Still don't understand what is going on with amoris laetitia

I’ve read and reread this so-called controversial chapter 8 and I still cannot understand what is happening. I really have no clue how certain bishops and priests are coming to the conclusion that pope Francis has loosened any restrictions for the divorced and remarried receiving communion. it says no such thing. sure, some of the language is quite repetitive of teachings that already exist and certain sentences are a bit ambiguious, as in there is not much point to them. but so what? it’s not this huge leap that people are making it out to be. I haven’t found that he’s really said anything new at all. yes, some siatuions may not rise to mortal sin level and pastors need to help people discern that, so? that’s not anything new. the catechism already says this, in genera, about any kind of sin.

the only reasonable explanation for this whole ensuing messis that certain people already had their own agenda, regardless of what the pope says.


HI, Angell

…I tried looking It up–can’t find it anywhere (links open to everything but the Pope’s letter), do you have a link to it?

…I’m not much of a reader, but since you brought it up… I thought I would take a gander!

…though I suspect that much of the fuss has to do with, as you’ve mentioned, preconceptions and agendas… it was done with Vatican II, and I don’t think it will end soon–Pope Francis may be a great humanitarian… but, in my opinion, he is kind of slow at noticing the confusion left by the wake of his exhortations.

Maran atha!


Confirmation bias. I don’t know about the bishops, but I can see something like confirmation bias going on here on CAF. There are just too many people who have a bias one way or the other. They form their point of view from their past, not objectively. Basil Pennington called it, “the listening that we are”. No one is really immune from this, including myself.

Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.

yes, here

it’s not the whole exhortation, only the chapter that is supposed to be questionable

If you want to avoid confirmation bias, you might want to read and research both sides of the question. That is what I have been doing – reading multiple sources that have differing points of view – to come up with my own understanding of what it all means.

The side that says AL is not a change in doctrine – but is a matter of pastoral direction and practice – you will find many articles, video clips and forum posts here at Catholic Answers. Tim Staples had a caller named Stan who raised questions about interpretation and practice. It is one of the Catholic Answers Live programs.

The side that says AL is a change in both doctrine and practice – and a risk to the faith – you might head over to the Remnant and One Peter Five and Father Z’s blog. There are blogs, articles and a video by Michael Matt and Christopher Ferrara that explain why the writers, speakers (and commenters) have serious concerns about the document.

I hope that helps. Point/ counter-point is always a good strategy. Good luck.

no, I didn’t want to do that because I wanted to go in to it with an open mind. I wanted to take the controversial section, read it and form my opinion without so many outside sources bombarding me

I didn’t not find anything that was not inline with catholic teaching, to be honest
and I know what the serious concerns are, it just doesn’t seem as serious reading through the document

and there’s only right answer to all of this, either AL has changed in doctrine, or it hasn’t, it can’t do both

It’s a footnote; 351

351. In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

Which belongs to paragraph 305;

305.  For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”.349 Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”.350 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 end.351 Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us re-member that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.

That is certainly an approach one can take (just look at the document itself). However, to draw an analogy, you could read the words of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights and find that those words remain unchanged from when they were originally written (except for Amendments). No one, however, would seriously claim that the initial founding documents of the USA are practiced and mean exactly what they did when first written. If you did not read the history, the founders’ writings, the decisions of the US Supreme Court, etc. you would come up with a myriad of wrong – completely wrong – understandings and conclusions about US Constitutional law.

The same thing applies here to AL. That AL document is not written in a vacuum. If you have Bishops in one part of the world putting AL into practice one way and Bishops in another part of the world putting AL into practice in an entirely different way (180 degree different) – then all of us as Catholics have a problem. It is not as simple as to whether “the words on the page change the doctrine.”

I think it is disingenuous to say that the only way doctrine can be changed is if it is done by a written change. No, AL doesn’t say explicitly that doctrine has changed. That isn’t what is at issue here. The point is that doctrine can be changed by practice. The written words of AL are now interpreted to mean certain practices that were never the practices before. Are you willing to say: “we (Catholics) believe exactly as we believed before with respect to marriage, divorce, remarriage, the Eucharist and Reconciliation (doctrine hasn’t changed), but we do things 180 degrees differently now that AL was issued …”

That to me is not believable nor credible as an approach.

that’s the whole point, there is not supposed to be an 180 degree change. AL claims no such thing.

doctrine is doctrine, if certain bishops don’t respect doctrine, then they are in error.

pastoral approach, however, is trying to determine if the individual is in mortal sin or not, that’s where the difference lies

again, still nothing new, just look at the section of the catechism about sin and culpability

Angell1: “that’s the whole point, there is not supposed to be an 180 degree change. AL claims no such thing. … doctrine is doctrine, if certain bishops don’t respect doctrine, then they are in error. … pastoral approach, however, is trying to determine if the individual is in mortal sin or not, that’s where the difference lies.”

The Bishops of Malta and the Bishops of Poland. along with a number of other prelates. seem to have very different ideas as to what AL means and how it is to be interpreted in actual practice. I am not going to impute motives for ill or for good to any of these men. I make no claim that they do/ do not respect doctrine or that they are/ are not in error.

