Does the Text of Amoris Laetitia Allow Communion for the Divorced and Remarried?

Part 2

Previously, I have presented the positive argumentation that the text of Amoris Laetitia does not allow Communion for the divorced and remarried who intend to continue sexual relations.1 Many have argued for the contrary position that the document does argue for Communion in such cases. Some have argued for this in a celebratory manner, while others have argued that it says this as a critique of the document. I take up the arguments of both together.

I think there are four primary objections: others exist but most fall under one of these. They are that Francis notes that not all objectively grave actions are mortal sins, that the document leaves it up to the individual conscience, and confusion surrounding footnotes 351 and 329.

Objection One: No Longer Mortal Sin?

First, the document states: “It can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”2 The question arises whether Amoris Laetitia intends to argue that irregular situations are not objectively grave, which would then mean Communion could be given without reservation in such cases.3

Here it is important to go back to the texts above distinguishing those who intend to live the Church’s teaching but fall, or those who are ignorant of the Church’s teaching or who lack the freedom to live it, from those who knowing the Church’s teaching, make no effort to live it, and continue to live together in sexual intimacy. The Church has always taught that a mortal sin, depriving the person of sanctifying grace, requires grave matter, knowledge of the sin, and sufficient freedom. Many people in irregular situations either do not realize the irregularity or have some restriction on their freedom. This restriction must go beyond ordinary concupiscence and tendency to sin — as otherwise there would almost never be a mortal sin. However, as noted above, it would not be unheard of for a person in a country with a large number of divorces not to realize that their second marriage before a non-Catholic minister was not valid.

Objection Two: Follow Your Conscience

Some argue Amoris Laetitia instructs the faithful to follow their conscience no matter how formed (or unformed) it is with regard to receiving Communion.4 If this statement is qualified as following a properly formed conscience, it is true because a properly formed conscience would be sufficiently aware of natural, divine, and Church law to avoid Communion if outside a state of grace and/or intending to sin gravely again. Some will phrase this as discernment — which is an exercise of the conscience — which likewise could either mean letting people do whatever or leading them to live properly.

The explanations of Vatican II and John Paul II regarding conscience are prerequisites to reading Francis’s treatment of conscience in a hermeneutic of continuity. So, they will be covered first.

Vatican II on Conscience

In Gaudium et Spes 16, the council fathers speak of conscience. They begin, noting the conscience’s connection to natural law, “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience.” Then noting a few lines later, “In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor.”5 The same paragraph with these two clear assertions of conscience’s response to divine and natural law, also has some other lines that are true in the context but at times have been taken out of context to misrepresent conscience. Gaudium et Spes states, “The voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart,” and, “Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man.”6 If we understand these in context, we see that they speak to the interplay of conscience with natural law which it can — but does not always or necessarily — discover. Gaudium et Spes clarifies this in the same paragraph: “Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.”7 Although we acknowledge a primacy of conscience, part of conscience’s role is to lead us to better inform it. Thus Vatican II does not support accepting everyone’s conscience no matter what it leads to but forming consciences.

John Paul II on Conscience

John Paul II offered a proper understanding of conscience which expanded our understanding of moral conscience. Before addressing John Paul II’s treatment of conscience as Pope it is worth examining his view of conscience beforehand. Richard Spinello summarizes Wojtyla’s view of conscience:

Wojtyla imputes several inter-related roles to conscience. Conscience, which, “Judges the moral value of an action,” represents the human person’s capacity to become aware of the moral goodness or values at stake in his or her prospective actions. . . . Second, conscience converts this recognition (or judgment) that, “human life and health is truly good” into a duty. . . . Finally, in its “complete function” conscience “surrenders” the will to the truth about the good which is experienced by conscience as a moral duty.8

John Paul II expounds on this in a magisterial manner in Veritatis Splendor. Although he admits the possibility of an erroneous conscience, as it is, “Not exempt from the possibility of error,” but he notes right after, “In order to have a ‘good conscience’ (1 Tim 1:5), man must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth.”9 This means a conscience can be erroneous, can be contrary to the Gospel, but it imposes on that conscience the responsibility of seeking the truth and making judgments in accord with that truth. It goes on to note that there can be invincible ignorance where the person is not responsible for the malformation of conscience: for example, a person growing up in a culture with lots of divorce may not realize its moral problems. However, the conscience can also be culpably erroneous when it instead of seeking the truth, it intentionally avoids it: for example, a person may guess there is an issue with divorce and remarriage but intentionally avoid investigating so he or she does not feel guilty.

