Vatican City

Readers, like us writers, are perhaps getting weary from the dizzying twists and turns on divorce, remarriage and the sacraments. Alas, the latest whirl on the Amoris Laetitia carousel, provided by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, cannot be ignored. In his enthusiasm to back what he thinks Pope Francis believes, despite no public evidence of same, the cardinal advises granting absolution and administering Holy Communion even to couples who can get married but choose simply to live together.

“The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabitating, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way,” Coccopalmerio writes in his recent booklet on the correct interpretation of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. “Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion should be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment.”

The bit about the “traditional matrimonial canons” is a nice touch because Cardinal Coccopalmerio is in fact the president of the council for the interpretation of legislative texts. That’s the Vatican department entrusted with providing authoritative interpretations of canon law when difficult matters arise.

Given that Cardinal Coccopalmerio is willing to offer his counsel, but missed his own press conference to present his reflections, four questions ought to be put to him when journalists have the chance.

First, the very council of which he is the head issued a declaration in 2000 “concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried”. The council explains why canons 915 and 916 prevent the admission of such couples to Holy Communion and makes the point, in legal language, that it can’t be changed because Jesus said so: “The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church.”

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection