one - even if it has been downgraded to “putative”.

Yet from the “divine” perspective the 2nd marriage may indeed be the true one and there is no formal sin. The sin is only material…though some might see formal disobedience (venial or mortal?) to Church authority by not waiting.

Man, I hate to speculate too much, less I prove premature and less prophetic. Okay, try this. They may not know what follows. It is possible that a person has absolutely not concept of validity and does not believe in the unique way the Church approaches second marriages as a “state of sin”. Consider this.

Heresy is also grave matter. Yet when one becomes Catholic, especially from a strongly Protestant background, he will likely enter the Church just not believing some Catholic dogma. It might take years to understand all the Church teaches infallibly, if ever. Yet the Church does not consider such a one an unrepentant heretic. There is an acceptance of the gradual nature of learning. Now, the same person was remarried, without sin, and possibly with the blessing of the spiritual leader. For years they have raised a family. There is a doctrinal certitude that the marriage is valid and not adultery. Now he comes to understand that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and seeks converting. Yet he can’t understand how in the heck that which was no sin is now a mortal sin. It really is a lot to swallow how a perfectly good marriage is now adultery, and one once in a state of grace is now in a state of mortal sin. Perhaps time with a priest can resolve this type of situation. After all, if one knows nothing of “validity” can one be held to having a valid marriage? Possibly, but it seems unlikely.

I think converts present unique issues, as it did to Peter and Paul.

It is not juridical. It is an object state the tribunal only tries to discern. This was one of the first things I learned when studying this issue. It is very possible that a person may know better than the tribunal and not be able to prove it.

Marriages are either valid or non-valid; just like for example some distant star either has planets in the habitable zone or not. Its just a fact thing.

For fact-finding regarding planets around stars the best method seems to be to pour a few billion dollars to intelligent and educated physicians and wait for their results; but even if they say around some star there is no respective planet, that doesn’t make it so; but usually we presume that they are more likely to be correct than anyone else; just if someone else for example has a better method and actually determines there is one, he is still right and the others wrong, and he might - if its relevant - act based on the information that there is a planet around that star.

For marriages one of the better fact-finding methods is setting up tribunals staffed with competent personell and give them some strange thing called “evidence” to digest and then produce some result; but it still might be wrong; usually we still have to accept it nonetheless, cause that is the best general method of fact-finding; but in special cases someone might actually be in a better position for fact-finding (e.g. if witnesses literally lied to tribunal, tribunal did not realize it and the person knows this for certain but cannot produce evidence for tribunal); for such a person the question is then, if such a person knows for certain that the tribunal got it wrong, so simply failed in this case about the fact-finding, may he act upon the true fact he found?

Church rules so far seem to say no, AL seems to say yes (after internal forum, discernment, etc, etc, to reduce the probability of knowing or unknowingly do this as a cheap way to avoid uncomfortable tribunal decisions).

I do not think there is a fundamental problem.

Cause either the marriage is valid or non-valid; and Church can decide upon the best methods to determine this; if sometimes personal conscience is better than tribunal, Church might allow it.

(of course one could still discuss, whether there are that many cases the tribunal would fail where the personal conscience succeeds compared to the cases where the tribunal succeeds and the personell consciences fails; but that is no fundamental doctrine, but just a comparison of the pros and cons of different fact-finding methods)

I see, but then the answer is obviously “yes”. “Ever” is such a limiting term it almost demands and affirmative. But then, would the “yes” encourage, like it has, people to think divorced and remarried can receive communion, as in all D/R can receive communion? That too will confuse those that choose to read it as they want.

Involuntariness seems to be a requisite for allowing a sinner to remain in a situation leading to sin. It was specifically stated in FC 84: “This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”.

I had to laugh when I read this. I think everyone who has talked to people who go through divorce knows that this is more common than it is rare. “Hell hath no fury,” as it were. I am sure tribunals are aware of this, but my experience has been in life that everyone gets fooled sometimes, and people can quite convincing liars when motivated. This is where a priest could do a better job. It is much harder to lie convincingly face to face over a period of months than it is on paper.

I think ten years from now, even two, the way this document will be implemented in the real world will be much clearer. I plan on watching here and perhaps some will share their stories from time to time.

But not for some questions.

For example to directly and intentionally kill a definitely innocent human, e.g. a baby directly after valid baptism (no amount of contorted arguments could end up with the qualification “not innocent” for such a baby), is always, realy always wrong, always a “NO” whatever the alternative consequences might be; even if the world ends otherwise, one must not do it. (*)

(* As small caveat, a direct verbatim order from God might call that into question, as God Himself established the law and therefore maybe would be in the position to alter it/create exceptions; but i think its ok to ignore that possibility for the law prohibting to kill innocents as scripture gives strong hints that God is forever serious about directly killing innocent being wrong and that law is even somehow not completely irrelevant for Himself although usually He is not that bound by human standards, see Sodom and Gommorah and the issue of not “collaterally” killing the innocent while punishing the guilty)

There is an equivocation here. You use the word “cohabitation” and then add “made a commitment to live as brother and sister.” The two, in normal usage, are opposed. “Cohabitation” is a euphemism.

There is no problem with such couples receiving the Sacraments, though it ought to be in private to avoid confusion and scandal.

That is not what AL was/is targeting. It is about couples who do NOT have such a commitment.

I will repost something I posted elsewhere… It is my brief summary of what is going on in AL…

An individual adulterous act may lack sufficient culpability to constitute mortal sin in some very extreme circumstance. A habitual intention to continue such acts apart from such an extreme circumstance’s psychological effects, which would ESPECIALLY be the case when the situation is “discerned on the internal forum,” is most definitely mortal sin, except for the mentally ill who are really not responsible for their acts in a meaningful way. Simply being very weak-willed is not an excuse - we are not Jansenists! We all have sufficient grace to follow the Commandments, or the grace to dispose ourselves to receive such grace!

Furthermore, the “obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin” which c. 915 defines as the condition under which a minister of Holy Communion is to deny a person who approaches the Sacrament PUBLICLY, is NOT simply a matter of the state of grace - it is about one’s public state of life. Even a person in a second union who is living in continence - or is merely intending to passively tolerate intercourse, as a woman who fears for her safety should she not cooperate might licitly do - would STILL fall under the canon. The virtue is secret, with a public veneer of grave sin. Either the union must be entirely repudiated (by civil divorce, most likely) or the person must receive the Sacrament in private where there can be no real risk of scandal. It is not merely about sacrilege.

All these distinctions are lost in AL.

Here is a helpful page… Note the canon from the 1917 Code which helps to interpret the present law, as well as Cdl. Ratzinger’s comments about judging subjective guilt vs. public state of life:

Amoris Laetitia

  1. I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal.

Amoris Laetitia also refers to those that cannot receive due to their irregular marriages, especially in Footnote 333 Benedict XVI, Address to the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan (2 June 2012), Response n. 5: Insegnamenti VIII/1 (2012), 691.

Source of footnote:


Dear friends, thank you for your very important work as family psychotherapists. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering people. Indeed the problem of divorced and remarried persons is one of the great sufferings of today’s Church. And we do not have simple solutions. Their suffering is great and yet we can only help parishes and individuals to assist these people to bear the pain of divorce. I would say, obviously, that prevention is very important, so that those who fall in love are helped from the very beginning to make a deep and mature commitment. Then accompaniment during married life is needed, so that families are never left on their own but are truly accompanied on their journey. As regards these people - as you have said - the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church. Thank you for your commitment.

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