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Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

January 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholics who are civilly divorced and remarried “cannot receive the Eucharistic Communion” as long as they do not live in abstinence, explains a pastoral letter published by the Personal Anglican Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter on Tuesday.

The letter emphasizes that the Ordinariate continues the tradition of the Church and “maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the first marriage was.”

A couple that “either does not acknowledge their unchastity, which is adultery, is gravely wrong, or do not firmly intend to avoid sin” is in a situation in which the disposition required for Reconciliation is not satisfied, “and they would receive the Eucharist in a condition of grave sin,” the letter explained. “Pastoral discernment admits of no exceptions to the moral law, nor does it replace moral law with the private judgments of conscience.”

The letter titled “A Pledged Troth” was published on the website of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and is endorsed by the Bishop Steven J. Lopes. He was appointed bishop of the Ordinariate in November 2015 after he serving in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Lopes, 41, is the youngest bishop in the world.

The Personal Ordinariate was created by the Vatican in 2012 and serves Anglican communities and clergy who wish to become Catholic without having to give up their liturgical heritage and traditions. It is based in Houston, Texas. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham is its principal church, connecting with 45 parishes in the U.S. and Canada.

The letter strongly declares the unbroken continuity of Church tradition in difficult moral questions, despite the lapse of the Anglican community, which “has made pastoral accommodation” across the whole spectrum of moral decline. “It has liberalized divorce, allowed contraception, admitted those engaged in homosexual activity to Communion and even (in some places) to the ordained ministry, and begun to bless same-sex unions.’ As a result, that Communion has fractured as the plain teaching of Scripture, Tradition and reason was rejected.”

A person who is divorced and civilly remarried should be welcomed as a valued member in the Church and “not consider themselves separated from the Church.” But they should be “welcomed with great love,” they may not participate in Communion if they do not commit to living sexual abstinence in their new civil union as they are sacramentally married to their previous partner.

The exemplary letter stands in stark contrast to the bishops of Malta who recently published guidelines for admission to Communion for those who are “at peace with God.” The Maltese bishops put the decision-making process in the hands of the individual as matter of conscience in cases where it becomes “humanly impossible” to remain chaste.

“A Pledged Troth,” on the other hand, calls for the formation of conscience. A personal discernment, “which incorporates individual conscience in its reflection,” is not “however, a matter for the individual to determine privately,” but must be “guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor” (Cf. AL, 303, 307). As part of this discernment, the letter strongly dissuades priests from granting “exceptions” while stressing that the couple ought to undergo examination to determine if a previous marriage has been valid according to Church law.

“A civilly-remarried couple firmly resolving complete chastity thus resolves not to sin again, which differs in kind from a civilly-remarried couple who do not firmly intend to live chastely, however much they may feel sorrow for the failure of their first marriage. […] Unless and until the civilly remarried honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely, sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist,” the Ordinariate’s letter emphasizes.

These statements, to be applied in all communities and parishes connected to the Ordinariate, serve as an example for the application of Amoris Laetitia in continuation with Church tradition. They recall that “the firm intention for a chaste life is difficult, but chastity is possible, and it ‘can be followed with the help of grace’ (Amoris Laetitia, 295). Every person is called to chastity, whether married or not, and the assistance of grace and the tenderness of mercy is available to all.”

The letter stresses “the indissolubility of marriage, rooted in nature, reason, Revelation and God’s own unchanging nature,” and explains that marriage is “permanent in unity, ‘that, once validly entered, it is a reality, henceforth irrevocable’ (Catechism, 1638-1640). No one, not even the Church herself, has ‘the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom’ (1640).”


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