Five bishops have signed a statement expressing their opposition to norms and guidelines that foresee the possibility of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.
The statement, which was published on several websites, contended that "divorced people living with someone else would not dare ask for holy Communion because they know they are living in a situation of sin. It would be blasphemy."
According to traditional Church teaching, remarried Catholics may only receive Communion if they resolve to refrain from sexual relations. The teaching has been reaffirmed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but some bishops have contradicted it, claiming that avoiding sex may be impossible and that those who have decided they "were at peace with God" may receive the sacraments.
The statement opposing Communion for divorced Catholics was originally issued on Dec. 31 by Tomash Peta, Archbishop of Saint Mary in Astana; Jan Pawel Lenga, Archbishop-Bishop of Karaganda; and Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Mary in Astana.
Two Italian prelates — Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the former papal nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Emeritus Luigi Negri — later added their signatures to the document.
Schneider said that the statement was a response to some bishops' conferences issuing guidelines that consider the possibility of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics returning to the sacraments.
An ambiguous document issued by Buenos Aires' bishops has been deemed by some commentators to be in conflict with traditional Catholic teaching, but others disagree. The document has reportedly received Pope Francis' backing.
In early December, the Buenos Aires' guidelines were published on the Vatican website and the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis," the official record of Vatican documents and acts, at the request of Pope Francis.
The five bishops lamented in their statement that some episcopal documents supporting Communion for the remarried had "received approval even from the supreme authority of the Church," presumably a reference to the pope's approval.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the guidelines do not state that all Catholics are welcome to receive Communion no matter what their marital situation is, nor does it say that Catholics in a second marriage may access the sacraments.
However, it states that divorced and civilly remarried couples should be encouraged to abstain from sexual relations so that they will be able to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
In response, the bishops reiterated the traditional teaching of the Church and argued that the tradition of the Church on Communion for the remarried is binding because it follows Jesus' teaching on marital indissolubility.
The bishops contended that there can be no contradiction between "the discipline of the sacraments and the faith of the Church in the absolute indissolubility of a ratified and consummated marriage."
"The sacraments not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called 'sacraments of faith,'" the bishops further stated, quoting from the Second Vatican Council.