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Catholic Culture Solidarity

The Maltese bishops’ message: something lost in translation?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 17, 2017

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, answering critics of the Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Amoris Laetitia, insists that they did not say that divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion if they feel “at peace with God.” He has a point. The Maltese guidelines stipulate that divorced/remarried Catholics should go through a serious process of discernment before reaching any such decision. It is the discernment process, he argues, that is the essence of the pastoral program introduced by the papal document.

That’s what the bishops of Malta said. But what did the world hear them say? Unfortunately, their guidelines were generally interpreted as an invitation for divorced/remarried Catholics to make their own decisions. Still more unfortunately, that interpretation of their document was entirely predictable.

Last week I argued that a lazy or feckless priest will be tempted, under the new dispensation suggested by Amoris Laetitia, to wave divorced/remarried Catholics through to the Communion line, without any real examination of conscience. That goes double for the divorced/remarried people themselves. Not many lay Catholics read the fine print of bishops’ documents. They read the headlines, and the headlines say that they should go to Communion if they feel at peace. More often than not, I fear, the “discernment process” will end there.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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