Is it Amoris Laetitiae’s intention to institutionalize this solution through a permit or an official decision for individual couples?
Point 1 of the document “basic criteria for the application of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia” expressly states: “It is not appropriate to speak of ‘permissions’ to access the sacraments, but rather of a process of discernment accompanied by a pastor. It is a ‘personal and pastoral’ discernment” (AL, 300). It is therefore a question of pastoral accompaniment as an exercise of the “via caritatis,” which is nothing other than an invitation to follow the path “of Jesus: of mercy and reinstatement.” Amoris Laetitia opens the possibility of accessing the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist when, in a particular case, there are limitations that attenuate responsibility and culpability (guilt). On the other hand, this process of accompaniment does not necessarily end with the sacraments, but can be oriented towards other forms of integration in the life of the Church: a greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, or involvement in various ecclesial services.
Who should be the evaluator of the situation given the couples in question, any confessor, local parish priest, vicar forane, episcopal vicar, or penitentiary?
It is about starting an itinerary of pastoral accompaniment for the discernment of each individual person. Amoris Laetitia underlines that all priests have the responsibility to accompany interested people on the journey of discernment. It is the priest who welcomes the person, listens to him carefully and shows him the maternal face of the Church, accepting his right intention and his good purpose to place his whole life in the light of the Gospel and to practice charity. But it is each person, individually, who is called to put himself before God and expose his conscience to him, with both his possibilities and limits. This conscience, accompanied by a priest and enlightened by the guidelines of the Church, is called to be formed to evaluate and give a sufficient judgment to discern the possibility of accessing the sacraments.
Would it be appropriate for these to be dealt with by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal?
In cases where it is possible to establish a declaration of nullity, the appeal to the ecclesiastical tribunal will be part of the discernment process. The Holy Father wanted to simplify these processes through the motu proprio Mitis Iudex. The problem arises in more complex situations in which it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity. In these cases, a process of discernment may also be possible which stimulates or renews the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, also in the sacraments.
Can this principle be applied to both parties of a civilly divorced marriage, or distinguish the degree of fault and proceed accordingly?
St. John Paul II had already stated that “the judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience.” Therefore, it is a process of individual discernment in which “the divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people who are preparing for marriage. A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God, which is not denied anyone.”
In the case of this single permission, is it to be understood that married life (the sexual aspect) must not be mentioned in the sacrament of reconciliation?
Even in the sacrament of marriage, the sexual life of the spouses is the subject of an examination of conscience to confirm that it is a true expression of love and that it helps growth in love. All aspects of life must be placed before God.
Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the entire issue to be explained better in the text of your competent dicastery?
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Based on the words of the Holy Father in the letter of response to the delegate of the Buenos Aires pastoral region, in which it was stated that there are no other interpretations, it seems that the issue is sufficiently explained in the aforementioned document.
How to proceed to establish internal unity, but also to avoid disturbing the ordinary magisterium of the Church?
It would be appropriate for the episcopal conference to agree on some minimum criteria, to implement the proposals of Amoris Laetitia, which help priests in the processes of accompaniment and discernment regarding the possible access to the sacraments of some divorcees in a new union, without prejudice to the legitimate authority that each bishop has in his own diocese.
Ex Audientia Die: 25/9/2023