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Vicar for Rome issues strict guidelines for implementing Amoris Laetitia

October 04, 2016

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope’s vicar for the Rome diocese, has issued guidelines for the implementation of Amoris Laetitia, indicating that divorced and remarried couples might be admitted to Communion only in unusual cases and with strict limitations.

Cardinal Vallini offered a 17-page set of guidelines, in which he encourages priests to inform their people about the new procedures offered by Pope Francis to test the validity of a marriage. He goes on to say that if an annulment cannot be obtained, other avenues may remain open.

Cardinal Vallini stresses that in the apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis “is not saying that they must be admitted to the sacraments, although he does not exclude this in some cases and under some conditions.” He says that Amoris Laetitia does not represent a break with prior Church teaching, and that under normal circumstances a divorced and remarried couple would be required to live as brother and sister if they intend to approach the Eucharist.

In unusual cases—“as in the case in which there is the moral certainty that the first marriage was null but there are not the proofs to demonstrate this in a judicial setting”—remarried couples might be allowed to receive the Eucharist, Cardinal Vallini writes. But even in these cases, he cautions, reception of Communion could not be allowed if “their condition is shown off as if it were part of the Christian ideal.”

Ultimately, the cardinal writes, the decision about admission to Communion should be made by a priest-confessor after careful discernment and extensive counseling:

It can be none other than the confessor, at a certain point, in his conscience, after much reflection and prayer, who must assume the responsibility before God and the penitent and ask that the access take place in a discreet manner.


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  • Posted by: timothy.op - Oct. 06, 2016 9:47 PM ET USA

    ElizabethD, that's an excellent question: If the second 'marriage' is not convalidated, how can any path other than continence be acceptable?

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Oct. 05, 2016 7:46 PM ET USA

    Are they really that strict? If a person cannot satisfy a tribunal that a marriage was null, on what basis could that same person have moral certainty that the marriage was null without it being totally subjective? This claim was rejected when Pope Benedict was head of SCDF. No one can be a judge in his own case was the principle cited.What if the other party to the union was also bound by a prior marriage? So voila two moral certainties will suddently materialize? This undermines the teaching

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 04, 2016 10:25 PM ET USA

    This is precisely the same guidance that was explained to me 35 years ago by a priest member of a marriage tribunal. He didn't mention the part about the possibility of communion, but he did discuss the part about moral certitude that a marriage was null, even if lacking the objective proofs needed to demonstrate nullity in a judicial setting. Thus it seems that Cardinal Vallini's remarks are in line with prior Church teaching. I think I am beginning to feel a heaviness lifted from my shoulders.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Oct. 04, 2016 6:50 PM ET USA

    I don't get it. Yes of course divorced and remarried couples live in continence if they are to receive Holy Communion, but why would being morally certain of the nullity a prior putative marriage permit a "remarried" couple to receive Holy Communion? Does this have to do with those who were not Catholic at the time of their second marriage? Certainly Catholics who "remarry" in a civil ceremony are not married and must be continent regardless if they had an invalid first union.

  • Posted by: Eric - Oct. 04, 2016 4:12 PM ET USA

    Finally, some much needed clarification. These directives are sound and are in line with solid Catholic teachings. Why the Holy See waited months before issuing them is beyond me. Sadly, the damage has already been done. There are hundreds of bishops/priests who believe that the fact that a marriage has failed is the only proof need to confirm that it never took place. They will take the ball and run with it. Some future Pope will tragically have to deal with the mess.