Veritatis Splendor also gives two descriptions of conscience that together help us understand its role. First, “Conscience bears witness to man’s own rectitude or iniquity to man himself but, together with this and indeed even beforehand, conscience is the witness of God himself, whose voice and judgment penetrate the depths of man’s soul, calling him fortiter et suaviter to obedience.”10 Second, “Conscience thus formulates moral obligation in the light of the natural law: it is the obligation to do what the individual, through the workings of his conscience, knows to be a good he is called to do here and now.”11 Taking these two descriptions together we see that although conscience produces a practical judgement about a concrete situation that may be immoral, its ultimate reference point is not the individual with the conscience but God, directly or mediated by the natural law instilled into human nature.

Conscience in Amoris Laetitia

With this prerequisite, a few lines of Amoris Laetitia could be misinterpreted as allowing for a domination of the conscience different from the above Church teaching:

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.12

If someone interprets this as saying it is fine to willingly choose adulterous relations that they know are adulterous or choose relations that they have a culpably erroneous conscience regarding, it obviously creates problems. However, there are several issues with this interpretation, primarily translation, wider context and meeting people where they are. After these points, this section will conclude with a comparison between conscience and discernment.

Fastiggi and Eden Goldstein argue this is a mistake of translation and interpretation. “The Latin shows that Pope Francis is clearly not saying that conscience may rightly discern that an objectively immoral act is not immoral.”13 They also note the problem with the translation of the term “the objective ideal.” It would create problems to say the ideal is unobtainable. However, looking at the Latin, the term is “obiectivum exemplar,” which indicates an exemplar which is an obtainable ideal.14

On the other hand, it can be read differently if read in the wider context. This quotation was preceded with a section on the need to form one’s conscience so this sentence could be read as a reasonably well-formed conscience. A conscience may see a complicated situation and have to choose the best among a bunch of bad options which would correspond with, “The most generous response which can be given to God.”15 For example, an engaged couple with a newborn may not be able to afford separate accommodations so get a single house but sleep in separate bedrooms. Sleeping under the same roof does create near occasions for sexual sin that should generally be avoided but no other options worked out for them for the next few months before their marriage. Obviously, this does not excuse their sexual acts that resulted in a newborn but deals with what they can do in this concrete circumstance.16

If we read this way, we can affirm all that Vatican II and John Paul II affirmed about the conscience while emphasizing the directionality of moral actions which seems to be a Francis theme. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says, “A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.”17 This comes from his sense that we should begin helping people now where they are to move in the right direction morally even if they will not be perfect tomorrow. This is not really an innovation but a different way of expressing what John Paul II referred to as the “law of gradualness” as far back as 1980 and 1981, “What is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.”18

Another way this incorrect reading of discernment could be put is to argue that if after discernment a person feels at peace with God in their conscience, they can be admitted to absolution and Communion. The problem with this is that it misses the distinction above between an invincibly ignorant and culpably erroneous conscience. If a person willfully deforms their conscience, they can be at peace while committing repeated adultery but this peace is false. Part of the Church’s duty is to inform consciences and if someone is willfully deforming their conscience to accept sin in their life, and thus having a culpably erroneous conscience, the Church cannot support that by offering sacramental absolution and Communion. In fact, the restriction from the sacraments should be part of the Church’s effort to call such people out of their erroneous conscience. If we are dealing with an invincibly ignorant conscience, we as a Church need to lead them to a rightly formed conscience. Such a person should be open to help forming their conscience, and their refusal of such help moves them towards a culpably erroneous conscience. We might discern beforehand the best way to form their conscience or discern with them the best way to get out of their situation, but any discernment must always be based on the foundation to the Church’s existing teaching. Pope Francis explained this in Amoris Laetitia: “Discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands as proposed by the Church.”19

