PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, November 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has fired back at Cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell’s suggestion that his guidelines for implementing Pope Francis’ controversial Exhortation Amoris Laetitia are causing “division.”
“I wonder if Cardinal-designate Farrell actually read and understood the Philadelphia guidelines he seems to be questioning. The guidelines have a clear emphasis on mercy and compassion,” the archbishop stated in comments emailed to LifeSiteNews.
Earlier this week, Farrell — one of Pope Francis’ most outspoken American supporters — said that he disagreed with Chaput issuing his own guidelines in his own diocese, stating that implementing the pope's exhortation should be done “in communion” with all U.S. bishops.
But at the center of Farrell’s criticism appears to be Chaput’s insistence that the document be interpreted, as Chaput has previously stated, “within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life.” Chaput’s guidelines unequivocally state that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may not receive Holy Communion unless they “refrain from sexual intimacy.”
For Farrell, this is problematic.
“I don't share the view of what Archbishop Chaput did, no,” the cardinal-designate told Catholic News Service on Tuesday. “I think there are all kinds of different circumstances and situations that we have to look at — each case as it is presented to us,” he said. “I think that is what our Holy Father is speaking about, is when we talk about accompanying, it is not a decision that is made irrespective of the couple.”
But Chaput called Farrell’s criticism of his guidelines, and the fact that he issued the guidelines as a bishop acting in his own diocese, “puzzling.”
“Why would a bishop delay interpreting and applying Amoris Laetitia for the benefit of his people? On a matter as vital as sacramental marriage, hesitation and ambiguity are neither wise nor charitable,” Chaput said.
“I think every bishop in the United States feels a special fidelity to Pope Francis as Holy Father. We live that fidelity by doing the work we were ordained to do as bishops. Under canon law — not to mention common sense — governance of a diocese belongs to the local bishop as a successor of the apostles, not to a conference, though bishops' conferences can often provide a valuable forum for discussion. As a former resident bishop, the cardinal-designate surely knows this, which makes his comments all the more puzzling in the light of our commitment to fraternal collegiality,” he added.
Chaput doubled down on his key for interpreting the exhortation, stating that any implementation that contradicts not only Sacred Scripture but the Church’s previous magisterial teaching is contrary to the mission of the Church given to her by Christ.
“Life is messy. But mercy and compassion cannot be separated from truth and remain legitimate virtues. The Church cannot contradict or circumvent Scripture and her own magisterium without invalidating her mission. This should be obvious. The words of Jesus himself are very direct and radical on the matter of divorce,” he said.
Amoris Laetitia has been a hotbed of controversy since its publication in April. It has been criticized for its ambiguity on the issues of the indissolubility of marriage and whether couples in adulterous relationships can receive Holy Communion.
In September, the Pope seemed to indicate his intention in the document when he wrote to the bishops of Argentina that there was “no other interpretation” of Amoris Laetitia other than one admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion.
Earlier this week, four Cardinals went public with their unanswered letter to Pope Francis that asked him to clarify “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful” stemming from the exhortation.
One of the four cardinals, Raymond Burke, stated Tuesday that should the pope fail to address their concerns the cardinals are contemplating a “formal correction,” something quite rare within the Church.