New guidelines allow 'possibility of receiving the sacraments' in some situations
By Elise Harris
COLOGNE, Germany (CNA)
Photo: Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (Paul Haring / CNS)
The German bishops have published their own guidelines on Amoris Laetitia allowing, in certain cases, for divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
The decision by the German bishops' conference comes on the heels of a similar announcement made by the bishops of Malta.
While the German bishops emphasized that access to the sacraments is a question of each individual case, the new guidelines do allow the “possibility of receiving the sacraments in these situations.”
Titled “The joy of Love, which is lived in Families, is also the Joy of the Church,” the guidelines issued by the permanent council of the German bishops' conference were released Feb. 1 and bear the subtitle “An invitation to a Renewed Marriage and Family Pastoral Care in Light of Amoris Laetitia.”
In the document, the German bishops said that accompanying couples in crisis, divorce, and remarriage is “a great challenge and an opportunity to bring the Church and her understanding of marriage.”
“For the question of the reception of the sacraments, the bishops do not see in Amoris Laetitia a general rule or an automatism, but rather, they are convinced that discerned solutions which do justice to the individual case are required,” they said.
In regards to Amoris Laetitia, the bishops said they would proceed “from a process of discernment, accompanied by a pastoral worker.”
The bishops acknowledge that marriage is indissoluble, but at the same time argue that specific attention should be given to persons' individual situations and that judgements “which do not take into account the complexity of the various situations” should be avoided.
The German bishops' conference commented: “At the end of such a spiritual process, which is always concerned with integration, not in every case will there be a reception of the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist.”
At the conclusion of the document the bishops encouraged those who want to pursue marriage and family life in the Church “to personally acquaint themselves with the groundbreaking text that is Amoris Laetitia.”
Despite the factions of bishops who seem to be opening the door to a path to admitting divorced-and-remarried Catholics to Communion, many are still resistant to the idea, including some heavy-hitters who are themselves German, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, was one of four signatories of a letter containing five “dubia” submitted to the Pope in September asking him to clarify ambiguous parts of Amoris Laetitia, and which was later published.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in an interview with Italian monthly Il Timone published the same day the German bishops’ guidelines were released, that “it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the Pope’s teaching.”
“This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine,” he said, stressing that Amoris Laetitia “must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.”