Objection Three: Footnote 351

Many commentators have seen a change of teaching in footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia.20 The footnote says:

In certain cases, this [the Church’s help] can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy”. I would also point out that the Eucharist, “Is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.21

Footnote 336 is sometimes invoked as support as it cites the same two paragraphs of Evangelii Gaudium and makes a similar point: it will be skipped as the arguments are the same.

This footnote comes after a whole list of forms of human weaknesses in 305 of Amoris Laetitia which mitigate the culpability an individual has for a particular sin such as ignorance. Evangelii Gaudium 44, which is quoted, has a similar list. The two documents also list factors that limit current willfulness toward future acts: if someone has a habit or strong carnal desires, they may currently desire never to fall into this sin again but realize they are likely to fall due to weakness — this goes back to the drunkenness example above. The case here is not someone who intentionally and knowingly chooses to continue in a sexual relationship with a non-spouse. Instead, it would seem to refer to situations like a person who did not realize their “second marriage” was invalid, or someone giving up sexual relations after an extended period of having relations with their “second spouse,” but then falling.

It is important to note that Francis prefaces the whole footnote with “In certain cases” which clearly indicates not all cases. What would distinguish a case where the sacraments could be offered from one where they could not? It certainly cannot be arbitrary. Given that the surrounding text is replete with causes that diminish culpability or willfulness toward future acts, that is probably an interpretive key. Using this key, the most logical distinction is those who strive to follow Church teaching in this area vs. those who do not — even if both fail in living Church teaching.

Setting one’s will on performing an act that is a mortal sin, precludes absolution according to Trent,22 hence it is not possible to absolve a person who freely and knowingly intends to go against Church teaching in grave matter. If a person has commited a mortal sin that has not been absolved, no sacrament would fulfill the criteria this footnote refers to: “A person [who] can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity.”23 Living in God’s grace and growing in the life of grace and charity would presuppose the person was living in a state of grace which cannot ordinarily be recovered without absolution after a mortal sin.24

Alternatively, Granados, Kampowski and Pérez-Soba argue that the help of the sacraments does not mean the fullness of the sacrament but things like attending Mass without Communion or going to confession for advice but not absolution. They say, “Those who are moving toward reconciliation and are accompanied by the Church along this journey are already receiving in a certain way the ‘help of the sacrament’ (cf. AL 305, note 351), although they cannot yet be absolved of their sins.”25 Pope Francis also gave an example elsewhere of his niece and her partner who were awaiting an annulment and would go to confession for advice but begin by mentioning they could not be absolved.26

Objection Four: Footnote 329

Some make the jump to Communion for people who continue illicit relations based on a misreading of the second sentence in footnote 329 of Amoris Laetitia.

In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “It often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.”27

The latter sub-quotation is from Gaudium et Spes 51 and its context is the problems associated with periodic abstinence from conjugal acts to live responsible parenthood. Those supporting this objection note that since this line is quoted in reference to those who are divorced and civilly remarried, it would also refer to periodic — as opposed to permanent — abstinence from sexual relations. They further argue this footnote then means that if someone in a “second marriage” sees perpetual abstinence as making their faithfulness more difficult, they should not be bound to practice it. Furthermore, such people would argue, the Latin here says bonum prolix, which is often used as a technical term meaning the bearing of children as one of the goods proper to marriage, not just the good of existing children.28

Four points are offered in response: (1) Bonum prolix has other meanings, (2) a better understanding of the word “intimacy,” (3) psychology of parenting, and (4) the hermeneutic of continuity.

