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Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 22, 2017
Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, arrives for a Vatican press conference in this Sept. 8, 2015, file photo. Cardinal Coccopalmerio has written a book on Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia." (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

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.

In an interview with America on Feb. 17, Cardinal Coccopalmerio described the book as his “personal reflection” on what “Amoris” says about the possibility of admitting Catholics in “non-legitimate” marital situations to the sacraments. He denied that it is his or the Holy See’s response to the questions raised by four cardinals on this matter.

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.

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.’

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.”While he said that he has never had to refuse absolution to anyone, the cardinal nevertheless insisted that “one cannot give absolution except to persons who are repentant and desire or want to change their situation, even if they cannot put their desire into practice now because that would harm innocent persons.” In this way, he said, “the doctrine is safeguarded but takes account of the impossibility.”

Many pastors think admission to the Eucharist is possible only if the couple in an irregular union agree “to live together as brother and sister,” as St. John Paul II stated in “Familiaris Consortio” (No. 84). The cardinal recognized this possibility and said that Francis’ exhortation says “if you are able to do so, very good.”

But, he noted, “‘Amoris Laetitia’ recalls that the Second Vatican Council (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 51) recognized that if a couple abstains from conjugal relations, this could create a crisis for one or both spouses and could lead to a breakdown in fidelity or the breakup of the marriage.”

In such situations, he said, “it’s the person’s conscience that must decide.”

This approach, he said, is in line with the ‘great intuition’ of Vatican II to recognize the good that is already present in a situation and build upon it.

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.”

He emphasized, however, that when it comes to the question of whether to allow persons in irregular marital situations to receive the sacraments, “Amoris” states clearly that “this must be evaluated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, which normally—in my view—should be the parish priest, consulting if necessary with the ordinary, so that he can say to the couple, ‘Yes, you can go to the sacraments.’”

Moreover, he said, it is necessary “to educate the faithful, the community, in this whole matter, through catechesis and explanation, to help them avoid making negative or false judgments when a couple in non-legitimate union is allowed access to the Eucharist.”

He recognized there is resistance in some sectors to “Amoris” but believes this is mainly due to “a pastoral formation, a theoretical formation, that privileges the affirmation of the truth, of doctrine, and at times does not look at the fact that people are in situations where one cannot pretend that they put it into practice.”

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.”

The cardinal advises those who have difficulty accepting Pope Francis’ approach “to not be afraid, to try to understand, to see the beauty of the 50 percent and give them the sacraments, which does not mean that this is definitively the best, no, but it is the best for those who cannot do more at this stage. There are these two elements, therefore: the desire to do more, to reach the maximum, but the impossibility of arriving at that maximum, and so valuing the lesser quantity.” This approach, he said, is in line with the “great intuition” of Vatican II to recognize the good that is already present in a situation and build upon it.

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Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

So many prominent Bishops have now given their interpretations on the famous footnote Francis forgot. I really wish Pope Francis would speak with clarity and address the dubia, although I think he is not speaking because he doesn't know what to say, and silence is better than making a mistake.

It seems that all interpreters of Amoris Laetitia agree on the following points:
1. There has (emphatically) been no change in doctrine (so, the Catechism remains the sure guide for what the Church teaches).
2. Everyone who wants to receive Absolution and Communion must accept the teaching of the Church and truly want to live according to what the Church teaches, if they could.
3. Some people are in situations that are objectively contradictory to the Gospel, and the individual subjectively believes he/she cannot get out of the sinful situation, without sinning in a worse way. What a dilemma? Note, we are not at all dealing with people who just do not accept the Church's moral teaching. that would be a different category.
5. The individuals know they have separated themselves from God and His Church and are eager to come home. And every bishop wants to advise these individuals on how to remove that separation from God.

The difference among interpreters relates only to point #5. While I do not know how this should be resolved, with clarity and consistency, I do wonder, from a purely organizational point of view, if this is a self-inflicted wound that the Holy Father does not know how to get out of, and so he stays silent. While silence is better than making a mistake, he, or his successor, will have to fix this. His heart and head are, perhaps, in conflict. It would certainly not be the first time a pope had such a dilemma.

