Cardinal Schönborn on Amoris Laetitia

In a talk in Western Ireland on the 15th July, Cardinal Schönborn spent four hours discussing Amoris Laetitia and the controversy surrounding it.

Some interesting highlights from the Crux article:Schönborn revealed that when he met the Pope shortly after the presentation of Amoris, Francis thanked him, and asked him if the document was orthodox.

“I said, ‘Holy Father, it is fully orthodox’,” Schönborn told us he told the pope, adding that a few days later he received from Francis a little note that said: “Thank you for that word. That gave me comfort.”
Double-take: the Pope asked the Cardinal ***after ***it was published if AL was orthodox and was ***comforted ***when assured it was?
“The question of these dubia is for me mainly a question of procedure,” he said at a press conference before the talks at Limerick’s cathedral house. “That cardinals, who should be the closest collaborators of the pope, try to force him, to put pressure on him to give a public response to their publicized, personal letter to the pope - this is absolutely inconvenient behavior, I’m sorry to say. If they want to have an audience with the pope, they ask for an audience; but they do not publish that they asked for an audience.”

On Amoris’s mixed reception, Schönborn said he wasn’t surprised at bishops disagreeing “because the reception of an important document takes time.” Pointing to the Second Vatican Council’s document on other religions, Nostra Aetate, he said 50 years later “it’s still very much in debate and the document has not given us the solution to everything.”
So giving Communion to sexually active remarried divorcees is a ‘question of procedure’?
Francis at one point in the synod described the question of communion for the divorced and remarried as a “trap,” because it stopped people looking at the concrete situation, Schönborn reported, adding that Amoris asks, first of all, that each case is examined with its own particular characteristics.

But before the question of communion can be addressed, an examination of conscience is needed (Amoris suggests five searching questions). “The question of communion can come after that.”

There may be cases when the sacrament can be given, [my emphasis] he said, but they needed discernment - for which Amoris gives guidelines.
Ah!

Well, Cardinal Schönborn appears to be right in this article. But I find it odd that he’s not surprised by bishops’ disagreeing. He gives basically a non answer to anyone asking “Why is it OK to receive the Eucharist (in this state) in Malta and Germany, but not in Poland??”

In any case, of course AL is an orthodox document. But some which to see it in an unorthodox light, and misuse it, as Archbishop Sample pointed out.

“There may be cases when the sacrament can be given,he said, but they needed discernment - for which Amoris gives guidelines.”

Cardinal Schonborn is actually right here. However, AL simply reiterates the guidelines already in place by previous popes. There has been no change in doctrine or sacramental practice, even though some think there has been. Bishop Steven Lopes explained this well in his pastoral letter on AL. He actually explains it a lot better than cardinal Schonborn did, and I really do wonder why the cardinal could not speak plainly and call out some of these bishops who “are interpreting Amoris laetitia according to their own way of understanding the teaching of the Pope, which] does not follow the line of Catholic doctrine,” as Cardinal Muller has pointed out.

Anyways, to quote at length (for those that haven’t read it yet) from Bishop Lopes’ well written pastoral letter, emphases mine:

While there are many Catholics who have “recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions … the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the first marriage was” (Catechism, 1650)… In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis calls upon the whole Catholic community, clergy and laity alike, to accompany those among us who have civically remarried after an experience of divorce.

Accompaniment begins, therefore, in reminding people in this circumstance that they are loved by God and remain cherished members of the Church…

The formation of conscience “can include the help of the sacraments,” including reconciliation and, under certain conditions, the Eucharist (351). As the Church teaches, and has always and firmly maintained, because reception of the Eucharist is the reception of Christ himself, “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of reconciliation before coming to Communion” (Catechism, 1385). St. Paul cautioned that “anyone who eats and drinks unworthily, without discerning the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29), as Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed: “In the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, ‘one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin’” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 36).

Under the guidance of their pastor, avoiding occasions of confusion or scandal, divorced-and-civilly-remarried persons may receive the Eucharist, on the condition that when, “for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). A civilly-remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation. Such a couple may experience continence as difficult, and they may sometimes fail, in which case they are, like any Christian, to repent, confess their sins, and begin anew.

Reconciliation requires contrition, the “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (Catechism, 1451). A civilly-remarried couple firmly resolving complete chastity thus resolves not to sin again, which differs in kind from a civilly-remarried couple who do not firmly intend to live chastely, however much they may feel sorrow for the failure of their first marriage. In this situation, they either do not acknowledge that their unchastity, which is adultery, is gravely wrong, or they do not firmly intend to avoid sin.** In either case, the disposition required for reconciliation is not satisfied, and they would receive the Eucharist in a condition of grave sin. Unless and until the civilly remarried honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely, sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist.**

The firm intention for a chaste life is difficult, but chastity is possible, and it “can be followed with the help of grace” (Amoris Laetitia, 295).

