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Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, February 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The UK’s top prelate says Amoris Laetitia is in keeping with Catholic tradition and he praised Pope Francis for not responding to the dubia on the controversial exhortation issued by Cardinal Raymond Burke and three others.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols told the Irish Catholic on Wednesday there is “no question” of Amoris Laetitia changing Catholic teaching.

“The issues raised by Amoris Laetitia are not core doctrinal issues,” said the archbishop of Westminster, in Belfast to give a parish lecture.

“These are about how do we live, in very traditional terms actually,” Nichols said. “Everything in Amoris Laetitia is drawn from the tradition of the Church: how do we live the mercy of God and how do we enable people who feel judged, feel excluded, feel as if they have no place, to begin to explore that.”

That seems to be a shift.

Before Nichols left for the October 2014 synod, the London press asked if the Church would change on communion for divorced and remarried.

That would require a “quite a radical rethink of one or another” — that is, the indissolubility of marriage, or the Eucharist — replied the head of the bishops of England and Wales.

Indeed, the Church is now torn by dissension over Chapter 8 of Amoris, which appears to allow Catholics in objectively adulterous unions to receive Holy Communion.

The four cardinals publicly released their five questions or “dubia” November 2016. Burke stated they may have to formally correct the pope if he did not respond.

Nichols said Wednesday that he supports Pope Francis, who “has been chosen under the influence of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church and we will follow his lead.”

He added: “I think the Pope’s patience and reserve about this whole matter is exactly what we should observe.”

While Francis has remained mute over the dubia, the Maltese and German bishops released statements that other Catholics decried as contradicting Church doctrine.

The Germans did so after Cardinal Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rebuked bishops for using Amoris to “justify situations against the will of God.”

“Adultery is always a mortal sin and the bishops who create confusion about this must study the doctrine of the Church,” Müller stated. “We have to help the sinner overcome sin and convert.”

The Maltese bishops declared it may be “humanly impossible” for Catholics in objectively adulterous unions to refrain from sexual relations. Catholics in such circumstances may to receive Holy Communion if “they manage(s), with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God.”

The German guidelines also don’t require Catholics in adulterous unions to live chastely, but state couples can discern with the accompaniment of a priest whether to receive Communion.

The two words “accompaniment” and “discernment” were “at the heart of the Holy Father’s drive to see the Church become a place of mercy and salvation,” and are “central to Amoris Laetitia,” Nichols said in his Belfast lecture.

Francis has also made these words “central to the next Synod of Bishops on ‘Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment,’ by which is meant the task of helping youngsters to see the way in which the call of the Gospel is to take concrete expression and shape their lives,” added the prelate.

“We must never forget that Pope Francis is a Jesuit formed in the Ignatian discipline, a very demanding discipline of trying to discern the Spirit,” said Nichols.

He told the Belfast crowd the bishops of England and Wales “will come in due course to express some guidance” on Amoris Laetitia.

The conference did not issue a statement at their autumn plenary because of dissension in their ranks, according to CruxNow.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth released his own letter on Amoris last year. The exhortation called for a “more compassionate pastoral approach,” but did not allow for divorced and remarried who do not live as brother and sister to receive Communion.

The staunchly orthodox Egan revealed this month his priests asked him whether they should obey their bishop or their pope.

“I’d say both,” Egan tweeted. “But there’s a growing problem: let’s pray for the Church.”

Nichols’ pastoral letter on Amoris emphasized there was more to the exhortation than the question of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, according to CruxNow.

“When we hide nothing from the Lord, when we reflect carefully in prayer, when we open our hearts to the wonder of God’s plan for our happiness, we begin to sense the call of our conscience, that inner core and sanctuary where God’s voice echoes within us,” he wrote.

Nichols has a history of statements and actions seemingly at odds with the Church’s teaching.

In 2008, Nichols suggested in a BBC interview that human embryos were not morally equivalent to adults. In 2010, he suggested the Catholic Church would one day recognize homosexual couples. In 2011, he praised civil partnerships for those in same-sex relationships.

After the 2014 synod, Nichols stated he was disappointed the document didn’t go further on the subject of homosexual Catholics. In 2015, he celebrated Mass for LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, an organization of active homosexuals.

Last July, after the Vatican head of liturgy asked all priests to consider offering Mass facing east, Nichols told his priests in a letter not to “exercise personal preference or taste” by doing so.

In his Wednesday interview, Nichols upheld the priesthood, stating he valued  celibacy “and the fact that [the priesthood] is restricted, as I would believe is the wish of the Lord, to men.”

He also appeared unsympathetic to the notion of “deaconesses,” stating that he found it “difficult to separate the diaconate out of the one Sacrament of Holy Orders.”


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