Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Three bishops have issued a profession of the “immutable truths about sacramental marriage” in response to Pope Francis’ and certain bishops’ interpretation of Amoris Laetitia to allow some “remarried” divorcees access to the sacraments. Other bishops have since put their names to the initiative, please see below for updates.
In the six-page document, the Ordinaries, all from Kazakhstan and including auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, say that the Pope’s interpretation, along with those of other bishops’ conferences such as Germany and Malta, is causing "rampant confusion," will spread the “plague of divorce,” and is “alien” to the Church’s entire faith and Tradition.
In view of this “ever increasing confusion” in the Church, the bishops reassert the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, arguing that admitting some “remarried” divorcees without an annulment to Holy Communion, and not living in continence, is tantamount to a “kind of introduction of divorce in the life of the Church.”
The Church, the bishops continue, “should be a bulwark and an unmistakable sign of contradiction against the plague of divorce which is every day more rampant in civil society.”
They also stress that any “approval or legitimation” of violating the marriage bond “even indirectly … seriously contradicts God’s express will and His Commandment” not to commit adultery.
The bishops, who include Archbishop Tomash Peta of Astana and Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda, refer without naming them “hierarchical authorities” who have allowed some “divorced and remarried” to receive the sacraments and who “habitually and intentionally more uxorio with a person who is not their legitimate spouse.”
“Some of these norms have received approval even from the supreme authority of the Church,” they continue, in reference to Pope Francis’ recent decision to declare such pastoral discipline as “authentic magisterium.”
The bishops further argue that a professed faith must be matched by sacramental practice, and cite Holy Scripture, Second Vatican Council documents, and magisterial teachings from previous popes, including Pope St. John Paul II, Pius IX, and Bl. Paul VI, to reinforce their points.
They further stress that as bishops, they are conscious of a “grave responsibility” and “duty” to the faithful who expect from them “a public and unequivocal profession of the truth and the immutable discipline of the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage.”
“For this reason we are not allowed to be silent,” they add.
“We affirm therefore in the spirit of St. John the Baptist, of St. John Fisher, of St. Thomas More, of Blessed Laura Vicuña and of numerous known and unknown confessors and martyrs of the indissolubility of marriage.”
They stress in bold typeface that it is “not licit (non licet) to justify, approve, or legitimize either directly or indirectly divorce and a non-conjugal stable sexual relationship through the sacramental discipline of the admission of so-called ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion, in this case a discipline alien to the entire Tradition of the Catholic and Apostolic faith.”
They close by saying that in making such a public profession, they are “sincerely convinced” they are providing a “service of charity in truth” to the Church and to the Holy Father.
The bishops made a point of signing their profession on Dec. 31, the Feast of the Holy Family in the Ordinary form of the Roman rite, and within the centenary year of Our Lady of Fatima.
Update, Jan 2, 11.40pm:
According to the Italian Catholic website Corrispondenza Romana, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, has added his name to the Kazakh bishops’ profession of truth about sacramental marriage. So, too, has Italian emeritus Archbishop Luigi Negri of Ferrara-Comacchio.
Archbishop Vigano served as nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 until 2016. Benedict XVI appointed him to the position after two years as secretary of the Governorate of Vatican City State where he used his reputable administrative skills to uncover corrupt financial practices — something that caused other Vatican officials to elbow him out. Ordained a priest on March 24, 1968, he was appointed nuncio to Nigeria in 1992.
Archbishop Negri led the archdiocese of Ferrara-Comacchio from Dec. 2012 until June 2017. Ordained a priest on 28 June 1972, he is known as a vigorous pastor, theologian and philosopher.
Both archbishops have taken part in Italy’s March for Life in Rome, and last October they participated in an international conference on “Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: Its Meaning Yesterday and Today,” held at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and organized by the pro-life group, Voice of the Family.
In comments to the Register last month, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio insisted the Pope’s official endorsement of an Argentine directive on the issue did not contradict canon law.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts said it is true that “divorced and remarried (or cohabiting) cannot be admitted to Holy Communion because they are ‘in manifest grave sin.’”
