Manuel Clemente, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal published on 12 July a letter sent to him by Pope Francis in which the Pope praises him for publishing pastoral guidelines permitting some “remarried” divorcees to receive Holy Communion. After his 2016 letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, this is the second direct papal approval of a heterodox approach of admitting some unrepentant adulterers to Holy Communion.
Dear Brother Cardinal,
I would like to thank you that you sent to me last Lent the guidelines for the priests of the patriarchate for the implementation of the eighth chapter of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
This deep reflection filled me with joy, because I recognized in it the engagement of the shepherd and father who is aware of his duty to accompany the faithful by starting with his priests so that they can fulfill their office in the best possible way.
Situations of marital life are today areas where such an accompaniment is the most needed and the most delicate. For this reason, I wanted to invite the college of bishops to a prolonged synodal journey which would, in spite of unavoidable difficulties, enable the maturation of common guidelines for the welfare of the whole people of God.
By expressing my gratitude to you, I use this occasion to encourage the brother Cardinal and his collaborators in pastoral service – in the first place, the priests – to accompany with wisdom and patience in the effort to discern, and to integrate that fragility which shows itself in manifold forms in spouses and their bonds. It is a task which challenges us as shepherds on the one side, and which on the other side regenerates and sanctifies us, because everything is being revived by the Grace of the Holy Ghost which the Risen Lord has granted to the Apostles for the forgiveness of sins and for the careful treatment of all wounds.
In the joy of sharing with you, my beloved brother, this sweet and demanding task, I assure you that I shall remember you in my prayers and I ask you also to pray for me. I bless you from my heart, to include all the priests and the whole diocesan community of the Patriarchate of Lisbon.
Vatican, 26 June 2018
Cardinal Clemente has been made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015. The Catholic Herald reported a few days ago the following about Clemente:
The Patriarch of Lisbon attended both Synods of the Family and initially expressed disagreement with the idea of allowing divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion. His attitude changed after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, however.
On 6 February of 2018, Cardinal Clemente had published his own pastoral guidelines, in which he permitted some “remarried” divorcees – in individual cases – to receive Holy Communion. He also therein recommends that the priests propose to them to live chastely as brother and sister, but he did not make this loyal and abiding continence a precondition for their access to Holy Communion. Importantly, Clemente himself, in his guidelines, refers back to the Argentine bishops and their own liberal interpretation of Amoris Laetitia in September of 2016, as well as Pope Francis’s subsequent letter of approval to them. Cardinal Clemente also makes direct reference to the guidelines of Pope Francis’ own diocese of Rome, as they had been published on 19 September 2016 by his Cardinal-Vicar, Agostini Vallini. Reference is made by Clemente to Amoris Laetitia – which he quotes extensively, to include AL 305 and its famous footnote 351 – and with it to the internal forum and to a process of discernment. Clemente also refers to the Pope’s praise of the Argentine bishops and his words that “there are no other interpretations.” Clemente then says: “The recent official publication of these documents in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, CVIII/10 (2017) p. 1071 ss, requires from us, indispensably, to receive and accept it.”
Thus we are witnessing a further solidification of the heterodox permissive practice of giving Holy Communion to some unrepentant adulterers, just as it has been more openly promoted by Pope Francis himself since 2016.