11 June 2018
Poland bishops call for compassion, healing and encouragement for divorced and remarried Catholics
The new guidelines show the bishops coming into harmony with Francis
Poland’s bishops have released new guidelines on Pope Francis’ marriage and family life document calling for compassion, healing and encouragement for divorced and remarried Catholics.
The document, aimed at putting “Amoris Laetitia” into practice, avoids the question of whether the remarried can receive communion but calls for the buzzwords of Francis’ text - acceptance, accompaniment, discernment and integration - to be incorporated into family ministry.
This marks a shift from an earlier draft of the Polish bishops’ document which stated that divorced and remarried Catholics could not receive the sacraments because their “condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist”.
It also marks a different tone to that of Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who two years ago argued the matter “cannot be solved in a confessional box in two minutes or even a couple of years” and that those in second unions could not be admitted to communion.
Amoris Laetitia, written by the Pope after two years of discussions and consultation with bishops and laity, offers a cautious opening to remarried Catholics being admitted to communion.
Some have argued the Polish bishops ambivalence to “Amoris Laetitia”, and opposition to giving remarried Catholics communion, represented a problematic internal division and suggested Francis was out of sync with his Polish predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
But in the new guidelines show the bishops coming into harmony with Francis: they argue that the Pope’s document “completes and updates” previous interventions by the Church’s magisterium on marriage and the family and “in no way undermines the teaching of his predecessors.”
The Polish hierarchy talk about the necessity of priests “accompanying the faithful and discerning their specific situations” while the Church’s pastoral ministry must be characterised by “a respectful and compassionate look that simultaneously heals, liberates, and encourages growth in Christian life.”
Some couples in “irregular relationships”, the bishops say, would like to change their situation “but cannot do so without committing another fault” giving the example of second marriages where there are children.
“The keywords of his [Francis'] pontificate are ‘tenderness and closeness’,” the bishops explain. “In the merciful and compassionate love (for, among others, the poor, migrants, spouses, and other family members), he sees the basic criterion of verifying the credibility of the Church and Her activities.”
Discernment, they argue, is crucial and this can help an individual become deeper integrated into the Church while also “advance on the path of faith.”
The bishops say that Francis developed the idea of “gradualness” put forward by Pope St John Paul II in his family life document, “Familiaris Consortio,” a law which assumes man “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.” Taking this on, the Pope argues that those in unions which fall short of the Church’s ideal “does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.”
And Francis also follows the Polish Pope, the bishop argues, by recognising “the complexity of the situation of divorced faithful” and the “countless diversity of situations of people who have divorced and entered into new civil unions.”
The Polish bishops stress, however, that anyone in second marriages wanting to return to the sacraments should seek to have their first marriage annulled and “understanding” be shown to those “wanting to fully participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, have decided to live as brother and sister.”
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