**Top Vatican Legal Expert: Pope Francis opens the door to Communion for Catholics in irregular marriages
In the post-synod exhortation on the family, Pope Francis made it possible for Catholics in non-legitimate unions, including civil remarriage after divorce, to receive the Eucharist under certain conditions, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the Vatican’s top legal expert, affirmed.
He defended this interpretation in a short book on Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia,” released in Italian by the Vatican’s publishing house; an English version of the 51-page text is forthcoming…
The cardinal’s commentary carries weight. He not only participated in the two synods on the family but is the president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the supreme court for church law.
The pope’s exhortation “affirms with great clarity the indissolubility of marriage,” he said. Chapter 8 begins with “a clear definition of marriage; it presents an ideal of marriage. Therefore no one can think the doctrine of marriage has been changed.” But “Amoris” also addresses the reality of Catholics in non-legitimate unions and opens the possibility for them to receive the Eucharist under certain conditions.
He cited as an example the case of a woman who is free to marry according to church law and decides to enter into a stable relationship and lives with a married man, whose wife had left him with three young children. In such a case, he explained, “the children would now consider her their mother and for the man, she is his life,” as she means everything to him. If she eventually recognizes the problem with her situation and decides to leave, then her husband and children will find themselves in great difficulty. But the cardinal said, “If this woman concludes ‘I cannot leave. I cannot do such harm to them,’ then this situation, where she wants to change but cannot change, opens the possibility of admissions to the sacraments.”
In such a situation, the cardinal said, there is the recognition of sin and the sincere desire to change but also the impossibility of making it happen. In this situation, he would tell her, “remain in this situation, and I absolve you…
Cardinal Coccopalmiero shares Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s view that “Amoris” develops church teaching: “It is always the same doctrine, but it takes account of the concrete situation. You affirm the doctrine and can say they should live as brother and sister, but the reality at times does not make this possible.”…
Moreover, he said, “We have an ontology of the person that is general and abstract: Man is made this way, a Christian has this structure, but the fact is you do not simply have in front of you a man, a Christian. You have a person with limitations, conditionings and situations, and if we do not take account of the concrete ontology, then we do not respect the person.”
For example, “if a person comes to you that can only do 50 of the 100 [that is expected], and you recognize that this 50 is the good that is possible now, then I give approval for the 50, but I don’t say you shouldn’t aim for 100.”**