The debate over Communion for the remarried, which has dominated Pope Francis’s pontificate, has become harder to explain than the geopolitics of the Middle East. But last week the Pope attempted to clarify it. He has added an “apostolic letter” to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis – the record of the papacy’s official acts. The letter was sent to the bishops of Buenos Aires last year, approving their interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.

The bishops appear to say (this is disputed, as we’ll see) that Amoris Laetitia favours Communion for the remarried in some circumstances, even if the new relationship is sexually active. The Pope has now officially approved this reading.

So will everyone now accept that Communion for the remarried can be OK? It seems highly unlikely, for a few reasons.

First, there is little consensus about what the Buenos Aires bishops actually said. Some believe they were licensing Communion for the remarried (even if not living in continence). However, the canonist Edward Peters, an adviser to the Holy See’s top tribunal, tells me: “Its assertions regarding discipline (especially the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics) avoids, albeit narrowly, directly saying that such reception is per se licit.”

More concerning, says Dr Peters, are “the pervasive ambiguities” of the Buenos Aires document, which could open the way for others to “impugn” Church teachings.

Second, even if the document did have a heterodox meaning, it doesn’t actually claim to be a statement of Catholic doctrine.

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