The Spanish-language Catholic journal InfoCatólica — which is based in Spain, but covers issues in Latin America as well — has published a document from the Argentine Bishops’ in response to Amoris Laetitia. They have also released a corresponding letter attributed to Pope Francis in which he praises their work, saying (according to the slightly cleaned-up machine translation we’re currently working with) “The writing is very good and fully express the meaning of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. No other interpretations.”
And yet, paragraphs 5 & 6 of the bishops’ document makes an assertion about the permissability of confession and communion for the divorced and remarried who are not living in continence that is far more concrete than what is found in the apostolic exhortation itself. See the bold sections (my emphasis) below:
1) First recall that we should not speak of “permission” to access the sacraments, but a process of discernment accompanied by a pastor. It is a “personal and pastoral” discernment (300).
2) In this way, the pastor should emphasize the fundamental announcement, the kerygma, which stimulates or renews personal encounter with the living Jesus Christ (cf. 58).
3) The pastoral care is an exercise of the ‘via caritatis “. It is an invitation to follow “the way of Jesus of mercy and integration” (296). This itinerary calls for the pastoral charity of the priest who welcomes the penitent, listens carefully and shows the maternal face of the Church, while accepting his good intention and good intention of putting entire life in the light of the Gospel and practice charity (cf. 306).
4) This way is not necessarily just in the sacraments, but may look to other ways to become more integrated into the life of the Church: a greater presence in the community, participation in prayer groups or reflection, commitment in various ecclesial services , etc. (Cf. 299).
5) If the specific circumstances of a couple making this possible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, you can propose the commitment to live in continence. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (see Note 329) and leaves open the possibility to access the Sacrament of Reconciliation fails when that purpose (see footnote 364, according to the teaching of John Paul II to Cardinal W. Baum, of 22/03/1996).
6) In other more complex circumstances, and when they could not obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not be feasibly done. However, it is also possible a path of discernment. If you come to recognize that, in a particular case, there are limitations that lessen the responsibility and guilt (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person considers that fall in a subsequent lack damaging to the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn have the person to continue to mature and grow with the power of grace.
What we do not know with certitude is whether Pope Francis did, in fact, write and sign this letter. It is being attributed to him without a scanned copy of the original. It is unlikely that this is a fake, and it has a style that seems authentic, but this will be the point of contention that will be raised by those who would prefer not to believe that a pope could endorse and promote sacrilege.
We also lack a qualified translation of the Spanish originals. (A French commentary on this has also emerged, for those who can read it.) It is unlikely that when we have one it will change much, but there are often subtle nuances and idioms that can in some way alter the meaning. The final verdict will have to wait until we can identify a translator who can nail down the text. (Unfortunately, our resources are limited in this regard.)
Nevertheless, while awaiting final confirmation, this appears to be precisely what it looks like: a direct and affirmative confirmation from the pope himself that he intended to allow those living in objective grave sin to receive the sacraments of confession and communion without the requisite repentance and alteration of life. This is sacrilege. Taken as a contradiction of the Gospels, such an assertion could arguably be considered heretical.
This is an exceedingly serious and weighty matter, and the move away from ambiguity to endorsement connects Francis even more closely to the theological censures of Amoris Laetitia to which he has a moral duty to respond.
UPDATE: LifeSiteNews has posted their own translations of the letters. Go here to see them.
Also, the bishops of the Buenos Aires region are now backtracking somewhat since their letter was made public. Infocatolica is also casting doubt on the veracity of the papal approval letter. As the old saying goes, “never believe something until it has been officially denied.” If their re-positioning becomes a story, we’ll let you know.
UPDATE 2: I failed to mention that LifeSiteNews has an actual scanned copy of the original papal letter. Unless it’s an intentional forgery, it has what appears to be the pope’s unique signature on it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.