Saint John Paul, pray for us.

Michael Barberi
7 years 4 months ago


All interpreters of Amoris Laetitia (AL) do not agree on the points you raised.

Your point #1.
> I agree that all interpreters agree that AL did not change doctrine and that many believe that the Catechism is the sure guide to what the Church teaches. Clearly, the Catechism is what the Church teaches. However, everyone does not agree that every word in the Catechism is the complete moral truth on every moral issue. There continues to be profound disagreement among many bishops, priests and most theologians and the world-wide laity on many moral teachings. If you are only referring to the doctrine on marriage, there is much disagreement with the Church on Matthew's exception clause.

Your point #2.
> Where does AL say that those in irregular marriages "must accept" the teaching of the Church on marriage especially if they cannot live according to it? It is not in the guidelines issued by the bishops of Argentina to receive Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, the guidelines that Pope Francis approved. What is clear is that such Catholics must recognize they have made a mistake, want to repent with a contrite heart and have a sincere sorrow for offending God. In this case, they must want to return to God and live a life pleasing to God as best they can. They must demonstrate that they have tried to reconcile their marriage, have treated their children well, and strived to be a good father, although at times they may have failed to do so.

3. Some people are in situations that are objectively contradictory "to the Church's teaching on marriage". However, as mentioned, there continues to be disagreement within the Church on the interpretation of the Gospel, as mentioned, Matthew's exception clause. What if such Catholics have some doubt about the Church's teaching on marriage, but remain contrite in confessing that they are truly sorrow if God is offended by their actions? For example in practicing contraception for good reasons. I often said to a priest that I respectfully disagree with the teaching, give my reasons, but say if I my actions have offended God, I am truly sorry. I tell the priest I pray for enlightenment but I don't believe I have sinned. I do believe that most divorced and remarried Catholics understand the Church's teaching on marriage but also recognize they have make a mistake, have matured, and want to repent and come back to God and the Catholic Church. However, as mentioned, they are in a moral dilemma and cannot live according to the teaching of the Church on marriage.

4 (your # 5). I don't agree that the difference among all interpreters relates to your point #5, as my previous comments make clear.

I think your comments that Pope Francis is guilty of a self-inflicted wound may be your opinion, but this is highly controversial. I do agree that more light should be shed on AL as well as on the questions that some bishops have raised (e.g., the 4 Cardinals and their dubia). However, Pope Francis is emphasizing virtue and the spirit of the law and not over-emphasizing the letter of the law. Doctrine and the practical and pastoral application of the law can exist without contradiction. Nevertheless, it is my hope that more articles will be published on AL. Unfortunately, many bishops will continue to disagree with AL regardless of the theological rationale for the practical and pastoral application of the doctrine on marriage and the role of conscience, discernment, virtue, and the love and mercy of God.

Hopefully, other moral teachings will be reformed in the future based on the pastoral principles inherent in AL.

Matthew DC
7 years 4 months ago

So we have apparently arrived at the desired destination. The divorced and civilly remarried may receive communion. This does not, however, represent a theological "change" but rather a "development." It is not new doctrine, but the same doctrine developed in "a new direction." No wonder the dubia can't be answered. The meanings of words are now in flux.

This reminds me of the Jansenists, who accepted that the pope could decide when propositions are heretical, but they maintained it was not certain that the pope could read texts and correctly ascertain that they contained the condemned propositions. It was a brilliant line of evasive argumentation which the papacy also had to condemn.

Regarding the hypothetical example, I cannot quite understand why the woman couldn't say to her spouse in private: I don't want to leave you and the children, but I must refrain from marital relations until you have annulled your first marriage. In the meantime I will support you and also live my faith, which should be the center of our married life. And if she cannot refrain from marital relations, an act of spiritual communion at every mass while she prays and discerns is unacceptable?

Robert Lewis
7 years 4 months ago

",,,why the woman couldn't say to her spouse in private..."