First, there are three issues with forcing the bonum prolix to mean only the good of bearing children, as opposed to the good of children in general. First, although used in that technical sense, that is not the only way that term can possibly be used. Second, it is not clear that Gaudium et Spes meant it in that way, Third, when repurposed in this footnote for something else, the context of what the footnote refers to can give the phrase a different meaning even if the original authors intended the bonum prolix to refer to bearing children. This footnote 329 is attached to text which talks about living as brother and sister. Granados, Kampowski and Pérez-Soba point out in their book that this footnote is about those living chastity: “This is said, specifically, in relation to what is involved in living as brother and sister. . . . This also refers implicitly to whatever John Paul II declares in Familiaris Consortio, n. 84.”29 If the text has already reduced its audience to those living as brother and sister, it cannot be promoting acts contrary to living as brother and sister, hence, logically, footnote 329 cannot refer to sexual acts.

Second, Gaudium et Spes says, “the intimacy of married life,” while Amoris Laetitia uses, “certain expressions of intimacy,” as the subject. I think there is likely a misunderstanding due to difficulty translating the word intimidad from Spanish where, “certain expressions of intimacy,” would appear to mean non-sexual expressions of intimacy. Unlike English, Spanish has an official prescriptive dictionary which does not just describe how a word is used but prescribes how it is used. In this dictionary, the word intimidad — which is translated “intimacy” in English — does not appear to have sexual connotations in either of the two definitions. First, it is defined as, “intimate friendship.” Second, it is defined as, “Intimate and reserved spiritual zone of a person or a group, especially a family.”30 Even definitions of the word “intimate” in English dictionaries focus on non-sexual meanings referring to family and friends.31 Since Spanish is Pope Francis’s first language and probably the original language of the document, subtle differences in words of the same etymology matter. In English, phrases like, “intimate acts,” or, “intimate expressions,” are vernacular euphamisms for sexual activity while they do not appear to serve the same function in Spanish. I asked several native Spanish speakers how they would understand, “algunas expresiones de intimidad,” (the Spanish of this footnote) without saying where I got the phrase and none said sexual intercourse, with most focusing on thinks like hugging, sharing secrets, or showing appreciation.

Third, this non-sexual intimacy also allows the psychology to make sense if we assume the good of existing children is meant. Psychology supports this: children are far better off with parents who show external forms of non-sexual intimacy with each other and their children.32 On the other hand, I have yet to see a study showing that marital abstinence has any negative effect on existing children’s well-being. Furthermore, non-sexual expressions of affection do help with faithfulness in a friendship or marriage as faithfulness is not limited to sexual fidelity: no wife is going to say her husband who spends most of his free time with another woman while avoiding his wife is faithful even if in a strict sexual manner, he is faithful in that he has never had relations with that other women.

Furthermore, going back to a hermeneutic of continuity, a Pope can clarify previous teaching but cannot go contrary to the whole of tradition. Sex between persons not married to each other is grave matter and suggesting it is fine to pursue it freely and consciously, if otherwise would be difficult, makes a mockery of moral theology.

Thus, footnote 329 should be read a recommendation for those in “second marriages” to avoid an emotionally frigid house and show non-sexual affection; not an invitation to engage in sexual relations.


As I began by stating in my previous article, if we read Amoris Laetitia as a whole and in line with tradition using the hermeneutic of continuity, we understand that it clearly does not allow Communion for the divorced and remarried intending to continue sexual relations. In this article, four objections based on specific misunderstandings have been addressed. First, the document does not deny the reality of mortal sin but simply restates the Church’s teaching that mortal sin requires more than grave matter alone. Second, there is often misunderstandings regarding conscience: we should always follow our conscience but we should always form it in accord with natural and divine law as well. With this background, confusion over conscience in Amoris Laetitia fades. Finally, three footnotes have at times be misinterpreted. Amoris Laetitia offers ways to help couples in complex situations come closer to the Church but does not change dogma or allow Communion to all of them.

