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Archbishop Chaput: Pope Francis cannot contradict John Paul II on Communion

Pope Francis and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia embrace during the Pope's visit to America in 2015 (CNS)

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has said that it would be good for Pope Francis to answer the dubia, and that Francis cannot contradict Pope St John Paul II’s teaching on marriage.

In an interview with Crux to mark the publication of his new book, Archbishop Chaput was asked what he thought was at stake in the debate over marriage and Amoris Laetitia.

The document does not mention Communion for the remarried, but some bishops, including those of Malta and Germany, have claimed it authorises the practice.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI reaffirmed Church teaching that the remarried may not receive Communion, except possibly when they try to live “as brother and sister”.

Archbishop Chaput said that this teaching, and Jesus’s prohibition of adultery, could not be changed: “It seems to me that it’s impossible for us to contradict the words of Jesus, and it’s also impossible for a teaching to be true 20 years ago not to be true today when it’s the teachings of the pope.

“The teachings of Pope Francis can’t contradict the teachings of John Paul II when it is a matter of official teaching.”

The archbishop said that Amoris Laetitia should be interpreted “in the light of what’s gone before it, primarily the words of Jesus, but secondarily the teachings of the pope, the Magisterium of the Church. And so how can it be true that people can receive Communion when they’re living in an adulterous union today. How is that possible, when the Church says it’s not possible?”

He pointed out that St Francis of Assisi told the Franciscans to read the Gospel without “convoluted efforts to make the Gospel say something that it didn’t say, or Jesus didn’t really mean what he said.”

Asked whether he would like the Pope to answer the dubia – five yes-or-no questions from four cardinals, asking for clarification of Amoris Laetitia – Archbishop Chaput said: “Yes. I think it’s always good to answer questions, clearly.”

The archbishop also said there was “confusion” among Catholics about the current situation in the Church. “I think it’s important for us to help the Holy Father understand that but also to help people understand the Holy Father and to do what we can to help people through the confusion and disappointment I think some people are experiencing.”