I published this on Crux.
Ever since it came out in April 2016, there’s been an avalanche of debate in Catholic circles about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s document on the family. At least in English, both sides seem to agree that it permits Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried who continue relations in some circumstances, and the dispute is over whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Yet if you read Amoris as papal documents are supposed to be read, meaning absorbing the full text in the context of Catholic tradition, the whole premise of the debate may be flawed – that is, Pope Francis may not have opened to door to Communion after all.
Pope Benedict XVI used the phrase “hermeneutic of continuity” to refer to reading as a whole and within tradition, and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, has said that’s the only way to read Amoris. That’s what I will attempt here.
Before we dive in, there’s a crucial distinction to make: There’s a significant difference between those who understand Church teaching and still choose to engage in sexual relations in a second marriage, and those who fail to live the Church’s teaching either from ignorance or weakness.
Pope Francis seems to make this distinction more clearly than previous Church teaching.
Here’s the bottom line: Contrary to popular opinion…