  1. Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC, “Does the Text of Amoris Laetitia Allow Communion for the Divorced and Remarried? Part 1,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, February 12, 2019,
  2. Francis, Amoris Laetitia (AL), no. 301; AAS 108 (2016), 434.
  3. Some examples of this argument (either endorsed by the author, discussed, or argued against):

  4. Some examples of this argument (either endorsed by the author, discussed, or argued against):

  5. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes (GS), December 7, 1965, no. 16; AAS 58 (1966), 1037.
  6. GS 16.
  7. GS 16.
  8. Richard A. Spinello, “Pope John Paul II on conscience: Conscience itself does not create norms but discovers them in the objective order of morality,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, August 1, 2009,
  9. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (VS), August 6, 1993, no. 62; AAS 85 (1993), 1182.
  10. VS 58; AAS 85 (1993), 1179–80.
  11. VS 59; AAS 85 (1993), 1180.
  12. AL 303; AAS 108 (2016), 435.
  13. Robert Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein, “Does Amoris Laetitia 303 Really Undermine Catholic Moral Teaching?” LaStampa, September 26, 2017,
  14. Cf. Fastiggi and Eden Goldstein, “Does Amoris Laetitia 303 . . .”
  15. AL 303; AAS 108 (2016), 435.
  16. Fastiggi and Eden Goldstein give a similar example in “Does Amoris Laetitia 303 Really . . .”
  17. Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (EG), November 24, 2013, no. 44; AAS 105 (2013), 1038–39.
  18. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 34; AAS 74 (1982), 123–24. Quoting: John Paul II, Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, 8; AAS 72 (1980), 1083.
  19. AL 300; AAS 108 (2016), 433.
  20. Some examples of this argument (either endorsed by the author, discussed, or argued against):

  21. AL, footnote 351; AAS 108 (2016), 437. Quoting: EG 44, 47; AAS 105 (2013), 1038, 1039.
  22. Cf. DH 1706 (p. 411) and DH 1676 (pp. 401–402).
  23. AL 305; AAS 108 (2016), 437.
  24. It could probably be recovered by anointing of the sick, too (that is a different argument), but that sacrament too only cleanses one of mortal sin if one desires not to commit it again. Also, perfect contrition in danger of death can remove the stain of mortal sin on the soul — however, this includes the intention to seek sacramental absolution.
  25. José Granados et al., Accompanying, Discerning, Integrating, 70.
  26. Cf. Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy, trans. Oonagh Stransky (New York, Random House, 2016), 18.
  27. AL, footnote 329; AAS 108 (2016), 432. Quote in text: GS 51; AAS 57 (1965), 1072.
  28. Some examples of this argument (either endorsed by the author, discussed, or argued against):

  29. José Granados et al, Accompanying, Discerning, Integrating, 58.
  30. Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua española, 23rd ed. (Barcelona: Planeta, 2014). Online: Full definition in Spanish: “1. f. Amistad íntima. 2. f. Zona espiritual íntima y reservada de una persona o de un grupo, especialmente de una familia.”
  31. This can be seen in two of the authoritative common English Language Dictionaries. The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2018, has six definitions for the adjective “intimate” and only the last one directly relates to sex, which the editors consider a euphemistic use. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (Merriam-Webster Inc., 2018, offers seven definitions for the adjective “intimate” and only one, listed as 1c, is “Engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations.”
  32. Cf. (among a large body of research) Joseph Castro, “How a Mother’s Love Changes a Child’s Brain,” Live Science, January 30, 2012,
Avatar About Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC is most well-known for his presence on Twitter and Instagram (@FrMatthewLC) where he has over 50,000 followers between the two platforms. He is a religious priest with the Legionaries of Christ ordained in 2013. He is currently enrolled at the STL program out of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He lives in the Archdiocese of Washington where he helps at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and produces material for Regnum Christi.


  1. Let us first note that if the perennial teaching is still in force, why didn’t Francis just answer the dubia proposed by the cardinals? The fact he has refused to does carry significance. It is also quite apparent this piece is starting with a desired conclusion then trying to force the evidence into this, rather than concluding from the evidence. It’s very noteworthy, for instance, there is no mention of the argentine guidelines, which are the official interpretation of AL, perhaps because it clearly refutes the claims made here.

