Bishops in Kazakhstan say no Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics

In Kazakhstan, "divorced people living with someone else would not dare ask for holy Communion because they know they are living in a situation of sin. It would be blasphemy," said Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana. (CNS photo illustration/Mike Crupi) In Kazakhstan, "divorced people living with someone else would not dare ask for holy Communion because they know they are living in a situation of sin. It would be blasphemy," said Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana. (CNS photo illustration/Mike Crupi)

ROME (CNS) -- In Kazakhstan, "divorced people living with someone else would not dare ask for holy Communion because they know they are living in a situation of sin. It would be blasphemy," said Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana.

Archbishop Tomash Peta of Astana, Bishop Schneider and retired Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda published a statement on "the immutable truths about sacramental marriage" in late December.

Advertisement

Bishop Schneider told Catholic News Service in Rome Jan. 4 that their statement was in response to some bishops' conferences issuing norms and guidelines that foresee the possibility of a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic returning to the sacraments. The norms and guidelines are the bishops' responses to Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia."

The norms and guidelines are the bishops' responses to Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia."

But the three bishops from Kazakhstan said in their statement that no bishop or group of bishops has the authority to authorize Communion for Catholics who are divorced and remarried unless the couple has received an annulment or has made a sincere pledge to abstain from sexual relations.

An Italian website reported Jan. 3 that Italian Archbishop Luigi Negri, the retired archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, and Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former nuncio to the United States, had endorsed the statement of the three Kazakhstan bishops.

Bishop Schneider told CNS Jan. 4 that "if different people read our statement as a confrontation with the pope, that is their view, not ours. It is not a rebuke, confrontation or challenge, but a service in charity and truth."

"If different people read our statement as a confrontation with the pope, that is their view, not ours."

In early December, at the request of Pope Francis, the Vatican website and the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis," the official record of Vatican documents and acts, published the guidelines of the bishops' in Argentina's Buenos Aires region and a letter from Pope Francis approving the bishops' interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia."

In outlining a process of discernment to be led by a priest, the Buenos Aires' guidelines do not say all Catholics are welcome to receive Communion no matter what their marital situation is, nor do they say no Catholic in a second marriage may access the sacraments.

The process, they said, first of all should help the couple recognize their situation, understand church teaching on the permanence of marriage and take steps toward living a more Christian life.

"When feasible," the guidelines said, divorced and civilly remarried couples should be encouraged to abstain from sexual relations, which would allow them to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

While there is no such thing as "unrestricted access to the sacraments," the bishops said, in some situations, after a thorough process of discernment and examination of the culpability of the individual in the failure of the sacramental marriage, the pope's exhortation "opens the possibility" to reception of the sacraments.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Carol Cox
3 months 2 weeks ago

Good grief! How many times must divorced/annulled Catholics be punished for leaving marriages which were abusive and abyssmal?
This is a sad commentary attributed to the three bishops from Kazakhstan! If my confessor accepts my petition seeking forgiveness, who are they to say that I am unforgiven AND should be further alienated and demeaned within the church community by denying me Holy Communion There is only One being who may judge my soul and the sins held within it, God! Forgiveness is something that God repeatedly petitions us to seek. Yet, you would put a road-block to deter our search to re-establish a communion and covenant with God! Shame on you!

Patty Bennett
3 months 2 weeks ago

Reply to Carol,
I think there has been so much confusion in the last few decades about the meaning of sacramental marriage, and that makes the statements of these bishops so hard to understand.
First of all, this is not a punishment. While divorce is not good, the Catholic Church does understand that it is important to protect yourself, and does allow separation in cases of abuse. People in those situations still receive the sacraments, and there is no reason why they shouldn't. Unfortunately, some people misunderstand and think that divorce in and of itself prevents people from receiving the Eucharist. That is not true.
Also, divorce and declaration of nullity are not the same thing. Jesus teaches us that what God has joined, we must not divide. A declaration of nullity is the determination that an authentic marriage didn't exist in the first place--at the time of the wedding, there was some factor that prevented an marriage from taking place. Sometimes, the couple is not aware of it at the time. This is sadly understandable, and all too common, when many people are not fully aware of the meaning and indissolubility of marriage.
Also, in the marriage vows that we take before God, we promise that we will stay married "for better or for worse, for richer, or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." We really mean this, and it is God who joins us.
So, even in the case of "worse", we are married, and even if we need to separate, God does not permit us to find someone else. Yes, that might be lonely at times, but God will give us to grace and strength to not only survive, but actually thrive.
It is not the divorce that prevents people from returning to Communion, it is living with another person AS IF this were the spouse, when there is a previous sacramental marriage.
What needs to be understood is that the Church is NOT putting up a roadblock. You are NOT being demeaned! God loves you! Every one of us needs forgiveness for something. We must also remember that forgiveness and repentance necessarily go together with a firm purpose of amendment. If I'm sorry for a sin I committed and go to confession, if I plan to keep doing the same sin, I'm not really sorry. Forgiveness doesn't mean that my sin is OK. A person may be sorry about being divorced, and of course God forgives. That does not mean that God gives permission to act as though they were married to someone else. Only God can judge our souls, but He gives us instructions how to judge ACTIONS; that is how we are able to discern His will. No one wants to keep you away from a relationship with God. I'm really sorry you feel that way. I hope that helps.

