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MILAN, Italy, September 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Angelo Scola, the former archbishop of Milan and a top papal contender in the conclave that elected Francis, reiterated that divorced and remarried Catholics are not to receive Communion without living in continence or the benefit of an annulment.

Access to the Eucharist being limited to those who are in a state of grace is innate to the very character of Christian marriage, he said, because the relationship between Christ the bridegroom and his bride the Church “is the very foundation of marriage.”

Scola, who defended marriage in written articles ahead of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family and again in 2015, restated Church teaching on marriage as well after Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia was promulgated in his diocese in 2016.

He said in a recent interview that he also “spoke about it with the Holy Father during a private audience.”

The continually unfolding sexual abuse crisis in the Church has served to eclipse the controversy surrounding the pope’s document, which gives tacit approval to Holy Communion for Catholics living in objectively sinful situations, veteran Vatican reporter Sandro Magister wrote of the Scola interview at L’Espresso.

Still, Scola noted in the interview that the Church’s teaching on marriage is not apparent in Amoris Laetitia, resulting in myriad differing interpretations of the exhortation.

In Amoris Laetitia and the synod that preceded it, said the cardinal, “the fundamental relationship between Eucharist and marriage is not evident, and this is in my judgment an absence that takes its toll.”

“This absence has exposed ‘Amoris Laetitia’ to a vast array of interpretative incursions,” he said.

Cardinal Scola said the heart of the problem in the question of Communion for divorced and remarried is “the substantial bond between marriage and the Eucharist, in that this is the sacrament of spousal love between Christ and the Church.”

“The non-admissibility of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist is not a punishment that can be taken away or reduced but is inherent in the very character of Christian marriage,” Scola stated, “which, as I have said, lives on the foundation of the Eucharistic gift of Christ the bridegroom to his bride the Church.”

A Catholic who lives in an adulterous or otherwise non-marital union has removed themselves from the Eucharist, he said, and affirmed the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II — that divorced and remarried Catholics who have not had an annulment must live in sexual continence to be disposed of the sacraments. He said this idea is ignored in Francis’ contentious exhortation.

“The result of this is that someone who has excluded himself from the Eucharist by establishing a new union can return to receiving the Eucharistic sacrament only by living in perfect chastity, as affirmed by the apostolic exhortation of John Paul II Familiaris Consortio,” he said.

“But there is no hint of this in Amoris Laetitia,” Scola said. “It is not said that this guideline is no longer valid, but it is also not said that it is still valid. It is simply ignored.”

Pope Benedict XVI had delivered “moving words that document an attention and a sensitivity to the problem that did not suddenly spring forth with Amoris Laetitia” in 2012 while visiting Milan for the World Meeting of Families, he said.

“I was struck in particular by his beautiful off-the-cuff response to a question on the divorced and remarried,” Scola said of Benedict. “He said that it is not enough that the Church should intend to love these persons, but ‘they should see and feel this love.’ And he added that ‘their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church.’