VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — A Vatican dicastery is preparing a text on the divorced and “re-married” in line with the wishes of Pope Francis, who has called for people in such circumstances to receive Holy Communion – contrary to Catholic teaching.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, made the revelation during the dicastery’s plenary assembly last week.
In a brief greeting to Pope Francis on April 22, the 75-year-old cardinal referenced the “challenges” the dicastery had been studying during its plenary assembly. These included “the challenges of those experiencing marriage crises of all kinds, resulting in the consequent short-circuiting of the transmission of the faith,” he said.
Continuing, Farrell stated:
Today, the need for a specific ministeriality, an authentic closeness and witness on the part of married couples in the service of families, for the pastoral care of those experiencing crises and problems of all kinds is more urgent than ever in the area of family ministry.
With such a focus, Farrell praised the Synod on Synodality, claiming “we are already seeing the fruits that can arise from this reflection, which is situated at the heart of the synodal journey involving the Church on all continents.”
“On this front,” said Farrell, “the dicastery is working on the preparation of a text specifically regarding – as you wished, Holiness – men and women who, having marriage failure behind them, live in new unions.”
Farrell’s praise for the synod gives some clues as to the contents of the dicastery’s document. The latest document to emerge from the Synod on Synodality calls for further “inclusion” for the “neglected and excluded.” Among those who “feel a tension between belonging to the Church and the experience of their own affective relationships,” the document listed:
- “re-married” divorcees,
- single parents,
- people in polygamous “marriages,”
- “LGBTQ people,” etc.
“All in need of a more welcoming Church,” the document stated.
It added that many of the preceding, localized synodal documents had written of “the pain of not being able to access the Sacraments experienced by remarried divorcees and those who have entered into polygamous marriages. There is no unanimity on how to deal with these situations.”
As yet, Farrell has not given any further details about the contents or release date of the document which his dicastery is preparing. LifeSiteNews has contacted the dicastery for more information and will update this report upon receipt of a response.
Divorced and ‘re-married’ theme
The subject of the divorced and “re-married” has been a prominent feature of Pope Francis’ pontificate, especially in light of the now infamous footnote 351 in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the closure of the Synod on the Family.
In the brief lines of the footnote, Pope Francis opened the door to allowing the divorced and “re-married” access to receive Holy Communion.
The chapter presents the case for a deeper “integration” of those in “irregular unions” into the life of the Church. In the footnote, he stated that this “integration” can, “in certain cases,” involve admittance to the sacraments, including the Eucharist. It reads:
In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments… I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’
Causing instant consternation amongst Catholics – clerical and lay – the text was subsequently defended by Francis during an in-flight interview.
Francis was asked if Amoris Laetitia contained a “change in discipline that governs access to the sacraments” for Catholics who are divorced and “re-married.” He replied, “I can say yes, period.” Adding, however, that this would be “too small” of an answer, the Pope then urged reading the presentation of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, calling the heterodox Schönborn a “great theologian who knows the doctrine of the Church.”
“In that presentation your question will have the answer,” said Francis.
Schönborn’s presentation included the controversial footnote, expanding on the Pope’s words and writing that “In the sense of this ‘via caritatis’ (AL 306), the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given ‘in certain cases.’”
Francis later told bishops in Buenos Aires that there was “no other” interpretation of Amoris Laetitia than to allow the divorced and “re-married” to receive Holy Communion
Within months, a group of Catholic scholars issued a letter to all the cardinals and patriarchs, warning that Amoris Laetitia contained “dangers to the faith.”
Cdl. Farrell’s promotion of papal confusion
Farrell himself, raised by Francis to lead the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life in 2016, has been a consistent defender and promoter of Amoris Laetitia. While still new in his post, Farrell stated his desire to implement marriage and family programs based on the document.
Weeks prior, Farrell had championed Amoris Laetitia as remaining “faithful to the doctrine and to the teaching of the Church.”
“I firmly believe [Amoris Laetitia] is the teaching of the Church,” said Farrell. “This is a pastoral document telling us how we should proceed. I believe we should take it as it is.”
Farrell added he wasn’t necessarily saying the divorced and “re-married” should de facto receive Communion, saying instead “that’s a process of discernment and of conscience,” and a “journey.”
“The priest, the pastor needs to accompany people in difficult situations,” he added.
In contrast, Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio championed the Catholic Church’s longstanding teaching that the divorced and remarried whose previous unions the Church has not declared null may not receive Holy Communion. John Paul II wrote:
[The] Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.