THIS gets to the heart of the matter: it's a matter to be decided in the confessional, between the priest trained in the CURRENT (that is, "developed") moral theology of the Church, and the sinner, and it is NOT to be tried in public, according to the sanctions of some "catechism" that pharisees have memorized and want to see enforced against other people. What Pope Francis wants to see is that each separate case should be decided on its own merits, with charity AND truth as the essential features of any decision that is thereby reached IN PRIVATE. That would mean, for the busybodies writing here, that they, along with the priests distributing communion, would give the "sinner" the benefit of the doubt regarding the chastity characterizing the "irregular" marriage, and not to worry about "scandalizing the faithful" who shouldn't be venting their prurient interests and getting "scandalized" by very human problems in the first place.

Luis Gutierrez
7 years 4 months ago

I hope he opens the door of all the sacraments to all the faithful with the proper disposition. This includes opening ordination to the priesthood to baptized women who want to serve, especially sisters/nuns who already have chosen celibacy for the sake of the kingdom and who would consent to serve as priests and bishops. NOTHING essential in our Catholic faith would change by opening this door, and St John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" provides a solid basis for overcoming patriarchal theologies that are no longer for the glory of God and the good of souls.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

There you go again, Luis. No matter the topic, you get this in. How about opening up all the sacraments to people of all beliefs and no belief, so no one feels excluded? The way we're heading, inclusion is becoming more important than salvation and we no longer need the Gospel's pesky admonitions about how to live and act. Anybody who opposes can be called a racist, sexist or ...phobe (insert your favorite prefix).

Henry George
7 years 4 months ago

I really do not understand what is going on here.
Is the Pope wanting to allow those who live in ir-regular marriages
to receive communion ?
It seems so.
But I see no mention of Annulling one or both of the previous marriages
being mentioned.
Can someone please explain ?

Kevin Murphy
7 years 4 months ago

This is where Francis has wanted to go all along, ie everyone will do as they please. He's just never been brave enough to come out and say it. He still won't clarify the questions raised. Are we to believe this is the Holy Spirit working?

Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago

Does this really boil down to a question of the Pope's bravery? I think you are bypassing the pastoral and theological issues for a cheap questioning of his character.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

Kevin - While I cannot be sure what Pope Francis really wants (we only get hints of this through a biased media), I think you should have full confidence that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church from falling into error, even if that error is coming from a pope. It is not my position that the Holy Father wants to do anything contrary to the truth. From what I hear from him, I think he is certainly not as disciplined intellectually as St. John Paul or Pope BXVI, and his methods of communicating with the people is certainly imprecise and in broad brushes. It is extraordinary that no one can come out and clearly state what the Magisterium means on this issue. To have everything revolve around interpretation of a footnote in a really long document is no way to run any organization. To have the "Vatican's legal expert" appear to have a different interpretation from the head of the CDF (see this important interview from earlier this month from Cardinal Muller) is very confusing http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2017/02/01/the-pope-is-silent-but-cardinal-muller-speaks-who-responds-to-the-%E2%80%9Cdubia%E2%80%9D-this-way/?refresh_ce . To throw all these opinions out into a very biased media who will focus on anything that seems to deviate from the Catechism is poor communication. And, to have the Pope remain silent throughout, except for an occasional reference to pharisaical thinking or some other insult (highly ironic since Jesus in Mt 19 was lecturing the pharisees in the opposite direction), is really extraordinary.

I really do believe his heart is in the right place and have no doubt the Holy Spirit will protect the Church. But, it is extraordinary that the pope's Council of Cardinals felt it necessary to go public with a vote of confidence, which in the political or business world usually suggests the end is near in an administration. I would also note that his papacy now seems consumed by this point, and prevents him getting much else done. I am left with a pleading prayer to St. John Paul to pray the Church will soon get through this confusion.

Colin Donovan
7 years 4 months ago

The argument that AL will open the door to admission to communion for individuals in other situations of manifest public sinfulness is wrong, though many obviously want to believe it. There are tremendous differences between individuals in a second marriage and others who are locked in various states of sin publicly known. While individual Catholics may be confused and uncertain about the objective sinfulness of such acts, the Church is not. A person committing them must reject the Church’s teaching in order to justify themselves as sinless, or have a willing confessor prepared to do it for them.