    The error that subjective culpability can be invoked is repeated in this piece, when people know that this approach was rejected under JPII and BXVI. Yet they pretend as though that didn’t happen. That further points to wanting a foregone conclusion regardless of the facts. Even if someone is not in mortal sin, what prevents them is their objective situation. (see;

    An official latin text of the argentine guidelines does not seem to have been issued yet, but we can look at the Spanish. First we can note what is conspicuously absent: any restatement or reference to the perennial teaching, as found in F. Consortio or the catechism. The latter is not made the starting point. A.L. is the sole reference. In #5 we are first told there may be occasions when the proposal that follows might be applicable, not that this is always to be asked for, in all circumstances of the divorced and remarried: “Cuando las circunstancias concretas de una pareja lo hagan factible.” “When the circumstances…make it possible.” There is also no explanation of precisely what “circumstances” those may be. The subjunctive is also used- hagan- reinforcing it is not mandatory but indicates desire and possibility. Next, it states continence “may/can” be proposed- no mandatory language: se puede proponer el empeño. This is solidified in indicating something optional- it is proposed- not demanded/required or some such thing; and empeño indicates not an obligation but a resolve/determination/an undertaking.

    #6 indicates there are circumstances- and here it is not clear- in which it is not possible to either propose separation or continence or to undertake it: “la opción mencionada puede no ser de hecho factible.” This is not only optional language but now it expressly states- wrongly- that continence may not even be possible. So, not only may it not be possible, but if that’s the case then any pledge for such can’t be demanded. It’s also apparent that this supposes people are continuing relations and makes the claim of subjective culpability to allow for the sacraments.

    #6 also provides the clincher: it states that A.L. opens up the possibility (abre la posibilidad) of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). As one priest has put it: “the very expression ‘opens up,’ prove that the authors understand Pope Francis to be mitigating his predecessors’ absolute requirement that all such couples must live in continence (cf. Familaris Consortio, #84). For those living in continence already had access to the sacraments; and it’s logically impossible to “open up” something that’s already open.” Indeed, there is no other explanation than there is now a possibility which did not exist before. So, the guidelines give this meaning to A.L. and Francis has affirmed this as correct.

    The remaining paragraphs do not even make mention let alone ask any sort of requirement of continence or separation. Another stupefying thing is that it states that one circumstance when this may be invoked is when a declaration of invalidity cannot be obtained. Does that mean a negative decision- in which case the prior marriage had been affirmed as valid? Does it mean the person even has to try to apply for one? The language of not obtaining vs. not being able to submit one, for example, lends to such interpretation. This is also a novelty.

    The content of AL is also apparent in this regard (e.g, #305): it speaks about the perennial teaching as a moral law potentially aimed at people as though throwing stones (And if one says that’s not what he is referring to then what is he speaking about?) The talk about a path of “discernment” and the persons not yet being at the ideal, people being allegedly unable to be continent, clearly presuppose they are not living in continence, for if they were already attempting it, then the whole notion of discernment to come to a realization and coming to the ideal makes no sense, for they are already there. So, we are not talking about access to sacraments for people attempting such yet merely falling in the course thereof.

    As a note for your interpretation of footnote 329, you don’t invoke the latin text, which is the one to be cited for scholarly debate, although it only quotes (and twists out of context) G. et Spes. It is clear the meaning in G. et Spes is to conjugal relations and the word intimae is used, to denote such, albeit in a roundabout way, to denote the most intimate acts a couple can engage in. Further, the idea that this refers to other forms of intimacy makes no sense as a whole, e.g., that faithfulness is endangered because they don’t kiss or hug or something enough?! Most importantly, you recognize that the citation from G et Spes refers to abstinence from relations. But, if the meaning in G. et Spes is such, then that must also be the meaning that is meant in AL, especially if there is no alternate definition. Further, the argentine guidelines refer to conjugal relations as the object of their approach, not other forms of intimacy. So, there is an fallacious switch of the meanings, from conjugal to other forms of intimacy, but not because the text says so.

