The Confraternities of Catholic Clergy, who represent over 1,000 priests in Britain, Ireland, Australia and the United States, said a clarification is “gravely needed to correct the misuse of the Apostolic Exhortation to undermine sacred Tradition”.
The statement, reproduced in full below, says that “the unity of the Church” and the “salvation of souls” are threatened by the widely divergent interpretations of the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, released last April. “We therefore thank the four eminent Cardinals who have recently submitted their dubia to the Holy See.”
The dubia are five yes-or-no questions which aim to clarify Amoris Laetitia. They include whether the remarried can take Communion without resolving to live “in complete continence”, and whether moral absolutes have any exceptions.
However, the council of German bishops have said this week that the remarried can take Communion on a case-by-case basis. Earlier this month, the two Maltese bishops said avoiding sex with a new partner outside a valid marriage could be “impossible”, and that the remarried could take Communion if they discerned that they were “at peace with God”.
The Confraternities say it is essential to accompany people “living in complex situations”, and that this is “easier when the Church expounds her teaching boldly and clearly.”
They add that discipline should follow doctrine, and say: “In particular, since at the present time there is much confusion, it is necessary to make clear that Holy Communion cannot be given to someone choosing to live in a sexual relationship with a person other than their validly espoused husband or wife.”
In March 2015, nearly 500 priests in England and Wales signed a letter pledging their support for the Church’s traditional teaching on Communion for the remarried. A signatory said at the time that priests had faced pressure not to sign. On this occasion, similarly, priests who are members of the Confraternities spoke to the Catholic Herald on condition of anonymity.
One told the Herald: “There is a real danger because some are using Amoris Laetitia to change doctrine and sacramental practice.” Another said that a clarification was needed because different bishops and “even neighbouring parishes are undermining each other”.
Priests said there was “low morale” thanks to the confusion, and a sense of not being supported against pressures to abandon the Gospel. Another asked: “If we change Jesus’ teaching here, what else will go next?”
Statement of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy
As members of the International Confraternities of Catholic Clergy we believe there would be great value in an authoritative interpretation of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia in line with the constant teaching and practice of the Church. This statement comes in light of continuing widespread divergence of understanding and growing divisions in practice. A clarification is clearly needed to correct the misuse of the Apostolic Exhortation to undermine sacred Tradition. We therefore thank the four eminent Cardinals who have recently submitted their dubia to the Holy See, requesting such clarification. The Confraternities recognise that this action has been taken out of love for the Church and concern for the salvation of souls. As the Cardinals themselves have made clear, this step has been taken with deep respect for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and should not in any way be used to foster divisions in the Church. The grave danger to the unity of the Church due to increasing moral relativism must be honestly faced and clearly remedied.
As pastors of souls, we are well aware of the many challenges facing the men and women of today. We strive to help our people, often living in complex situations, to hear the call of Christ and his Gospel. This task is made easier when the Church expounds her teaching boldly and clearly. It is also essential that the Church’s discipline must always follow her dogmatic teaching. In particular, since at the present time there is much confusion, it is necessary to make clear that Holy Communion cannot be given to someone choosing to live in a sexual relationship with a person other than their validly espoused husband or wife. Those who find themselves in this situation are of course deserving of pastoral support and must be helped to play as full a part in the life of the Church as their circumstances allow. In connection with this, it is important to state that conscience is not a law unto itself replacing the holy law of God with private judgment, but rather an echo of the voice of the Creator. The dignity of conscience must be assisted to overcome all ignorance and protected from becoming ‘practically sightless as a result of habitual sin’ (Gaudium et Spes, 16).
Requesting such a clarification, which reiterates the perennial teaching of the Church, is an act of filial love by faithful sons of the Church who turn to our Supreme Shepherd seeking his paternal guidance. It is our desire that this elucidation will enable us and other Catholic priests and deacons to carry out our ministry in ways that are faithful and effective. We hope that this request for clarification may be an occasion for the Holy Father to feed and tend the flock entrusted to him by the Lord and to support us, the clergy, in doing the same.