Neil Lamb
3 months 2 weeks ago

Orthodox bishops disagree. 4 count em, 4 divorces

Neil Lamb
3 months 2 weeks ago

So is the Orthodox church now hetero orthodox

Paul Graham
3 months 2 weeks ago

What about the forgiveness of sin? This the only one that is cannot be forgiven? Rape, Murder, Kidnapping, Extortion, beating the crap out of a wife and children, all sorts of evil but a bad pick for a mate and it's all over for you. Ostracized forever. I just don't get it.

Patty Bennett
3 months 2 weeks ago

Of course, this leads to still more questions. Amoris Laetitia is still ambiguous.
" 'When feasible', the guidelines said, divorced and civilly remarried couples should be encouraged to abstain from sexual relations, which would allow them to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist." WHAT IS FEASIBLE? This implies that we are only expected to follow God's will when it's FEASIBLE?! Huh?
Also this: "...after a thorough process of discernment and examination of the CULPABILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL in the failure of the sacramental marriage, the pope's exhortation 'opens the possibility' to the reception of the sacraments." But JESUS said that what God has joined, man must not divide.
What does the "FAILURE of the sacramental marriage" mean? Does this refer to the fact that the couple got a civil DIVORCE? That's what it SEEMS to mean. OR does it mean that there was some pre-existing impediment, and therefor there was actually NO sacramental marriage to begin with? It matters much, but it isn't clear. It appears to be deliberately vague. IF it means divorce, then really, no matter WHO was primarily at fault, IF there was a sacramental marriage, then IN GOD'S EYES, the couple are still married, and will remain married, until one of them dies. Any "remarriage" after an authentic sacramental marriage, when both the husband and wife are still alive, then, is no marriage at all-- IN GOD'S EYES. I realize this can be a hard saying to take, but we need to see things as God wills, not as would seem pleasing to people. God truly DOES know best. And He DOES give us the grace to follow His will.

Leo Sprietsma
3 months 2 weeks ago

One problem about Church divorce rules is that Jesus, in the Gospels, and Paul, in his epistle to Corinthians, is ambiguous about the rules.
What exactly did Jesus actually say? 'No Divorce' - period. Or 'no divorce except for reasons of adultery -- or 'sexual impropriety'. according to some recent translations.? And is it true that, - as St. Paul advises - if ones spouse causes too much trouble (speaking of a non-christian objecting to a spouses' conversion - then get divorced, on the grounds that 'God does not call us to live in disharmony', but to live in peace.

The first reaction of the Apostles to Jesus' 'any re-marriage is adultery' rule was that 'Man!, if that's the case, it would be better not to get married!' I suppose that, even back then, there were people who lived together without benefit of official marriage.

'The Church' officials were quick to make absolute laws for married people getting divorced and entering a seccond marriage based on just one passage; but when it came to that saying about 'becoming eunuchs' and castrating oneself, they were pretty quick to say; "oh, Jesus did not really mean THAT!"

Stephanus Diaconus
3 months 1 week ago

There is no ambiguity. The Exception in Matthew arose out of a rabbinical debate that preoccupied the minds of early Jewish Christians. If a couple married that were too closely related, could they stay married. Our Divine Lord allowed divorce in that case. In all others, what God has joined together, no man or pope can separate.

Our Divine Lord never encouraged anyone to castrate themselves. He said there were some who had been made eunuchs by men and some who had made themselves eunuchs. He never encouraged anyone to castrate himself, and when Origin castrated himself, most Catholics thought he had misinterpreted the passage.

Neil Lamb
3 months 2 weeks ago

The Most Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic church allows inter communion with the Orthodox. So can a divorced Orthodox individual receive communion in a Roman Catholic Church? How can the Orthodox ever hope to united with Rome? Just asking

Jim Spangler
3 months 2 weeks ago

and who gives the Bishops the right to make judgement. How many women and little boys do they have hidden in their closets! Sorry, unmarried men should not have the say so on people who are being mistreated through abuse, or abandonment. One needs to read and watch the documentaries where in Kazakhstan the employment level is zero and the men leave their wives and children to go to Russia to work for the living, then totally abandon their wife and family at home and remarry. The wife is left caught in a "catch 22" because the church will not allow her to divorce. Get real people, the Church needs to catch up with the real world. They dwell to damn much on TRADITION and misinterpretation of the bible. Jesus does not want to create misery, He is about LOVE, not oppression from a bunch of male dominated hierarchy.

Dan Acosta
3 months 2 weeks ago

The issue is not divorce. The issue is remarriage. Jesus forbade remarriage while the spouse is still alive. Where is the ambiguity?

Stephanus Diaconus
3 months 1 week ago

Our Divine Lord stated that anyone who gets a divorce and remarries commits adultery. St. Paul stated that anyone who receives Holy Communion unworthily (I.e., in a state of mortal sin), commits the mortal sin of sacrilege. Therefore, if a divorced and remarried Catholic receives Holy Communion with the intent to continue sexual relations with the second spouse, he commits the mortal sin of sacrilege.

Any bishop who encourages Catholics to receive Holy Communion when they aren't in a state of grace commits a mortal sin, and any bishop who teaches that receiving Holy Communion when you've committed adultery and haven't repented is a heretic.

Apparently, Pope Francis never got the memo.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.
Gerard O’ConnellApril 21, 2018
Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”