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Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy

March 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A bishop who is considered one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers issued a decree opening various parish leadership roles to divorced couples living in illicit second marriages.

The document, entitled “Rejoice with me,” seeks to implement Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which appears to endorse giving Holy Communion to those who have divorced and illicitly remarried, even if they continue to have sexual relations. It was recently issued by Marcello Semeraro, who is the bishop of the Italian diocese of Albano.

According to Italy’s Religious Information Service (SIR), the decree states that “after a careful evaluation by the pastor,” those who are divorced and remarried may “actively participate in the Liturgy of the Word during the celebration” of Mass as lectors who publicly read the epistle. “They may be deemed ideal for the teaching of the Catholic religion” in schools, even to be “educators of the faith together with other catechists of Christian initiation” or “part of the group of educators … of family groups,” according to the decree.

The directives from Semeraro appear to contradict the laws and tradition of the Catholic Church, which requires that Catholic teachers be “outstanding in correct doctrine” and “the witness of Christian life” (can. 804).

As the secretary of the pope’s “kitchen cabinet,” the Council of Cardinal Advisers, or “C9,” Semeraro is in close contact with Francis, and his implementation of Amoris Laetitia is likely to be informed by private conversations with the pope.

Adultery excused because of ‘immoderate passions,’ habits, and ‘social factors’

In addressing the possibility of allowing divorced and invalidly remarried couples to receive Holy Communion, Bishop Semeraro appears to imply that the sin of adultery can be partially or totally excused by a long list of conditions, including the presence of “immoderate affections,” habits of behavior, and even “social factors” that influence the couple.

“Do not forget that the imputability and the responsibility of an action can be diminished or eliminated by ignorance, inadvertance, violence, fear, habits, immoderate affections, and by other psychic or even social factors,” he writes.

Semeraro also admonishes his priests to not ask anything of the couple that exceeds their “strength,” again apparently referring to abstinence from sexual relations.  

“It is fundamental that whatever is proposed (to the couple in the illicit second marriage) always take into account the real situation of the lives of the interested parties, with the purpose of avoiding that requests be made of them that go beyond their strength, and even beyond that which is requested of the other faithful,” the bishop declared.

Priests of the diocese must consider the “influences and attenuating circumstances that can limit and compromise the freedom to make choices and one’s decision-making capacity,” according to Semeraro.

Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia behind the confusion

Such directives appear to refer to Amoris Laetitia as well as guidelines approved by Pope Francis, which are widely interpreted to permit people who are living in adulterous second unions to receive Holy Communion, despite their failure or refusal to cease sexual relations.

Amoris Laetitia itself contains passages that seem to imply that adulterous sexual relations may be endorsed or accepted by the Creator, or may be excused if they have some good end in mind, notions that run deeply contrary to Catholic dogma.

The Buenos Aires guidelines approved by Pope Francis for its implementation suggest that it may not be “feasible” for an adulterously remarried couple to cease having sexual relations, particularly if they believe that ceasing their sexual activity will undermine their relationship and therefore hurt the children they have had together.

Such claims attributed to Amoris Laetitia have been repeatedly condemned by cardinals, bishops, and theologians, who have gone as far to call it “heresy” for permitting those in public states of mortal sin to receive the sacrament of the body of Christ, and for teaching that those in a state of supernatural grace may be unable to avoid sinning.