The situation of second marriages, however, is quite different. While the Church gives the credit of validity to first marriages, this credit can be erroneous, and is regularly deemed so by marriage tribunals. With or without such a judgement, a couple could be subjectively certain and objectively correct about the invalidity of first marriages, yet unable to demonstrate it. Many facts and inferences from their individual circumstances would have to coalesce for a confessor to legitimately conclude that it could not be demonstrated in the external forum, that they are likely to be correct, and ought to be admitted to the sacraments.

So far, this is little different from past practices, including internal forum solutions in rare cases - tolerated pastorally until barred during Pope John Paul’s reign by the judgment that the 1983 Code had sufficient means to resolve even difficult cases. That claim may have been proven wrong, but that's a different question.

What AL does seem to push the boundaries on is the principle of pastoral gradualism, that instead of the commitment to sexual continence as the sign of a firm purpose of amendment, it admits that in some cases of subjective certainty, toleration could extend to continued sexual activity in the belief, not that adultery is okay but, that it isn’t really adultery in their case.

This seems unjustified and difficult to defend, but it is certainly not comparable to the claim that contraception, fornication and homosexual acts aren’t contrary to the ends and meaning of human sexuality. The starting point for these subjective opinions is rejection of Church teaching, not a subjective opinion about the actuality of a particular marriage bond.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

Colin - this is an excellent point. thank you.

Henry George
7 years 4 months ago

Thank you for your comment.

JR Cosgrove
7 years 4 months ago

I think there is a much deeper issue here and communion for anyone is just a red herring and has the effect of not focusing on what's really at stake here. The real issue is does Catholicism have any meaning in salvation? Or is there such a thing as salvation?

If so who gets to be saved? And if the answer is everybody, why bother to have any standards for living our lives? It questions the meaning of any Catholic doctrine and not just communion. The whole acting out of Catholic beliefs is then a farce and why would remarried Catholics care except for appearances?

I would like to hear the Pope say who can be saved? Absence that I would like to hear any Jesuit answer the question. My guess is that they do not have a definitive answer which means being/acting on Catholic doctrine in reality has no meaning.

Being a Catholic is just belonging to a particular social organization and the desirability of belonging is subject to the whims and fancies at the moment. With such beliefs Catholicism has no further meaning and Catholicism will change with the times to be fashionable..

Thomas Severin
7 years 4 months ago

There is a traditional answer to the question of, "Who can be Saved?," that most Christians and their clergymen would agree to. Any person who is baptized and commits to keeping the 10 Commandments and Jesus' command to Love God and neighbor with his or her whole heart, mind and soul, will be saved.
Jesus in the Gospels, however, repeatedly cautions his disciples to not take salvation for granted. He cautions against the external practice of faith as found in many Pharisees and Sadducees. If actions toward others don't emanate from the heart, as seen in the compassion of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal father, then they don't meet the moral standards established by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus also cautions against any tribalism that claims "We are saved and you are not." God's grace, mercy and compassion are extended to and open to all human beings and yes this does leave open the possibility that all can be saved. Ultimately, God is the one who decides. No human being, pope or Jesuit can definitively say who is saved and who is not and thank God that they can't. For myself, I will gladly leave this decision up to God who loves me even more than my human mother or father.

Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago

"Any person who is baptized and commits to keeping the 10 Commandments and Jesus' command to Love God and neighbor with his or her whole heart, mind and soul, will be saved."

This is quite limited, e.g., Catholic theology acknowledges "anonymous Christians."

Michael Barberi
7 years 4 months ago

The problem with Amoris Laetitia (AL) that have caused confusion is the role of conscience. Conscience is not to be thought of as many do in our culture today, namely, that a person can solely decide for themselves what is right and true in a given set of circumstances. This is not the subjective uninformed conscience that AL is using. Rather it is the ancient theology of conscience set forth in Vatican II's Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et specs. What is important is the discernment process between the person and their pastor. In this regard, AL spells out a whole series of "ifs' that help to guarantee (as best as humanly possible) whether God has spoken directly to a person in the depths of their soul.