But he added that there are “divorced and remarried (or cohabiting) who have the intention to change their condition but cannot. Therefore such faithful are only in objective sin, not subjective sin, precisely because they have the intention to change, even if they cannot. This intention makes a difference!”
He further noted that the relevant canon, number 915, states that Holy Communion cannot be allowed if the person remains “obstinately persevering” in grave sin. The word “obstinate” means “without any intention to change,” Cardinal Coccopalmerio said, “so these faithful can be admitted to Holy Communion because they have the intention to leave the condition of sin and therefore they are not in sin.”
He added that the “doctrine of sincere repentance” which contains the purpose of changing one's condition of life as a necessary requisite to be admitted to the sacrament of Penance “is respected” because the faithful in such hypothesised situations “are conscious, have conviction, of the situation of objective sin in which they currently find themselves.” They also “have the purpose of changing their condition of life, even if, at this moment, they are not able to implement their purpose.”
The cardinal added that the doctrine of “sanctifying grace as a necessary requisite to be admitted to the sacrament of the Eucharist is also respected” because the faithful in this case “haven’t yet arrived at a real change of life because of the impossibility of doing so, but have the intention of implementing this change.”
He said it is “precisely this theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist, always — we repeat — in the presence of an impossibility to immediately change the condition of sin.”
The cardinal ended by asking to whom can the Church “absolutely not” grant Penance and the Eucharist? To the person who, “knowing that he was in grave sin and could change, had no sincere intention to implement this purpose,” he said.
He therefore believes that canon 915 is “absolutely not in contradiction with the above and is fully respected.”
Update 5 Jan. 2018:
Cardinal Janis Pujats, Archbishop emeritus of Riga, Latvia, has joined the five bishops in signing the “Profession of Immutable Truths about Sacramental Marriage.” In November last year, the cardinal, 87, told an interviewer that “it is necessary to clarify" Amoris Laetitia, adding that the document is “too liberal” in its outlook. Pope St. John Paul elevated Archbishop Janis Pujats to cardinal in pectore (in secret to avoid persecution) in 1998. His cardinalate was made public at the consistory in Feb. 2001.
Update 6 Jan. 2018:
Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun of Salzburg, Austria, has put his name to the Profession. Bishop Laun turned 75 on Oct. 13 last year and the Pope accepted his resignation the same day on grounds of age.
Bishop Laun is a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and had served as auxiliary bishop of Salzburg since 1995. A professor of moral theology at the Philosophical-Theological Faculty of Heiligenkreuz, Austria, in December 2016 he said he shared the concerns of the four ‘dubia’ cardinals over certain passages of Amoris Laetitia. “I have read the concerns of the four cardinals, and I agree with them,” he said. “Additionally, I know personally especially Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra and know how competent they are. With them, I am in the best company.”
Update 2 Feb. 2018:
BIshop Marian Eleganti, auxiliary of Chur, Switzerland, and Bishop René Gracida, emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, have added their names to the “Profession of Truth.” Bishop Eleganti, 62, is a Benedictine monk. Ordained in 1995, Benedict XVI appointed him bishop in 2010. Bishop Gracida, 94, was ordained in 1959 and appointed bishop by Paul VI in 1971. A close friend of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, Bishop Gracida also signed the Filial Correction.
Update 5 Feb. 2018:
Bishop Elmar Fischer, 81, bishop emeritus of Feldkirch, Austria, has signed the “Profession of the truth about sacramental marriage” of the bishops of Kazakhstan, bringing the total number of signatories so far to nine bishops and one cardinal. Ordained in 1961, Bishop Fischer headed the Marriage and Family Centre of the Feldkirch diocese from 1979 to 1990. After serving as vicar general of the diocese from 1989, in 2005 Benedict appointed him bishop of Felkirch where he served until 2011 when he retired on age grounds.
Here below is the full text of the bishops' Profession of the Immutable Truths about Sacramental Marriage