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In No Way Does Amoris Laetitia Authorize ‘Unrestricted Access to the Sacraments’

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In No Way Does Amoris Laetitia Authorize ‘Unrestricted Access to the Sacraments’

DECEMBER 7, 2017 ( The Post-Synodal Exhortation Amoris Laetita in no way authorizes “€œunrestricted access to the Sacraments,”€ explained the Argentine Bishops in 2016, in an interpretation of the Exhortation”€™s text, validated by Pope Francis in a letter. The two documents are published in Spanish on the Vatican”€™s Internet site.

Amoris Laetitia

Here is a ZENIT translation of the two letters.

* * *

Letter of the Bishops of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region

Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia

Esteemed Priests:

We received with joy the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which calls us first of all to make the love of spouses grow and to motivate young people to opt for marriage and the family. These are the great topics that should never be neglected or be overshadowed by other questions. Francis has opened several doors in the family pastoral and we are called to take advantage of this time of mercy, to assume, as pilgrim Church, the richness that the Apostolic Exhortation gives us in its different chapters.

Now we will pause only on chapter VIII, given that it makes reference to “€œguidelines of the Bishop”€ (300) in order to discern on the possible access to the Sacraments of some “€œdivorced in a new union.”€ As Bishops of the same Pastoral Region, we believe it appropriate to agree on some minimal criteria. We offer them without prejudice to the authority that each Bishop has in his own diocese, to specify, complete and shorten them.

6) In other more complex circumstances, and when a declaration of nullity could not be obtained, the option mentioned might not be feasible. Nevertheless, a path of discernment is likewise possible. If there is acknowledgement that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that attenuate responsibility and culpability (Cf. 301-302), particularly when a person considers that he/she would fall into a further fault, hurting the children of the new union, Amoris Laetita opens the possibility of access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (Cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the strength of grace.

7) However, one must avoid understanding this possibility as unrestricted access to the Sacraments, or as if any situation justified it. What is proposed is a discernment that distinguishes appropriately each case. For example, “€œa new union that comes from a recent divorce”€ requires special care or “€œthe situation of someone who has repeatedly failed in his/her family commitments”€ (298). Also when there is a sort of apologia or ostentation of one”€™s situation “€œas if it were part of the Christian ideal”€ (297). In these more difficult cases, we, Pastors, must accompany with patience, seeking some way of integration (Cf. 297, 299).

8) It is always important to direct persons to put themselves with their conscience before God, and, useful for this, is the “€œexamination of conscience”€ that Amoris Laetitia 300 propose, especially in regard to “€œhow they have behaved with their children”€ or with the abandoned spouse. When there are unresolved injustices, access to the Sacraments is particularly scandalous.

We are above all Pastors. That is why we want to receive these words of the Pope: “€œI invite the Pastors to listen with affection and serenity, with the sincere desire of entering the heart of the drama of persons and of understanding their point of view, to help them to live better and to recognize their place in the Church”€ (312).

With affection in Christ.

The Bishops of the Region

September 5, 2016

Copyright “€“ Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[ZENIT”€™s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]


The Holy Father Francis”€™ Letter to the Bishops of the

Buenos Aires Pastoral Region, in Response to the Document

“€œBasic Criteria for the Application of

Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia

Monsignor Sergio Alfredo Fenoy

Delegate of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region

Dear Brother:

I received the writing of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region “€œBasic Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. Thank you very much for sending it to me; and I congratulate you for the work you have done: a true example of accompaniment of priests . . . and we all know how necessary this closeness is of the Bishop with his clergy and of the clergy with the Bishop. The Bishop”€™s closest “€œneighbor”€ is the priest. And the commandment to love one”€™s neighbor as oneself begins, for us Bishops, precisely with our priests.

The writing is very good and makes fully explicit the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations, and I am sure that it will do much good. May the Lord reward you for this effort of pastoral charity.

And it is precisely pastoral charity that moves us to go out to encounter the estranged and, once found, to begin a path of reception, accompaniment, discernment, and integration in the ecclesial community. We know that it is exhausting, it is about a “€œbody to body”€ pastoral not satisfied with programmatic, organizational or legal mediations, although necessary. Simply: receive, accompany, discern <and> integrate. Of these four pastoral attitudes, the one least cultivated and practiced is discernment; and I consider urgent formation in discernment, personal and communal, in our Seminaries and Presbyteries.

Finally, I would like to remind that Amoris Laetitia was the fruit of the work and prayer of the whole Church, with the mediation of two Synods and of the Pope. Therefore, I recommend a complete catechesis of the Exhortation, which will certainly help the growth, consolidation, and holiness of the family.

Again I thank you for the work done and I encourage you to go forward, in the different communities of the dioceses, with the study and catechesis of Amoris Laetitia.

Please, don”€™t forget to pray and have prayers said for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you.


Vatican, September 5, 2016


Copyright “€“ Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 [ZENIT”€™s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]






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