Most faithful Catholics know about Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Latitia and the controversy surrounding it, especially as it pertains to the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist. The latest round in the controversy comes in the form of a letter – a filial correction – written by lay Catholic scholars which alleges that Pope Francis, by his actions and omissions, is propagating heretical interpretations of Amoris Latitia. It is important to note that the authors of the letter acknowledge that Amoris Latitia can be given an orthodox interpretation and application. Hence, they are not arguing – as some others have – that Amoris Latitia itself teaches heresy. Rather, they are arguing against the propagation of heresies rooted in misinterpretations and misapplications of Amoris Latitia.
After reading the relevant sections of Amoris Latitia, the filial correction, and commentary from all sides of the debate, I offer my simple, inexpert summary of what the main issue appears to be. That is to say, in what follows I present a simple and clear lay outlining of what appears to be the primary problem that should be understandable to faithful Catholics. My purpose is to try my best to understand and clarify the main point of contention created by Amoris Latitia and the many interpretations swirling around it. I make no pretensions at elucidating every problem surrounding Amoris Latitia, let alone solving any of them.
We start with a Catholic marriage. The husband and wife separate and obtain a civil divorce. At least one of the spouses (spouse A) civilly remarries and engages in sexual activity with his or her new spouse. In Church language they live as husband and wife. Objectively speaking, the new civil marriage is adulterous and mortally sinful. With the preceding in mind, there appear to be three possible paths to the Eucharist for spouse A (and similarly situated spouses):
Path 1: Spouse A simply presents himself to receive the Eucharist
Path 2: Spouse A goes to confession, makes a bad confession, and presents himself to receive the Eucharist
Path 3: Spouse A goes to confession, makes a good confession, and presents himself to receive the Eucharist
As I understand it, some faithful Catholics, like the authors of the filial correction, are essentially arguing (or fear) that Amoris Latitia is being misinterpreted and misapplied to normalize paths 1 and/or 2 – reception of the Eucharist by civilly remarried Catholics in the absence of a good confession – and that this is totally unacceptable, even heterodox, and that it threatens to undermine all of Catholic moral teaching and discipline and lead souls to eternal perdition. Rather, these faithful Catholics seem to be arguing that only path 3 can be harmonized with Catholic teaching and practice. Moreover, they would probably also argue that path 3 should be further modified to guard against scandal and protect and reinforce Catholic teaching on the dignity of the Eucharist and indissolubility of marriage:
Path 3a: Spouse A goes to confession, makes a good confession, and presents himself to receive the Eucharist in a discreet manner
My guess is other modified versions of path 3 are possible that would be acceptable to faithful Catholics who are concerned about questionable stuff that is being said and done in the name of Amoris Latitia.
In closing, the above represents a lay but educated Catholics effort to understand and clarify what the primary problem is with Amoris Latitia, it’s various interpretations, and the recently publicized letter of filial correction. It goes without saying that I am am hardly an expert in these matters and may have entirely missed the mark. Having said that, the experts should be aware of the messages getting through to the faithful – the faithful flock who need to be fed, cared for and guided by their shepherds.
These are strange and confusing times for faithful Catholics and the Church’s leaders and Her supreme teacher, with one voice, need to authoritatively explain Church teaching and discipline on the sacraments of marriage and the Eucharist in a clear, concise and confident manner. Souls are at stake.