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April 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – According to a Maltese news outlet, Pope Francis thanked the Catholic bishops of Malta for their interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, which says active adulterers may receive Holy Communion if they feel “at peace with God.”

Newsbook reported that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, recently sent the Maltese bishops a letter on behalf of Pope Francis.

The Malta bishops' guidelines opened the door to Communion for Catholics in adulterous unions, saying it might be “humanly impossible” to follow Church teaching and live chastely while civilly remarried. The guidelines also suggest that a couple in an invalid union might “give rise to greater harm” by not committing adultery.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is permanent and lifelong, making “remarriage” an impossibility unless the previous union is declared “null.” The Catholic Church also teaches that the Eucharist is the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, so only Catholics in a “state of grace” may receive it. Catholics are supposed to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion if they have committed serious (mortal) sin. Those who are divorced and civilly remarried must live as “brother and sister” in order to receive the Sacraments.

Shortly after their release, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the Maltese bishops' guidelines

The document released by the Maltese bishops, titled Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, said its instructions are “in line with the directions given by Pope Francis.” 

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Archbishop of Malta, said that seminarians who disagree with his and Bishop Mario Grech's interpretation are free to leave the seminary.

“The seminary gate is open” and they are free to leave, he told the National Catholic Register. Several websites reported Grech threatened to suspend priests who refused Holy Communion to remarried divorcees, which Grech denied.

Canon lawyer Ed Peters called the Malta guidelines a “disaster.”

“In my view the Maltese bishops have effectively invited the Catholics entrusted to them (lay faithful and clergy alike!) to commit a number of objectively gravely evil acts,” he wrote

Peters argued that the Communion for divorced and remarried-endorsing Amoris Laetitia guidelines of the bishops of Buenos Aires, which Vatican Radio confirmed Pope Francis approves of, aren't as bad as the ones released by the Malta bishops. 

Pope Francis hasn't responded to the dubia, or formal request, of four cardinals asking whether Amoris Laetitia is compatible with Catholic morality.