The German bishops said in their guidelines, on 'Amoris Laetitia' released Feb. 1., that in some circumstances, divorced-and-remarried couples may receive the Communionreleased CNS photo/Paul Haring

German bishops say the divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion

By  Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
  • February 1, 2017

COLOGNE, Germany – The German bishops have published their own guidelines on Amoris laetitia allowing, in certain cases, for divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Titled “The joy of Love, which is lived in Families, is also the Joy of the Church,” the guidelines were released by the permanent council of the German bishops' conference Feb. 1. The guidelines' publication comes on the heels of a similar announcement made by the bishops of Malta.

"The bishops do not see in Amoris laetitia a general rule or an automatism," the doucment said regarding the reception of the sacraments. "Rather, they are convinced that discerned solutions which do justice to the individual case are required." It also emphasized that “not all faithful whose marriage is broken and who are divorced and civilly remarried, can receive the sacraments without distinction.”

In a statement released alongside the guidelines, the bishops praised Amoris laetitia for its “pastoral and theological benefits” and for introducing what they called four pillars “of a pastoral approach to marriage and family pastoral care." Among the pillars: marriage preparation; marriage accompaniment; strengthening the family as a place of learning the faith; and dealing with fragility through accompaniment, discernment, and integration; the fourth is the emphasis of the guidelines. 

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.

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.”

While there are a number of German who have advocated admitting the divorced-and-remarried to receive the acraments prior to this guideline's release, such as Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode and Archbishop Heiner Koch, there are others, including some influencial leaders, who are opposed.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, for example, was one of four signatories of a letter containing five “dubia” submitted to Pope Francis in September asking him to clarify ambiguous parts of Amoris laetitia. The letters were later released to an Italian journalist and was published November 2016. 

Other prelates with German roots who have been outspoken against the proposal to admit the divorced-and-remarried to Communion include Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI; Cardinal Paul Cordes; Bishop Stefan Oster; Bishop Konrad Zdarsa; Bishop Gregor Hanke; Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer; Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann; Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt; Archbishop Ludwig Schick; and Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

In addition, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has on multiple occasions maintained that Amoris laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching, including an interview with Italian monthly Il Timone published the same day as the German bishops' guidelines. 

In the interview, the cardinal stressed that “it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris laetitia according to their way of understanding the Pope’s teaching.”

(Story from the Catholic News Agency)

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