In the book, the cardinal said the woman had saved the man "from a state of deep despair, probably from the temptation of suicide." The couple had been together for 10 years, adding another child to the mix, with the woman making considerable sacrifices to help raise the other three.
While the woman in the hypothetical situation "is fully aware of being in an irregular situation" and would "honestly like to change her life, but evidently, she can't," the cardinal said, explaining that if she left, "the man would turn back to the previous situation and the children would be left without a mother."
To leave, then, would mean the woman would fail to carry out her duties toward innocent people, namely, the children. Because of this, Cardinal Coccopalmerio said, "it's then evident that she couldn't leave without new sin" occurring.
Speaking on the point of continence, the cardinal pointed to St. John Paul II's 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.
In the document, St. John Paul II taught that the divorced-and-remarried who for serious reasons cannot satisfy the obligation to separate may receive absolution which would open the way to Communion only if they take on the duty to live in complete continence – to live as brother and sister.
However, for Cardinal Coccopalmerio, while the couples who are able to do this should, for others the temptation of infidelity increases the longer a couple refrains from sexual intimacy, potentially causing greater harm to the children.
He referred to footnote 329 of Amoris laetitia. The footnote is a reference to the quoting of St. John Paul II's words in Familiaris consortio acknowledging that some of the divorced-and-remarried cannot, for serious reasons, separate. The footnote applies the words of Gaudium et spes that "where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined" – in its context, speaking about married couples – to "the divorced who have entered a new union."
Cardinal Coccopalmerio stressed that while for him the desire to change one's situation despite the inability to do so is enough to receive Communion, the conditions must be "carefully and authoritatively discerned" on the part of ecclesial authority, which would typically be the couple's parish priest, who knows the couple "more directly" and can therefore offer adequate guidance.
For the cardinal, the only instance in which a couple in an irregular situation could be barred from Communion is when, "knowing they are in grave sin and being able to change, they have no sincere desire" to do so.
He also suggested that a diocesan office charged with advising on difficult marital situations could be "necessary, or at least useful."
Cardinal Coccopalmerio was absent from his book presentation, and it was presented instead by Orazio La Rocca; Fr. Maurizio Gronchi; Fr. Giuseppe Costa, SDB; and Alfonso Cuateruccio.
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Cardinal Coccopalmerio is the latest prelate to speak out on the question of Amoris laetitia and admission to Communion for the divorced-and-remarried. The exhortation has been met with a varied reception and intepretation within the Church.
Several bishops, including the bishops' conferences of Germany and of Malta, have said the divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion.
Yet many have maintained the Church's traditional discipline, including recently Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur and Bishop Stephen Lopes of the Ordinariate of St. Peter.
And Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has on multiple occasions maintained that Amoris laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching.
In an interview with Il Timone earlier this month, he said that Amoris laetitia "must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church." He said that St. John Paul II's teaching in Familiaris consortio "is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments."
Confusion on this point, he said, stems from a failure to accept St. John Paul II's 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor.