Three of the bishops of Kazakhstan — Tomash Peta, Metropolitan Archbishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop-Bishop emeritus of Karaganda, and Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana — have issued a joint statement imploring prayer that Pope Francis will “confirm the unchanging praxis of the Church with regard to the truth of the indissolubility of marriage.”
The statement, issued on January 18th, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, is much more than a solicitation to storm heaven. The bishops document their concerns with “published norms” for the “application and interpretations” of Amoris Laetitia “whereby the divorced who have attempted civil marriage with a new partner, notwithstanding the sacramental bond by which they are joined to their legitimate spouse, are admitted to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist without fulfilling the duty, established by God, of ceasing to violate the bond of their existing sacramental marriage.”
The bishops assert that “Pastors of the Church who tolerate or authorize, even in individual or exceptional cases, the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist by the divorced and so-called “remarried,” without their being clothed in the ‘wedding garment,’… are complicit in this way with a continual offense against the sacramental bond of marriage, the nuptial bond between Christ and the Church and the nuptial bond between Christ and the individual soul who receives his Eucharistic Body.”
Making mention of particular churches that have issued pastoral guidelines for the implementation of Amoris Laetitia along such lines, the bishop say that such guidelines “contradict the universal tradition of the Catholic Church, which by means of an uninterrupted Petrine Ministry of the Sovereign Pontiffs has always been faithfully kept, without any shadow of doubt or of ambiguity, either in its doctrine or its praxis, in that which concerns the indissolubility of marriage.”
In a series of specific rebuttals, the bishops identify the ways in which the “pastoral guidelines contradict moreover in practice” certain “truths and doctrines that the Catholic Church has continually taught as being sure.” In this theological analysis, drawn from sacred scripture, the writings of the saints, popes, and doctors of the Church, the authors assert, in part [emphasis added]:
- “To believe in the indissolubility of marriage and to contradict it by one’s own actions while at the same time considering oneself even being free from grave sin and calming one’s conscience by trusting in God’s mercy alone, represents a self-deception…”
- “The observance of the Commandments of God and in particular of the indissolubility of marriage cannot be presented as a fuller expression of an ideal towards which one should strive in accordance with the criterion of the good which is possible or achievable. It is rather the case of an obligation which God himself has unequivocally commanded, the non-observance of which, in accordance with his Word, carries the penalty of eternal damnation. “
- “God gives to every man assistance in the observance of his Commandments, when such a request is properly made, as the Church has infallibly taught: “God does not command that which is impossible, but in commanding he exhorts you to do that which you are able, and to ask for that which you cannot do, and so he assists you that you might be able to do it” (Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 11) and “and if someone says that even for the man who has been justified and established in grace the commandments of God are impossible to observe: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, session 6, canon 18.)”
- “The sexual act outside of a valid marriage, and in particular adultery, is always objectively gravely sinful and no circumstance and no reason can render it admissible or pleasing in the sight of God.”
- “A valid marriage of the baptized is a sacrament of the Church and of its nature has a public character. A subjective judgment of the conscience in relation to the invalidity of one’s own marriage, in contrast to the corresponding definitive judgment of an ecclesiastical tribunal, cannot bring consequences for sacramental discipline, since the sacramental discipline always has a public character.”
- “A practice which permits to those who have a civil divorce, the so called “remarried,” to receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, notwithstanding their intention to continue to violate the Sixth Commandment and their sacramental bond of matrimony in the future, would be contrary to Divine truth and alien to the perennial sense of the Catholic Church, to the proven custom, received and faithfully kept from the time of the Apostles…“
- “An authentic accompaniment of persons who find themselves in an objective state of grave sin and on a corresponding journey of pastoral discernment cannot fail to announce to such people, in all charity, the complete will of God, in such a way that they repent wholeheartedly of their sinful actions of living more uxorio with a person who is not their legitimate spouse.”
Following their analysis, the bishops state that
Only the voice of the Supreme Pastor of the Church can definitively impede a situation where in the future, the Church of our time is described with the following expression: “All the world groaned and noticed with amazement that it has in practice accepted divorce” (ingenuit totus orbis et divortium in praxi se accepisse miratus est), evoking an analogous saying by which St Jerome described the Arian crisis.
Given this very real danger and the widespread plague of divorce within the life of the Church, which is implicitly legitimized by the mentioned norms and applications of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia; given that the aforementioned norms and guidelines from some particular churches as a result of today’s global culture are in the public domain; given, furthermore, the ineffectiveness of numerous appeals made privately and in a discreet manner to Pope Francis both by many faithful and by some Shepherds of the Church, we are forced to make this urgent appeal to prayer. As successors of the Apostles, we are also moved by the obligation of raising our voices when the most sacred things of the Church and the matter of eternal salvation of souls are in question.
Considering that the admission of the divorced and so-called “remarried” to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, without requiring of them the obligation to live in continence, constitutes a danger for the faith and for the salvation of souls and furthermore constitutes an offense to the holy will of God; furthermore, taking into consideration that such pastoral practice can never be the expression of mercy, of the “via caritatis” or of the maternal sense of the Church towards souls that are sinning, we make with profound pastoral solicitude this urgent appeal to prayer that Pope Francis may revoke in an unequivocal manner the aforementioned pastoral guidelines which are already introduced in several particular churches. Such an act of the Visible Head of the Church would comfort the shepherds and the faithful of the Church, according to the mandate which Christ, the Supreme Shepherd of souls, has given to the Apostle Peter, and through him to all his successors: “Confirm your brethren!” (Luke 22:32).
Further, the bishops insist:
We make this appeal to prayer conscious that our failure to do so would have been a serious omission. Christ, the Truth and the Supreme Shepherd, will judge us when He appears. We ask Him, with humility and confidence, to reward all the shepherds and all the sheep with the imperishable crown of glory (cf. 1 Pet. 5:4).
In the spirit of faith and with filial and devout affection we raise our prayer for Pope Francis:
“Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco: Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius. Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam, et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam.”
The translation of this prayer, drawn in part from Matthew 16:18, is as follows: “Let us pray for our Pope Francis: May the Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The bishops urge:
As a concrete means we recommend to recite every day this ancient prayer of the Church or a part of the holy rosary in the intention that Pope Francis may revoke in an unequivocal manner those pastoral guidelines, which permit the divorced and so-called “remarried” to receive the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist without asking them to fulfill the obligation of a life in continence.
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