Nine bishops and one cardinal have spoken out against Pope Francis’ interpretation of Amoris Laetitia to allow some remarried divorcees access to Holy Communion, saying such a reading is causing “rampant confusion,” is “alien” to the Catholic faith, and will spread “a plague of divorce” in the Church.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan, Archbishop Tomash Peta, Metropolitan of Astana, and Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda, Kazakhstan issued a Profession of the immutable truths about sacramental marriage on December 31 as a “service of charity in truth” to the Church of today and to the Pope. The initiative by the three bishops is seemingly a response to the Pope’s decree proclaiming the Buenos Aires’ bishops interpretation of Amoris Laetitia that allows communion for divorced and remarried as “authentic magisterium”.
Within weeks of the issuance of the public profession by the three Kazakhstan bishops, six other bishops and one cardinal immediately followed suit, affixing their signatures to the profession and publicly supporting the three bishops’ initiative. The six additional prelates include: Cardinal Janis Pujats, Emeritus Archbishop Metropolitan of Riga, Latvia; Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the former papal nuncio to the United States; Emeritus Archbishop Luigi Negri of Ferrara-Comacchio in northern Italy; Bishop Andreas Laun, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Salzburg, Austria; His Excellency Marian Eleganti, auxiliary bishop of Chur in Switzerland; His Excellency Elmar Fischer, bishop emeritus of Feldkirch, Austria; and His Excellency Rene Gracida, Bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, USA.
A call to the world’s bishops
On January 15, 2018, Bishop Schneider issued a call to the world’s bishops to sign the profession as well. Schneider said he believes bishops should be able reverently to raise their voices during “important moments of the Church,” without this being interpreted as something “against the Pope.”
“We said nothing against the Pope…and I am convinced that one-day Pope Francis himself, at least when he stands before the judgment of God…will be grateful and thankful to this our voice,” he said.
“Not allowed to be silent”
The bishops took the decision to make a “public and unequivocal profession of the truth” regarding the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage because they say they “are not allowed to be silent.”
As Catholic bishops charged with defending and promoting the Catholic faith and common discipline, they say they have a “grave responsibility” and “duty before 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.”
They note that after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, various bishops and bishops’ conferences have issued norms allowing some civilly remarried divorcees, not living in sexual continence, to receive the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. They point out that these various hierarchical authorities (Germany, Malta, and Buenos Aires, although they do not cite them by name), have also received approval “even from the supreme authority of the Church.”
Spread of the plague of divorce in the Church
The spread of these ecclesiastically approved pastoral norms “has caused a considerable and ever increasing confusion among the faithful and the clergy” and are “a means of spreading the ‘plague of divorce’” in the Church, the Kazakhstan bishops write.
“Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ solemnly reaffirmed God’s will regarding the absolute prohibition of divorce,” they recall, and the Church has always preserved and faithfully transmitted both in her doctrine and sacramental discipline “the crystalline teaching of Christ” concerning the indissolubility of marriage.
“Because of the vital importance that the doctrine and discipline of marriage and the Eucharist constitute, the Church is obliged to speak with the same voice. The pastoral norms regarding the indissolubility of marriage must not, therefore, be contradicted between one diocese and another, between one country and another.”
“Since the time of the Apostles,” the bishops explain, “the Church has observed this principle as St. Irenaeus of Lyons testifies”:
“The Church, though spread throughout the world to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the Apostles and their disciples, preserves this preaching and this faith with care and, as if she inhabits a single house, believes in the same identical way, as if she had only one soul and only one heart, and preaches the truth of the faith, teaches it and transmits it in a unanimous voice, as if she had only one mouth” (Adversus haereses, I, 10, 2).
They further recall Pope John Paul II’s warning that the confusion sown in the consciences of the faithful by different “opinions and teachings” would diminish the “true sense of sin, almost to the point of eliminating it.”∎