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Prelates' differing responses to Amoris Laetitia

April 15, 2016

Cardinal Walter Kasper said that Amoris Laetitia "changes everything," but other prelates stressed that the apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis has not wrought any major change, in comments appearing in the press a week after the release of the papal document.

Cardinal Kasper, who had encouraged the Synod of Bishops to approve a way by which divorced and remarried couples could receive Communion, told The Tablet that the document "doesn't change anything of Church doctrine or of canon law-- but it changes everything." He said: "It seems clear to me as to many other observers, that there can be situations of divorced and remarried where on the way of inclusion, absolution and communion becomes possible."

But Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, speaking at the conclusion of the spring meeting of the bishops of England and Wales, told reporters that the document's approach to the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics is "not new." He said that Pope Francis follows St. John Paul II in saying that "there is something incompatible between the principle of entering a second marriage" and the Church's demand for fidelity. When asked whether Pope Francis differed from his predecessor-- who had said that divorced-and-remarried Catholics must abstain from marital relations if they wish to receive the Eucharist-- Cardinal Nichols said that he did not "see why there should be a change."

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, who had joined with other cardinals in protesting what they saw as efforts to manipulate the Synod toward support of the Kasper proposal, said that he was reassured by the Pope's document. Amoris Laetitia, he said, shows the Pope's clear understanding of "the profound weakness in the culture based on individualism and ego." The fundamental message of the apostolic exhortation, was not one of doctrinal change but of pastoral approach: "We are a people who seek to include and not to cast away."

Archbishop Arthur Roche, the English-born secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that Amoris Laetitia is among "the best documents I have read." He told Vatican Radio: "It's a light in a very obscure world which really doesn't believe in the family and in marriage as much as the Church does, so it will be of enormous significance to people throughout the world..."

From California, Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa said that the Pope's exhortation does not change Church teaching, and that the Church cannot accept behavior that is "not consistent with the moral law."

In Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence lamented that the papal document is very long. "I'm convinced that the length of a Church document is inversely proportional to the number of people who will read it and the impact it will have," he said. But he praised the Pope's strong statements in opposition to gender ideology, abortion, and a culture that takes wedding ceremonies more seriously than marital fidelity. 

 

 
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