The Bishops of Malta emphasis the importance of the discernment process: "If, at the end of the discernment, if it has been undertaken - as Amoris asks - with humility, discretion, and love for the Church and her teaching, if a divorced and civilly person has sincerely searched, with an informed conscience, for God’s will, and has a desire to respond more perfectly to it; and if, at the end of all that, they are “at peace with God,” then they “cannot be precluded” from the sacraments of the Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

The dispute over AL, in short, is not between priests who want to ignore the law versus canon lawyers who insist on its rigid adherence. It is a theological argument over how the law is to be applied and what place conscience occupies. The teaching on conscience is not new. What is new is its development and integration in the praxis of the Church.

Priests are called to form consciences, not to replace them. For those with a contrite heart, God never holds back his love and mercy. Thus, the role of conscience, as articulated in Vatican II, is now being applied to those who are divorced and remarried who want to come back to the Church. The Eucharist is the medicine that will help them gradually move toward the ideal in a second marriage when circumstances do not permit them to live as brothers and sisters.

Derrick Weiller
7 years 4 months ago

In my brief adventure with America I Have learned to value your contributions. They admirably counter those of the Pharisees who make pretense to Faith but who in truth boast little more than the "good little boy's" genuflections to pious convention.

Thank you.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

Derrick – Before you get too comfortable on your high horse, do you think Jesus was a Pharisee in this discussion? Here is how Jesus interacted with them re marriage (Mt 19 NIV)

Matt 19:3-6 “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.’”

The Pharisees, who supported divorce, did not give up:
Matt 19:7-9 “‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”

Even Jesus’ disciples felt Jesus was being too harsh:
Matt 19:11 “The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’

I bet most Catholics are not acquainted with how the Lord spoke in the Gospels, and would think Him some kind of severe fundamentalist if He were preaching today. They might even call him a Pius Pharisee!

Derrick Weiller
7 years 4 months ago

To weaponize Scripture is, shamefully, to disgrace it.
Let Scripture, instead, to be your Pentecost.

As always, I bestow upon you the last word.
Your Abiding Guide:

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

Derrick - it was you that first raised the Scribes and Pharisees in the Scriptures. Wasn't that shameful, especially when it inverted how Jesus acted with them? Think before you write, so your own accusations don't bounce back on you.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 4 months ago

Michael - you probably saw the Crux interview with Cardinal Coccopalmerio, where he is discussing situations where 1) the first marriage is valid and indissoluble, and 2) the person is conscious of the wrongness of the situation. Note this indicates the person's conscience confirms they are actively sinning, not that they are somehow disagreeing on the doctrine. So, they accept the Church's teaching regarding their situation. https://cruxnow.com/interviews/2017/02/21/coccopalmerio-says-theres-no-doctrinal-confusion-amoris/.

There are several other problems about the famous footnote Francis forgot that need to be addressed and have been raised by others. How long should the discernment process go on (days, weeks months)? Does the priest determine when it is over, or the individual? Does it include some study on what the Church teaches and the basis for that teaching? What is the role of repentance? How does the reform of one's life go on? Can the person now be sure they are in a state of grace after it (like one should be after a perfect contrition in the Sacrament of Penance) or are they forever in a state of "lesser" or partial grace? If the person and the priest do not agree, how is that resolved? If the insurmountable obstacle goes away (say the kids grow up and leave), and living as brother and sister is now possible, is there an obligation to revert to that? If one is in a co-habiting situation, how hard should one try to get married before the discernment process is complete? etc. Does it matter if one moves to a new parish or diocese (does it all have to begin again with the new priest, or can someone just tell him he was cleared in the last parish? Is there any documentation (like an annulment would have)?

Also, the Cardinal clearly believes AL does not at all have relevance for same-sex activity (see Crux). See also that, because he is the overseer of canon law, he has to address the meaning of laws on the books (more dubia) http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/02/23/four-questions-for-cardinal-coccopalmerio/

Bottom line, is the Pope needs to speak.

Michael Barberi
7 years 4 months ago


Anyone entering the confessional is mindful that they may have offended God. Most of the time Catholics know they have sinned. However, sometimes one can have doubt about a teaching and believe that they have not committed a sin (e.g., those who practice contraception for good reasons). In this case, it is important that the penitent acknowledge to the priest that if their actions of commission or omission, in any way has offended God, that they profess their sincere sorrow with a contrite heart. When in doubt, they don't have to completely agree with a teaching or say they have sinned. Professing their sincere sorrow for any action that may have offended God is all that is necessary. This is an act of humility and a contrite heart.

