A Vaticanist’s legitimate perplexity

Source: FSSPX News

The printed edition of the new volume of the official Acta of the Holy See appeared in early December 2017. In it we find the letter in which the Pope approves the laxist criteria adopted by the bishops of the Buenos Aires region for applying Chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia on giving communion to the divorced-and-“remarried”. 

What’s more, this official publication of the two documents, the text of the Argentine bishops and the Pope’s letter of approval, is dressed up with the expression “velut magisterium authenticum”, as authentic Magisterial teaching.

On December 13, on his blog Settimo Cielo, the Vaticanist Sandro Magister commented on this item in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis:

By this gesture, it would seem therefore that Francis wanted to dispel once and for all the ambiguities of Amoris laetitia by eliminating all doubts about his will that on certain conditions divorced-and-remarried persons can be admitted to Eucharistic Communion while continuing to cohabit ‘more uxorio’ (i.e. to have marital relations). Indeed, in his letter he writes that the document by the Argentine bishops ‘explains in an excellent way Chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia. There are no other interpretations.’

This last sentence itself, however, causes some doubts to loom over the matter. If the interpretation by the bishops of the Buenos Aires region is truly the sole interpretation admitted by the Pope, what about the solemn statements, also written by the Pope in the introduction to Amoris laetitia, that it is right that there are ‘various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it,’ and that therefore ‘each country or region can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.’? (AL 3)

For example, what about the more restrictive interpretations like those of the Polish bishops or of the Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput? Or on the contrary the more daring interpretations like the one by the German bishops or by the even more audacious bishop of San Diego Robert McElroy? Should they all revert to the criteria established by the Argentine bishops since, actually, ‘there are no other interpretations’?

But in Argentina, also, didn’t the bishop of Reconquista, Angel José Macin, go beyond the prudential criteria of his confreres of the Buenos Aires region when he publicly and collectively celebrated in his cathedral the return to Communion of thirty divorced-and-remarried couples who were continuing to live together more uxorio?

That is not all. The significance of the ‘authentic magisterium’ that is applied both to the ‘Apostolic Letter’ by Pope Francis and to its addendum (by the Argentine bishops) is not very clear either. It is difficult to see how this act of the “magisterium” can be reconciled with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which forbids admitting to communion those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’.

And Sandro Magister points out that these doubts are shared by the American canonist Edward Peters, on his blog In the Light of Law, in an essay that appeared on December 4. In the name of “pastoral mercy”, can Amoris laetitia liberate itself from the Gospel teaching on marriage and the law of the Church about this sacrament?