Cardinal Muller, from the interview linked previously above mentions this:" To all these [bishops] who are speaking excessively, I urge them to first study the doctrine on the papacy and on the episcopate in the two Vatican Councils, without forgetting the doctrine of the seven sacraments (the Fourth Lateran Council, the Council of Florence, the Council of Trent and Vatican II). The Bishop, as Teacher of the Word, must himself be well-formed first lest he fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind."

Bishop Lopes has clearly studied the doctrine of the papacy and has not forgotten the doctrine of the seven sacraments. Sadly, I don’t think that the same can be said for some other bishops. We need to keep praying for our leaders.

Are there people advocating that continence is not a requirement?

Yes, that being the controversy attached to AL.

Then what about this?

The firm intention for a chaste life is difficult, but chastity is possible, and it “can be followed with the help of grace” (Amoris Laetitia, 295).

So there are bishops saying chastity in civil remarriage is not required?

…How can divorce and remarriage not require continence to remain in state of grace…?

That’s all well and fine and I understand the nuance of the situation.

But what do we do when a couple in an irregular situation who has declared to live a life of continence in agreement with their pastor, who then finds a month later find that they succumbed to desires and impulses that they were not able to master? This is far more than a single man or woman who commits the sin of self-abuse because of hormones, loneliness or whatever. This is a case of the grave sin of adultery. The situation of a sacramentally married person living with another who is not their spouse is ripe for the commission of this sin. Part of the condition for reconciliation in the sacrament of penance is to avoid sin and the near occasion of sin. How is it that two people can maintain to avoid the near occasion when they share a house as husband and wife?

I would think that the cases where people in this situation who could justly present themselves for communion would be very rare, if not practically non-existent. It seems a very dangerous path to accommodate a tiny few while sowing confusion amongst the remaining multitudes.

A good document, though it does not directly address communion for the remarried at all.

However, AL simply reiterates the guidelines already in place by previous popes. There has been no change in doctrine or sacramental practice, even though some think there has been. Bishop Steven Lopes explained this well in his pastoral letter on AL. He actually explains it a lot better than cardinal Schonborn did, and I really do wonder why the cardinal could not speak plainly and call out some of these bishops who “are interpreting Amoris laetitia according to their own way of understanding the teaching of the Pope, which] does not follow the line of Catholic doctrine,” .

Were it so clear that AL marks no distinction from what went before in respect of communion for the remarried, it would be plain from the document and those bishops going in another direction would be called to account.

Does anyone have the Argentinian bishops letter to the Pope, noting the Pope has declared their interpretation of AL (on this issue) correct.

:confused: No bishop said that. Chastity is required by everyone everywhere and always.

So what’s the issue with continence then? Amoris Laetitia didn’t waive that requirement did it?

Depends who you ask. That’s the point.

Perhaps such cases are rare or uncommon, but I wouldn’t say non-existent. The couple would simply go to Confession again, just as we all do when we mess up again. This is, of course, assuming they show contrition for their sin, just like all of us.

Take the porn addict for example. He firmly resolves, with the help of God’s grace in the sacrament of confession, to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin. However, when he gets home, he still has access to the Internet. Should he get rid of the Internet? That wouldn’t be feasible if he uses it for work. Same scenario with a civilly married husband and wife who have kids together to care for. They have to remain chaste as best they can, as St. John Paul points out in FC.

[quote=Rau]Were it so clear that AL marks no distinction from what went before in respect of communion for the remarried, it would be plain from the document and those bishops going in another direction would be called to account.
[/quote]

There’s an interview, that I’ll try and find again later, of Cardinal Burke commenting that AL is entirely orthodox. However, I understand your point. Many people have pointed out that the wording of the papal document makes the text very easy to twist. So you do raise a good point. I do think that AL is clear as long as one reads the document in light of Church teaching, as Archbishop Sample points out in his pastoral letter. It applies to the matter of the Eucharist as well, even if he doesn’t explicitly mention it as you observed.

There are two sides - one says it is orthodox and changes nothing, one says it is a development. Only the Pope can make it clear. The Pope says the Argentinian Bishops have it correct. The Pope decided not to respond to the Dubia.

I do think that AL is clear as long as one reads the document in light of Church teaching, as Archbishop Sample points out in his pastoral letter. It applies to the matter of the Eucharist as well, even if he doesn’t explicitly mention it as you observed.

All this says is that there is sufficient ambiguity in AL to read it in accord with what has gone before. Such a statement could equally be described as a twisting of words.

An addiction is an entirely different thing. Two people living together as husband and wife outside of the sacrament of marriage (especially when one is already sacramentally married to another) and engaging in relations designed exclusively for united spouses is more than just someone falling to a personal weakness.

How can a person go to confession and promise to sin no more when their entire situation is objectively sinful to begin with? Adultery is not something that just “happens.” Is not the proper recourse to change the situation? One wouldn’t tell an alcoholic that it is ok to hang out in a bar. Likewise, how could one advise a couple in an objective state of sin that it is ok to remain in that situation, just “try, try again” to keep from committing adultery?

The danger of the situation is that we now have bishops in Belgium, Germany and Malta telling co-habitating couples that they can decide whether or not to present themselves for communion while bishops in America and Poland are saying they shouldn’t. Pope Francis should really step up to clarify the situation. One wonders why he won’t?

Indeed, only he can make it clear. Thankfully, a private correspondence to the Argentinian bishops does not constitute an act of the Magisterium. We can only pray that he will answer the dubia

All this says is that there is sufficient ambiguity in AL to read it in accord with what has gone before. Such a statement could equally be described as a twisting of words.

I’m not denying that portions of Chapter 8 are ambiguous. But I won’t call an orthodox reading of the document a “twisting of words” either. Those who read the document in a heterodox light are the ones doing the twisting. I stand by Archbishop Sample’s words, which apply here:

Despite the clear teaching of the Church, some have misused elements of Amoris Laetitia to support positions that are not compatible with Church teaching. This has created some confusion and consternation amongst the faithful. Given the nature of doctrinal and moral development, certain positions are incompatible with
genuine doctrine, pastoral practice, and sacramental discipline. Since such positions are illicit, Amoris Laetitia cannot be legitimately used to offer support for them. The text cannot and ought not be misused in support of [those] errors.

[quote=TimD]An addiction is an entirely different thing.
[/quote]

No analogy is perfect, Tim. But my point still stands. If someone in a state of sin has firm purpose of amendment not to sin, that is sufficient for absolution. Only God can judge if that person is telling the truth when they make their Act of Contrition in the confessional.

Is not the proper recourse to change the situation? One wouldn’t tell an alcoholic that it is ok to hang out in a bar. Likewise, how could one advise a couple in an objective state of sin that it is ok to remain in that situation, just “try, try again” to keep from committing adultery?

Yes, changing the situation is the proper recourse. It is obviously the preferred method of recourse. But St. John Paul made clear in FC that there are cases where this preferred method, this “obligation to separate”, cannot be satisfied. So when you ask how could one advise such a thing to a civilly remarried couple with children of their own, I think you’d have to ask St. John Paul. He was very clear that this is a case where receiving Communion is possible:

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to** the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who**, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, **are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. **

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, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."

I don’t have numbers for you on how often this happens, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

The danger of the situation is that we now have bishops in Belgium, Germany and Malta telling co-habitating couples that they can decide whether or not to present themselves for Communion while bishops in America and Poland are saying they shouldn’t. Pope Francis should really step up to clarify the situation. One wonders why he won’t?

I wonder why too, Tim. I agree with you; the situation is dangerous with these contradictory statements by bishops and bishops’ conferences. We can only pray that the division in the Church ceases, and laity and hierarchy both accept the true teaching of the Church.

And yet AL spends quite some pages examining what you suggest here has a straightforward solution. The situation can be complex - with children from a prior marriage, children from the present civil marriage and so on.

Here is the relevant passage from the Argentinian bishops’ letter:

  1. When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, it is possible to propose that they make the effort of living in continence. Amoris Laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and leaves open the possibility of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation when one fails in this intention (cf. note 364, according to the teaching of Saint John Paul II to Cardinal W. Baum, of 22/03/1996).

Notice how the Argentinian bishops present the continence option (living as brother and sister) merely as something “feasible” in “concrete circumstances” - not as something necessary in order to avoid adultery.

BTW Saint John Paul II doesn’t say what they claim he says, but commenting on that would make the post too long.

  1. In other, more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace.

And here we have it, all quite plain and unambiguous. The “aforementioned option” refers to the continence option mentioned (rather hesitantly) in heading 5. Here, the remarried divorcee - although committing a sin in engaging in sex with his/her partner - may have “limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability”. So, according to the Argentinian bishops, adultery is not always mortal sin. Adultery is further excused if the children are damaged by a “subsequent fault” - presumably one partner leaving another when he/she is no longer sexually satisfied. These sexually active cohabiting partners may go to Confession and receive Communion without having to practise continence - that’s covered in heading 5.

The Holy Father has for the present thrown his weight behind the Argentinian bishops:
The document [the Argentinian bishops’ directives] is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. And I am certain that it will do much good. May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity.

I wonder how much of the Pope’s personal crusade on this matter derives from the situation of his divorced sister and his co-habituating nephew?

Indian blog.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation requires the affirmation not to sin and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Co-habitation seems to be a violation of that very important aspect of conversion.

I have never seen where the latter part is a requirement, though what that means is no black and white. Living is a near occasion of sin. In a case where a married couple lives as brother and sister, perfection is not a requirement.

It isnt objectively sinful.
It is objectively disordered. That doesnt alone mean grave sins are being committed.

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