In terms of the divorced and remarried, most Catholics understand what the Church teaches. However, we must recognize that It is possible that at the time of their divorce and remarriage many Catholics may not have been going to Mass or fully understood the consequences of their actions. They may not have given a great deal of thought about sin. However, people mature and they eventually realize that they made poor choices and bad decisions that might have harmed their spouse and any existing children. If those that have divorced and remarried have a contrite heart and want to come back to the Church and live a life pleasing to God, AL gives them that opportunity.

As to your many questions, these will be answered as guidelines are formulated for parish priests by their bishops. AL is a new teaching and it will take time to iron out answers to such questions. I am certain that each diocese will conduct training and education regarding the guidelines and how to deal with the potential issues that may emerge. It is expected that in the coming months we will see the bishops of Germany, Austria, England and Wales, and other countries issue similar guidelines.

Those seeking God and forgiveness in the discernment process will, in most cases, lead to a positive decision of an informed conscience with the blessing of their parish priests. I would not worry about some potential difficulties.

As for whether the principles in AL will apply to other moral teachings, time will tell. As Cardinal Schonborn said in paraphrase, AL changed nothing, but it also changed everything. I totally agree. We are witnessing the development and integration of an informed conscience, the principle of graduation, virtue and discernment in the praxis of the Church. This is a great development and something that will open the doors of the Church to many that have been disenfranchised. For centuries the divorced and remarried, and many others, have felt like the cursed of God and not welcomed because of denigrating language and almost impossible legalistic requirements. AL has changed all of this.

I would not hold your breath for the Pope to speak out. His many supporters are doing this for him.

Leonard Villa
7 years 4 months ago

It's not about "non-legitimate" marriages which is a legal term but adulterous unions not marriages! Neither the Pope, Card Coccopalmerio, the Maltese bishops, the Germans bishops or any Catholic has the power to overrule God and His commandments and teachings. The Lord told the woman caught in adultery: Go and sin no more. He did not say: "Go and discern" which is the current squid-ink being used to justify Communion for persons in adulterous unions. The Church's teachings on marriage are not merely an ideal but a reality which can be fulfilled with God's grace. The ideal-canard was the technique used to try to nullify the Church's teachings on contraception. No person can authorize sacrilegious Communions. This is another sign of the battle between the Church and the anti-church referenced by St. John Paul II many years ago. Does this "discernment method' apply to polygamous unions? Does it apply to all the other commandments? The idea that human beings can overrule God in matters right and wrong is the height of hubris called pride imprisoning the person in terrible self-deception. As Cardinal Mueller rightly said: mortal sin and sanctifying grace cannot exist together.

Michael Barberi
7 years 4 months ago


There is significant disagreement over Matthew's exception clause where the dispute is whether divorce and remarriage is permitted for 'pornea'. The translation of this Greek word is 'sexual immorality' and one of the worse examples of that is adultery. There is 3 translations that are possible, one of which is an 'unlawful marriage' such as when two people are too close in relationship. However, the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars agree that the most likely and reasonable translation is adultery. We can debate this to death, but the point you are rising about "God's law" Is mostly based on Church teachings. Many teachings that were taught for centuries by Popes and Councils as truth were eventually changed. Usury was considered 'divine law' for centuries because it was clearly written in Scripture and proclaimed as such in several Papal bulls and Councils. Yet, this law was eventually changed as well.

There is a difference between the law or doctrine and its practical and pastoral application in circumstances. For example, the Commandments say 'do not kill' but we know that the application of this divine law does not apply literally. Aquinas said that killing a person to safeguard justice is permitted, but not for vengeance. Nor is killing a person in self defense immoral.

I also do not agree that this is a battle between the Church and the anti-Church. I presume you don't believe that Pope Francis' AL is equivalent to the anti-Church. I think we will have to agree to disagree on these issues.Thanks for your comments.

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