Polish Bishops’ Conference: No Communion for the “Remarried”

Poland, Castle

Yesterday, 7 June, the Polish Bishops’ Conference ended its General Assembly in the Polish city of Zakopane. According to the official website of the German bishops Katholisch.de, the speaker of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Pawel Rytel-Andrianik said that the teaching of the Church with regard to Holy Communion for those people who live in non-sacramental relationships “has not changed” after the papal document Amoris Laetitia.

In their public declaration, the Polish bishops explained that Catholics in such relationships should be led “to a true conversion and to a reconciliation with their spouse and the children of that bond.” Here, the Polish bishops refer to Pope John Paul II’s post-synodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio which allows access to the Sacraments only if such “remarried” couples live in a loyally chaste relationship as brother and sister.

Moreover, the Polish bishops announced that they will further discuss guidelines concerning the pastoral care for those people who live in “non-sacramental” relationships, and their further integration, during their next General Assembly in autumn. These new guidelines will then also concretely explain how to accompany the “remarried” divorcees.

The Polish bishops had already earlier signaled their objection against admitting the “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments. As OnePeterFive then reported, two Polish bishops had made clear statements after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, rejecting the idea of access to the Sacraments for the “remarried.” Bishop Jan Watroba, President of the Council for the Family of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said in November 2016, as follows:

It is too bad that there exists no unified interpretation and no clear message of the document [Amoris Laetitia] and that one has to add interpretations to the Apostolic document. I personally – perhaps out of habit, but also out of conviction – prefer such documents, as John Paul II used to write them, where additional commentaries or interpretations concerning the teaching of Peter were not necessary.

Earlier in that same month of November, the Polish Auxiliary Bishop Józef Wróbel of Lublin had publicly supported the four cardinals’ dubia with regard to Amoris Laetitia, saying in an interview:

They [the dubia cardinals] have done well and they have exercised correctly the provisions of canon law. I think it is not only a right, but even a duty. It would have been just to answer to their observations.

Bishop Wróbel then also added:

You couldn’t give [Communion to the “remarried” persons] before Amoris Laetitia, it’s not possible now. The doctrine of the Church is not subject to changes, otherwise it is no longer the Church of Christ founded on the Gospel and the Tradition. It is given to no one to modify the doctrine insofar as no one is master of the Church.

According to the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference had said in July 2016

that the Church in Poland will refuse communion to divorced and remarried Catholics despite the landmark family document from Pope Francis which opened up the possibility.

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said that giving communion could not be allowed following a period of pastoral discernment – something which Francis has advocated – adding that if remarried divorcees had a valid first marriage they cannot receive the [Holy] Eucharist.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference is the first bishops’ conference which, as a whole, declares that it will remain faithful to the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage. Additionally, three bishops of Kazakhstan had issued, in January 2017, 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.”

However, other bishops’ conferences – such as the Maltese, German and Belgian bishops’ conference – have published guidelines in which they give, under certain conditions, access to the Sacraments for the “remarried” divorcees.

Other individual bishops – such as Archbishop Charles Chaput (Philadelphia), Bishop Vitus Huonder (Chur, Switzerland), and Archbishop Wolfgang Haas (Vaduz, Liechtenstein), have made clear that they will not allow a change of the Catholic teaching on marriage after Amoris Laetitia. For further information, here is a list of all the cardinals and bishops who have so far positioned themselves in one way or another with regard to the four cardinals’ dubia and thus to the decision to give access to the Sacraments for the “remarried.”

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