Last week, I told you about a document from a group of Argentine Bishops in the Buenos Aires region that made provisions for allowing certain divorced and remarried Catholics who were not living in continence to receive both the sacraments of Confession and Communion.
A papal letter was also published as a response to this document, in which Pope Francis indicated that he believed the document to be “very good” and that in terms of its approach to Amoris Laetitia, there could be “No other interpretations.”
The question was the letter’s authenticity – did it exist, and if so, was it really from the pope? In an update to my original post, I shared a link to a LifeSiteNews story that includes a scanned copy of that letter, which you can view here (PDF Link). Examining the letter, wee see two important elements of verification.
First, the papal coat of arms on the letter:
Compare this to the papal coat of arms that appears on the Vatican website:
Second, the signature. While it appears inexplicably small at the bottom of the letter, it is nonetheless legible:
Here it is, zoomed in 500% and sharpened:
An image of the pope’s signature appears on a Crux article about Amoris Laetitia that looks strikingly similar:
Another example of his signature can be taken from this image of his signed note in the guest book of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2014.
It appears to me that there is, therefore, sufficient reason to believe that — barring any denial from the Vatican that this letter is a forgery — this letter provides authentic documentation that Pope Francis approved of the Argentinian bishops’ interpretation of AL. Again, their document states, in part (and here I will use the LifeSiteNews translation rather than Google’s, with my emphasis):
5) When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, it is possible to propose that they make the effort of living in continence. Amoris Laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and leaves open the possibility of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation when one fails in this intention (cf. note 364, according to the teaching of Saint John Paul II to Cardinal W. Baum, of 22/03/1996).
6) In other, more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up 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 aid of grace.
Add this to the already smoking gun of Francis’ airplane interview answer on this topic from back in April. To refresh your memory, here’s the video of the relevant portion:
It is now, I think it’s fair to say, beyond reasonable doubt that Francis was the author of this letter. That he approves of the Argentine bishops’ document (even as it has now disappeared from the Infocatolica website pending “revision” after garnering so much publicity — as has their copy of the pope’s letter, both of which they now comment on here.) That he has always intended to create a pathway for the divorced and remarried who are living in adultery to receive the sacraments, and that he approves of those bishops and cardinals who have implemented this interpretation.
UPDATE: Just moments after this was posted, I was offered verification that yes, Francis wrote the letter, from no less authoritative sources than the Vatican’s official newspaper and the Vatican News Network. It’s the real deal.
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.