January 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The archdiocese of Braga, Portugal’s recent announcement of the creation of a new program to permit those who are in invalid second marriages to receive Holy Communion is “simply wrong” according to Church law, says a leading expert.
“It doesn’t matter what reasons might be offered by the storied Archdiocese of Braga for its plan to authorize the administering of holy Communion to basic divorced-and-remarried Catholics,” writes Dr. Edward Peters in a recent blog post.
“If that is . . . their plan, they are wrong,” continues Peters. “Patently and gravely wrong. Just like the Maltese. Just like the Germans. And just like a few others if only in terms of the wiggle room they allow themselves in these cases, as do, say, the Argentinians.”
Peters is responding to a plan, reported by LifeSite in December, and mentioned again in January in a brief article by the Catholic Herald, to give “access to the sacraments” to “divorced and remarried Christians” in the Archdiocese of Braga, without any reference to the need to give up the sexual act.
The Archdiocese “will establish a group for accompanying Christians who are divorced and remarried, which will make access to the sacraments possible, in accordance with a process of individual discernment,” according to the announcement published on its website in November.
“Besides giving information and advice regarding the processes for the declaration of nullity of a marriage, the team will accompany each case, so that, after a process of personal discernment, access to the sacraments and the possibility of being godparents will be reevaluated,” the archdiocese declared.
Peters says that the archdiocese is wrong for the simple reason that their plan is prohibited by canon law, and has held in previous blog posts that the law has not been altered by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia of Pope Francis.
“Per Canon 915 (papally issued law, resting on divine law foundations, and, till the current crisis, uncontested by pastoral and canonical tradition in this regard), ministers of holy Communion may not offer that Sacrament . . . to Catholics . . . who, having entered a marriage that enjoys the presumption of validity (c. 1060), then civilly divorce (or are divorced, in other words, regardless of whose ‘fault’ the divorce is), and, failing to obtain . . . an ecclesiastical declaration of nullity (or a variant on the uncommon dissolutions of marriage as discussed chiefly here and here), purport to enter a new marriage,” writes Peters.
Peters recognizes that an exception may be given if the couple agree to live as “brother-and-sister,” but even such people cannot be given Holy Communion if they “are nevertheless known (always if ‘actually’, and usually even if ‘legally’) to be divorced and remarried outside the Church and so (notwithstanding their arguable eligibility for the Sacrament in conscience)” and therefore “give objective scandal to the faith community…”
Since the publication of Amoris laetitia, which appears to endorse giving Holy Communion to those who are divorced and in adulterous second “marriages” under some circumstances, several bishops’ conferences and dioceses have publicly endorsed the practice, such as the Episcopal Conference of Germany, the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium, and the Episcopal Conference of Malta. However, the bishops of Kazakhstan have released a ringing rejection of such a practice, and have reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s “two thousand-year-old sacramental discipline,” which prohibits giving Holy Communion to people in a public state of mortal sin. Other bishops’ conferences have simply remained silent.
Amoris laetitia has also been denounced and questioned by a large number of individual clerics and scholars, including four cardinals who submitted a series of questions or “dubia” to Pope Francis asking for a clarification of his doctrines in light of traditional Catholic teaching. A large group of scholars have endorsed a “Filial Correction” of Pope Francis, condemning several propositions in Amoris laetitia as heretical.
Edward Peters is a professor of canon law at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary and an advisor to the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. His posts about issues related to the Catholic Church’s law are widely cited in the media.