The following paragraph is a citation from an email I received recently from a devout Catholic lady here in St. Louis who sometimes visits my church for Mass. She has given permission for this slightly edited version of her remarks to be made known to others who may be concerned about the grass-roots-level fallout from Amoris Laetitia. Her experience may well be symptomatic of situations that will now arise more and more frequently as the result of the Apostolic Exhortation’s tendentious guidelines for the pastoral “accompaniment” of divorced and remarried Catholics.
I’m especially concerned about the turmoil Amoris Laetitia will create at parish level. I’ve already seen this in action with good friends of ours who are in an irregular marriage. Their new pastor invited them to present themselves for Communion because they had “certainly done their penance.” They announced this to a Catholic group we belong to, to let us know that after not receiving Communion since their civil marriage over 25 years ago – and yet always going to Mass – they would now be receiving. Everyone in the group expressed their happiness and support of this decision – except me and my husband. We just sat stunned that there was no concern for their souls in receiving Communion unworthily. This priest – who is an older pastor – has led them into grave sin. I’ve suggested to my husband that our group be renamed to the Not-So-Catholics. I recommended to our friends in the irregular marriage that they read the [“five cardinals'”] book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which they did. They are still going to Communion. I just keep them in my prayers. I wonder how many other couples that pastor has led astray. And if he excuses this sin, I can only imagine what other sins he excuses.
If nothing else, the above testimony gives an indication of the kind of division and confusion over this issue that is likely to spread now in many or most dioceses, as different pastors interpret and implement AL in very different ways. It is likely to get to the point of the word getting around that if you’re divorced and civilly remarried, Father X in Parish A will give you Communion, but Father Y in Parish B won’t. (What’s mortal sin in one parish is quite OK in the next!)
The Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D., a priest of the Society of the Oblates of Wisdom, is a retired Associate Professor of Theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce, P.R. In 1997 he gained his doctorate in Systematic Theology, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical Athenæum of the Holy Cross in Rome.
Since 2007 Fr. Harrison has been scholar-in-residence at the Oblates of Wisdom Study Center in St. Louis, Missouri, is well-known as a speaker and writer. He is the author of three books and over 130 articles in Catholic books, magazines and journals in the U.S.A., Australia, Britain, France, Spain and Puerto Rico.