Top Vatican Legal Expert: Pope Francis opens the door to Communion for Catholics in irregular marriages

**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.”**

I reject this teaching with every breath I have.

sigh, I don’t think AL really says that, but it seems like everyone is interpreting that way

what exactly is so difficult about living as brother and sister in this situation? I think it’s just an excuses for a lack of self-control.

I can think of far more difficult and dangerous situations where it would really apply

That example is ridiculous. If that is the type of situation they are considering, then we need not worry about it because it will never happen.

So the pope confirms the indissolubility of marriage but okays people living in irregular circumstances? So marriage remains indissoluble and relations outside of marriage remain a sin. So what is true:

  1. Adultery no longer a sin
  2. Marriage is dissoluble
  3. Individuals get to determine the validity of marriage
  4. Individuals and priests get to decide what sins are or are not sins

One of these things must be true.

I’d like a list of other sins or issues that we can also treat this way.

Maybe it is a recognition on the part of the pope that, although adultery is a sin involving grave matter, there may be certain situations where, due to a lack of full consent of the will, it is only a venial sin and venial sins do not disqualify a Catholic from receiving Holy Communion.

it definitely is. but I don’t think the example used by the cardinal in that article qualifies as such. because anyone can claim that

it really should be a little more serious


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.

Actually, Cardinal Coccapalmerio did not * affirm* anything - he simply gave an opinion, in booklet form , but was unable to attend his own booklet’s presentation:

Exerpts from a CNS article published 8 days before the article linked in the OP -

The cardinal was unable to attend the presentation because of a meeting at the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican publishing house.

. . . Father Costa told reporters the cardinal’s book is not “the Vatican response” to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of “Amoris Laetitia.” Rather, he said, it is an “authoritative” reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion.

I think the difficulty, or people’s fear, is that it at least opens the door to dismissing the other 9 commandments.

That’s very funny.

What do you mean by this way?

Well, if adultery isn’t really a sin, why not torture if it’s for what the participants’ conscience deems a good enough reason?

It would make the jobs of folks I know so much easier.

But I don’t think Cardinal Muller, who is the prefect of the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith thinks this, based on his past comments about Amoris Laetitia?

Different Bishops and Priests seem to have come to very different conclusions regarding Amoris Laetitia?


  1. Individuals and priests get to decide what sins are or are not sins

Justification for answer: if an individual feels that a commandment is too hard to keep then he/she doesn’t have to keep it. This is the mercy of God - we need respect the moral law only as far as we can handle it. If it gets too difficult then we are free to break it.

Christ’s affirmation: “What is impossible for man is possible for God” no longer applies.


Cardinal Coccopalmerio: my Communion guidance wouldn’t apply to gay couples

Excerpt from article by Fr Raymond De Souza:

Four questions for Cardinal Coccopalmerio

First, the very council of which he is the head issued a declaration in 2000 “concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried”. The council explains why canons 915 and 916 prevent the admission of such couples to Holy Communion and makes the point, in legal language, that it can’t be changed because Jesus said so: “The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church.”

The declaration continues: “Any interpretation of canon 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativising the precepts or emptying them of their substance.”

Therefore, if the head of the council publishes in his private capacity advice that is judged erroneous by the extant declaration of his own council, why does he does not declare the declaration no longer in force? If the declaration is still in force, how does he advise parish priests who might seek his guidance? Do X if he replies on his office stationery, but not-X if he responds by way of a personal letter?

Second, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, a leading defender of Amoris Laetitia, recently told his seminarians: “When we begin our reflections on the pastoral implications of Amoris Laetitia, we need to start with the understanding that none of the teaching of the Church has been changed. This includes the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, the directives you find in the Code of Canon Law, and also the role of individual conscience in the determination of personal culpability.”

Does Cardinal Coccopalmerio thus think Cardinal Wuerl is incorrect when he says that the canonical directives are unchanged?

Third, Cardinal Coccopalmerio employs the example of a woman who has been living with a divorced father for 10 years and would like to leave the situation, but concludes that if she does the man will fall into greater sin, and the children will suffer. Therefore she decides to remain and continue their sexual relationship even though she is fully aware that it is sinful and she would otherwise prefer not to commit that sin. There is no coercion here. The woman judges that it is better to continue the sinful behaviour to avoid some potential suffering or sinful behaviour in the future.

How does this not violate the ancient moral principle, stated explicitly in St Paul and reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that it is never permissible to deliberately do evil (sin) in order that good might come from it?

Fourth, cohabiting couples presumably can get married. If they choose not to and live in a sexual relationship which they have no intention of ceasing, on what possible principle can they be granted absolution and Holy Communion? To which the cardinal should be asked: does your inclusion of cohabiting couples mean that you think Amoris Laetitia can be employed to advance a capitulation to the sexual revolution, tout court?

There is much discussion of dubia in Rome these days. Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s intervention has raised more.

Homespun syllogisms is one of the problems that have lead us to where we are. Moral theology is more than a list of rules. The Ten Commandments is only a start, and their application has undeniably been nuanced between the time they were given until the time Jesus was born of Mary, and between then and the end of the apostolic era. It is not just a matter of right, but of necessity that there can only be one final judge of each human being.


That is so true. The way the erroneous interpretation plays out, it almost appears to be the inverse - doesn’t it ? Wouldn’t a much better fit in this case be:

With God, it is impossible, but for man, all things are possible. . . .:hmmm: . . . reminds me of our first parents’ attitude towards the forbidden fruit.

Ecclesiates 1:9-10 , DRV

What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us.

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