Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, has said the divorced and remarried cannot receive Communion, and that the teaching of St John Paul II and Benedict XVI still stands.
The Church has traditionally taught that the remarried cannot receive Communion unless living “as brother and sister”. The teaching, which has its roots in the Early Church, was reaffirmed by John Paul and Benedict.
But it has been debated over the last two years, and Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which some expected to reaffirm the teaching, instead addressed it vaguely.
In an article for the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Sun, Bishop Olmsted affirms the traditional teaching. He writes: “Accompaniment is possible and should be the case in our parishes.
“This does not, however, include receiving Holy Communion for those who are divorced and remarried.”
Bishop Olmsted goes on: “Throughout Amoris Laetitia we see a continuity with the Church’s Magisterium, especially that of Blessed Paul VI, St John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI which reaffirm the constant tradition of the Church.”
He then quotes from John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio and Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum Caritatis, two texts which affirm the Church’s doctrine.
Bishop Olmsted, the spiritual leader of the diocese’s 1.1 million Catholics, says that conscience must be formed in the light of “God’s word and the authoritative teaching of the Church. For good reason, then, Pope Francis affirms both of these as the primary foundation for his document.”
Last week, the bishops of the Buenos Aires region became the first to suggest that traditional teaching could be overridden. In guidelines for priests, the bishops suggested that some remarried people whose “responsibility and culpability” were diminished might be able to receive Communion, even if not trying to live as brother and sister.
A letter from the Pope congratulated the bishops on their guidelines, leading to speculation that he opposed the Church’s teaching.
Bishop Olmsted’s reaffirmation of that teaching follows a similar statement from the bishops of Alberta, Canada. Other bishops, and the entire bishops’ conferences of Costa Rica and Poland, have also affirmed the teaching expressed in Familiaris Consortio.