Lead Portuguese cardinal: divorced and remarried couples can ‘return to the sacramental life’

December 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon appears to have endorsed giving the sacrament of Holy Communion to some divorced and remarried couples, claiming that in most cases their previous marriages were invalid.

Cardinal Manuel Clemente, who is also the president of Portugal’s bishops’ conference, is urging the clergy to take a “fundamental attitude of ‘welcoming,’ of ‘accompaniment’ and ‘discernment’ of those who are divorced and remarried, stating that ‘in the greatest number of cases’ the marriage was null,” according to Agencia Ecclesia, the official news service of the Portuguese bishops.

The cardinal told Agencia Ecclesia that divorced and remarried Catholics who want to begin receiving the sacraments will have to follow a “very long” process which isn’t a “quick, immediate, simple” decision. However, he added that “in some cases, with discretion and with the consent of the bishop, they can return to the sacramental life,” citing the authority of Pope Francis.

Clemente did not specify whether celibacy within the invalid second marriage would be a requirement for such couples, a condition imposed by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

However, it seems likely that the cardinal’s words will be interpreted in ways consonant with Pope Francis’ official explanation of the meaning of Amoris Laetitia, published recently in the Vatican’s Acts of the Apostolic See, which allows invalidly remarried couples to receive Holy Communion, even when they continue to engage in adulterous sexual acts.

Clemente’s claim that most marriages that end in divorce are null is similar to another, broader claim made by Pope Francis in private comments in 2016, in which he controversially asserted that most marriages in general are invalid.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese archdiocese of Braga has already announced that it will give “access to the sacraments” to “divorced and remarried Christians,” without any reference to the need to give up the sexual act.

In early November the Diocese of Braga published a statement on its website affirming that “the Archdiocese of Braga will establish a group for accompanying Christians who are divorced and remarried, which will make access to the sacraments possible, in accordance with a process of individual discernment.”

“Besides giving information and advice regarding the processes for the declaration of nullity of a marriage, the team will accompany each case, so that, after a process of personal discernment, access to the sacraments and the possibility of being godparents will be reevaluated,” the archdiocese declared.

The Code of Canon Law continues to state the Catholic Church’s long-established doctrine that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion,” in canon 915.

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