There is genuine confusion by some very intelligent, educated, well-read scholars, canon lawyers and clergy. That the Bishops of Malta have a 180 degree difference in opinion/ interpretation of AL as compared to the Bishops of Poland screams of the need for Pope Francis to answer the dubai issued to him by the four Cardinals.

It appears you have decided that AL does not change Catholic doctrine – that it is merely a change in pastoral practice. If that is your conclusion, then there is nothing further to understand; the controversy that is growing by the day will make no sense whatsoever to you. You understand what four Cardinals of the Church do not understand! Kudos!

Technically, it is open to wider interpretations than past teaching. The text itself can be used to support the “traditional” teaching on sex outside of marriage and mortal sin, but because it’s written in a conversational style it’s also broad enough to form several wider interpretations.

See for example the following from Pope St John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio paragraph 84, which explicitly and in all cases refuses Communion to those Catholics who engage in sexually activity outside of a valid marriage for several reasons as explained in the text. Some are suggesting that this has changed with AL, but no explanation is ever given to demonstrate how such an interpretation wouldn’t be a contradiction of past teaching, or explain away why the reasons previously given are no longer relevant.

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

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.”

There is also comparison to the teaching in the 1994 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the specific subject:

Two Catholic theologians, Germain Grisez and John Finnis, have also issued a document outlining several different divergent/contradictory interpretations of AL which can be formed from the text, and have asked the Pope to condemn misuses of his document:

This is the key for me. Regardless of what I think it means when I read it, the fact that the bishops of Malta (and Argentina and San Diego) seem to be coming to radically different conclusions than the bishops of Poland (and Kazakhstan and Philadelphia) tells me that there’s ambiguity that needs to be clarified one way or the other.

For anyone who missed it, I posted a thread with a 90-minute, 3-way debate on the subject at I think it’s pretty enlightening to hear three distinct angles debate the topic head-to-head, rather than via dueling blogs.

well, yes, he probably has to clarify now. but anyone can make a text say whatever they want to say. just look at how the bible gets used that way

I don’t even feel that it has changed pastoral practice all that much. determining culpability for sin is nothing new for pastors

well he makes several references to st. JP II’s document. he doen’st need to repeat all of it for us to know what he’s talking about. and he isn’t saying sex outside of marriage isn’t a sin anymore

Hi, Angell!

…I concur with you–I think that most of the bulk of the chapter deals with setting up the circumstances why so many exist outside of the Sacrament of Marriage (though, in my opinion, some of it is quite soft: bending-over-backwards way past all personal accountability and responsibility).

Still, the effort seems to be to open dialogue between those at the fringes of the Church, bring awareness, to both Cleric and Laity, about our responsibility to be God’s extension of Mercy and Love, and to urge the laity to resolve their lapse by availing themselves of the resources that the Church has to offer through their local parish:

Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society”.366 I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. (

Nowhere, in this paragraph, did I find a hint at abolishing the requisites for Receiving the Holy Eucharist!

Maran atha!



…yeah… I did not read the footnotes–the one you’ve cited does give an opening for not only misrepresentation but also for abuse… it seems that it leaves the local Priest in charge of determining who should Receive and who should not.

It also seems to open a smorgasbord of dissent and confusion as well as enable the breaking of the Sacrament of Marriage… and, as an extension, the Sacrament of Confession… as those who may have knowledge of couples living in adultery/fornication and seeing that they are able to Receive the Holy Eucharist may choose to ignore their personal obligations to seek the Sacrament of Confession before partaking of the Bread and Wine.

Maran atha!


Hi, Angell!

…please read/re-read footnote 351.

…in my estimation, the wording does seem to open up a teaching that is removed from previous Doctrine… in essence, it is setting the precedence that local Bishops/Priest are to determine which non-Sacramental Union should be attributed the ability to Receive the Holy Eucharist…

The footnote does not end in Mercy and Love and offering solace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession); its final statement is that the Eucharist is not to be held from those who are “weak” because it is not a prize for the “perfect.”

…so if I were a Bishop/Priest in a local Catholic parish and a parishioner would approach me with “my husband left me with “x” kids, I have no means to support them and myself, so I met this “good” man who has taken us in and he is able to provide, though he is not a believer/Catholic and will not marry me in the Church, even if I were to get an annulment on my previous marriage…” Reflecting on the issues, should my modus operandi be “Mercy, Love, and integration:” ‘you are a child of God, come to Communion!’?

That footnote does obfuscate the Rule, the Direction, and the Rendering of AL.

Maran atha!


I have read it, it says in certain cases, if it not mortal sin material, then they are not denied communion. the catechism already says, culpability of sin can depend on many factors

if we use your example, there is no reason that the nice lady couldn’t get an annulment for her previous marriage, they don’t need the second husband for that. and he also does not to give consent for a radical signation.

le’ts try a different one. husband in poor African country leaves wife with several kids, they are all muslim, wife has no choice but to marry another man because it’s impossible for a woman to support children on her own, she then converts to the catholic church and is trying her best to conform to the teachings, however, at the present time, she is simply not able to leave her husband, he believe he has full rights over her and essentially forces her in to relations against her will

there are many parts of the world where “divorce and remarriage” does not look like our north American Hollywood version

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