    So, to claim that the perennial teaching is still in force and separation or continent are still asked of people, but it now allows only for those occasions when people may fail in doing so, is clearly trying to read into the text what someone wants to be the case, not what it says. This is also seen in the contradictions present, e.g., the (false) claim that people committing adultery may not be committing mortal sin and thus can receive the sacraments; while at the same time arguing that A.L. doesn’t permit the sacraments for those continuing to have relations!. And secondly, after the claim of subjective culpability, the simultaneous claim that the intimacy referred to is not conjugal and thus there is allowance for communion because of that. It can’t be both as one cancels the other out.

    Having said all this, it can & must be argued that the prior teaching is still in force, but this would be because there is a claim that can’t be reconciled with the previous magisterium; and a question of whether the current claims are magisterial, given the bizarre, unprecedented fashion in which it is being claimed- the apostolic letter of Francis itself contains no teaching, but points to a set of guidelines, which themselves have no doctrinal authority and little to no canonical authority, and were only applicable to one country. The label of “magisterial” is then slapped on after the fact and it’s not clear how a set of guidelines for one country becomes part of the magisterium. The guidelines then point to footnotes in A.L., and whether mere footnotes can overturn doctrine is dubious.

  2. Avatar Mary Angelica says:

    Hello Fr., I have three follow up questions/ comments.

    1)I have understood A.L. to allow reception of the eucharist for a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic in the case that his or her culpability is diminished to the point that their sin, though objectively grave, is still venial. I do also think the path of discernment outlined by the Pope is one that should lead to the full Gospel ideal (si the person can’t intend to remain in their state). However, iirc, canon law forbids communion in cases where a person commits “manifest grave sin”, not mortal sin. At least, this seems like a different category of which mortal sins form a subgroup, and this category does not factor personal culpability. As I understand it, these are grave sins which are commited in such a way that they are publicly known. It seems like AL contradicts canon law here, but is that the case? What is the technical definition of manifest grave sin as opposed to mortal sin?

    2. I have a problem with your interpretation of footnote 329 as referring to non sexual intimacy. For one, if the intimacy referred to is that of friendship, then couples living as brother and sister are not forbidden from engaging in such expressions, and as a Spanish speaker, I can witness to the fact that *brothers and sisters” are not void of expressions of intimacy at all! The point being, footnote 329 seems more like a descriptor of an objection that couples may have to the brother sister solution by referring marital forms of intimacy in particular. Otherwise, why bring up lack of intimacy? I think the thing to keep in mind is that we shouldn’t be reading this footnote as an endorsement, but as a description of something that happens. I.e., if the church tells a couple to live as brother and sister, even if they accept it in theory, they will point out some of the possible resulting issues. The gaudium et spes passage being quoted also reads this way, except it involves the difficulties of periodic abstinence.

    3. Part of the difficulty people are having with AL, despite possible orthodox readings of the text, is that Francis promotes figures who are legitimately promoting unorthodox interpretations, or at least equally ambiguous ones. I don’t make the claim that the Argentinian document is heretical, but it really doesn’t clarify anything. It’s as vague as AL itself. Many of us want to read AL in light of Church tradition, but we run into trouble when others, particularly his most vocal supporters and those supported by him,
    Present heretical readings of it . Think of a parallel example of the Arian controversy. Damascus signed a homoian creed after Nicaea was convened. The trouble with said creed was not that it outright said anything wrong… one can come up with a Nicene interpretation, consonant with Church tradition as it had thus far developed, of the Son being like the Father. it was that it was vague enough such that heretics could support it, and the Pope didn’t address their error.

    The calls for clarity aren’t just to know what the Pope thinks, it’s in part to state explicitly for the heretical proponents that their understanding is wrong, and to curb the practical confusion. As you demonstrate, I don’t think that AL states fully what the heretics want, but it is convoluted enough to give them basically what they want, especially in the messy cases of irregularity. And they get away with it and confuse others.