Portugal’s bishops have embraced Amoris, but can’t conceal their divisions

by Filipe Avillez

Two years after Amoris Laetitia, many dioceses around the world haven’t yet implemented the document. Over the past few months, however, Portuguese bishops have been jumping on the Amoris bandwagon. While none has come out against the exhortation’s proposals, the process has been anything but smooth.

The first important diocese to announce guidelines was Braga. Archbishop Jorge Ortiga published a document in which he established “listening centres” to accompany couples in all stages of life, from marriage preparation to the first years of a new union and, also, for cases of rupture or irregular situations. This document met little resistance, but it set the ball rolling internally and put pressure on Lisbon, which vies with Braga for the position of most important diocese, to follow suit. Lisbon’s patriarch is said to have preferred a national policy.

The patriarch, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, was present at the family synods and publicly expressed his disagreement with the admittance of people in irregular situations to the sacraments, but in February, less than a month after Braga, he did publish a set of guidelines. Essentially composed of quotations from the Buenos Aires bishops’ document and Amoris itself, it was discreetly posted on the patriarchate’s website. If the idea was to avoid attention, it didn’t work.

Conservatives, at home and abroad, immediately tore into the patriarch, accusing him of bowing to pressure and betraying the faith. And just when the dust seemed to be settling the secular press realised that the patriarch had said, in line with Amoris, that the Church had a duty to propose living in continence. This led to a secular attack on the patriarch, a well-respected intellectual, who suffered arguably his worst PR disaster since his appointment to Lisbon in 2013.

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