Bishop Steven Lopes is in charge of Canada and the United States' sections of the special ordinates that allow former Anglicans to practice as Catholics. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Former Anglicans reminded to now follow Catholic rules

  • January 19, 2017

OTTAWA – Former Anglicans who have been received into the Catholic Church are being reminded that they must adhere to Church teaching on divorce, remarriage and the sacraments.

In a pastoral letter on the papal encyclical Amoris Laetitia, Bishop Steven Lopes acknowledges that some former Anglicans were divorced and civilly remarried and, while part of Anglican ecclesial communities, able to continue “a pastoral practice and eucharistic discipline distinct from that of the Catholic Church.”

However, with the establishment of special jurisdictions to allow former Anglicans to practice their faith as Catholics, those who joined these “ordinariates” must now follow the rules of the Catholic Church, he said.

Lopes is the bishop of the ordinariate that covers the United States and Canada. It was one of three ordinariates for Anglicans established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

In “A Pledged Troth: A Pastoral Letter on Amoris Laetitia,” published Jan. 17, Lopes wrote that the 2016 exhortation by Pope Francis provides pastoral guidelines for clergy and laity to welcome and accompany those “who struggle and fail to live up to God’s law.”

Lopes pointed out how the truths of marriage as a permanent, life-long bond between one man and one woman, based on Scripture, were part of the Anglican Communion for centuries. But the Anglican Communion has in many ways abandoned that teaching through the acceptance of contraception, divorce and homosexual activity, he wrote.

“As a result, that Communion has fractured as the plain teaching of Scripture, tradition and reason was rejected,” Lopes wrote, noting this led some Anglican groups to ask to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Consequently, those former Anglicans who are now Catholic are under the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church when it comes to divorce and remarriage, he wrote.

“This is a blessing and a gift, a homecoming and a source of great joy; we do not consider or experience the teaching as alien or external, but as our own,” Lopes wrote. “This indissolubility of marriage is our own teaching found in Scripture, from our Lord, in our liturgy, in reason and the nature of marriage itself and in the tradition of the Church of which we are part.”

Since the ordinariate does not have its own marriage tribunal, those former Anglicans with marriage irregularities should attend a tribunal in the Roman Catholic diocese in which they live, he said.

Lopes weaves pastoral passages from Amoris Laetitia with teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and those of St. John Paul II as he tackles the contentious issue of whether those unable to obtain a decree of nullity may receive Holy Communion. He says Communion is possible if the the couple commits to chastity.

“A civilly remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Lopes said. “Such a couple may experience continence as difficult, and they may sometimes fail, in which case they are like any Christian, to repent, confess their sins and begin anew.”

In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis describes pastoral accompaniment as a call “to form consciences, not to replace them.” Lopes noted the document also says the formation of conscience “can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity as proposed by the Church.”

“Conscience is not a law unto itself, nor can conscience rightly overrule the holy law of God, for conscience, ‘bears witness to the authority of truth,’ but does not create that truth,” he said.

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