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Addressing Amoris Laetitia Print
Guest column
Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
Veronica Arntz

What about Amoris Laetitia? Up until this point in my article series, I have said very little about the new post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

Although the document begins with Psalm 128, which beautifully describes building a family like building a strong house, many have been confused and concerned about the document's overall approach to the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

It is good that Pope Francis reaffirms the importance of the indissoluble bond: "The indissolubility of marriage -- 'what God has joined together, let no man put asunder'-- should not be viewed as a 'yoke' imposed on humanity, but as a 'gift' granted to those who are joined in marriage" (AL, art. 62).

Even still, many theologians and clergymen have raised questions regarding the implications that permission for Communion of the divorced and remarried would have for the indissolubility of marriage.

They argue that, within the document, there is a tension between the Church's objective teaching on marriage and the supremacy that sometimes appears to be given to the couple's subjective situation, pointing to the fact that the document could be interpreted by some as implying that the couple's subjective situation overrides objective Church teaching.

Amoris Laetitia interpretation

This four-part series was meant to give the basics of the Catholic Church's understanding on marriage, family life, divorce, remarriage, and Communion. Any interpretation of Amoris Laetitia must be in continuity with the teachings of Pope Pius XI, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and others who have upheld the Church's teaching on marriage, which we have described in this short article series.

Any interpretation of Amoris Laetitia that is in contradiction to these earlier unanimous teachings on divorce and remarriage would be a departure from the Catholic faith. This is why the guidelines published by Archbishops Charles Chaput, Samuel Aquila, and most recently, Alexander Sample, are so critical: they rightly interpret Amoris Laetitia within Church teaching.

Furthermore, it is always safest to assume continuity between earlier and later Church teaching as well as discipline whenever the latter has doctrinal implications.

Even if the document Amoris Laetitia is ambiguous or confusing, we already know what the Church teaches on the divorced and remarried receiving Communion.

Moreover, Amoris Laetitia made no change to the Code of Canon Law, which still requires that those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion (see CIC, 915).

Therefore, we ought to remain faithful to what the Church has taught before -- namely, that the divorced and remarried are not allowed to receive Communion if they have not received a declaration of nullity stating that their first marriage was invalid, unless they agree to separate or to live together chastely "as brother and sister."

Any interpretation of Amoris Laetitia that opens a wider possibility for Communion for the divorced and remarried must be avoided, lest the impression be given either that marriage is not indissoluble or that public adultery is not scandalous.

Marriage and family life

What we need right now in the Church and world are individuals willing to defend the truth about marriage and family life.

Because of our current culture and its denial of true marriage, we, as Catholics, cannot afford to beat around the bush or play games. Rather, we need to defend the truth about marriage, even when it is difficult, because the teachings of the Church are constant and cannot change.

Because marriage is both natural and supernatural, there will always be difficult situations -- because of original sin, we will always find ourselves in situations of hurt, pain, suffering, rejection, and betrayal.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that we can or should change the Church's teaching on divorce and remarriage. What it means is that we need to hold even more deeply to the truths that the Church has always taught, because they were handed on to us by Christ himself.

The Christian faith is one of hope in God, the God who took on flesh and became man to save us from our sins and open the way to Heaven: "In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us" (Ephesians 1:7 RSV).

Therefore, we must remain constant in our teachings regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried, and we must always be prepared to defend the Church's teachings for the sake of Christ.


Veronica Arntz graduated from Wyoming Catholic College in May 2016 and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology degree from the Augustine Institute, Denver, Colo.