The bishops of Malta have issued a document titled “Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Lætitia.” For those who haven’t been paying attention, Chapter 8 of AL deals with whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion – an issue that has been transformed into the most pressing issue of the day in recent years.
Dr. Ed Peters rightly calls the document a “disaster.” A few quick thoughts of my own:
- The conclusion reached by the document – that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion as long as they are “at peace with God” (par. 10) – should surprise no one. This has been the end game ever since Cardinal Kasper gave his infamous address almost three years ago to the Roman Curia introducing the “Kasper Proposal.” This was not the Church listening to the Holy Spirit and going wherever He leads. It was planned from the beginning, and this was the conclusion that was to be reached, no matter the opposition.
- Like all those who have been pushing for this change, the Maltese bishops use the language of “ideal,” “discernment,” and “complex situations.” But we all know the bottom line: this transforms the Catholic policy on communion to essentially the same as that of most mainline Protestant denominations, i.e. open communion. For if feeling that one is at “peace with God” is the primary criteria for receiving Communion, what precludes anyone from receiving?
- The image on the cover of the document – Our Lord encountering the woman caught in adultery – is the height of irony, although I’m sure the Maltese bishops don’t realize it. After all, after Christ had dispersed the crowd, he told the woman, “Go and sin no more.” The bishops, in effect, are telling men and women in a similar circumstance, “Go and sin some more.”
- The priests of Malta – and anywhere such a policy is implemented – have a decision to make. Will they obey their bishops, or will they obey the Lord? I don’t envy them, and we should all pray that our priests remain faithful to the Lord’s commands, even if it means opposition to their bishops.
- The Maltese bishops speak of living in continence as an “ideal” that is “humanly impossible” for some (par. 9). Yet the bishops themselves are required to live in complete continence. This tells me one of two things: either they believe they are superior to these couples, or they themselves don’t live up to the “ideal.” So the bishops are either arrogant or immoral.
St. John Chrysostom famously said that the “road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” It looks like the road is about to be repaved.