2. Note the observation in the preamble to the Guidelines themselves that:
It is important that the following guidelines be read in the light of the indicated references.The references which occur in the Guidelines are to the text/footnotes of Amoris Laetitia itself.
3. Much of the Guidelines document does follow closely Amoris Laetitia itself. The Guidelines nn. 5-8 provide a good example of this, particularly the suggested examination of conscience, which is not going to be a soft touch in any circumstances.
4. The Guidelines at n.3 clearly indicate that those who are cohabiting should be encouraged towards living the full reality of marriage. Those at n.4 are clear in suggesting that, for those who are now living in a new union and where a reasonable doubt is seen as to the validity or consummation of their original marriage, should be directed to seek a declaration of nullity or dissolution.
5. Paragraph 9:
Throughout the discernment process, we should also examine the possibility of conjugal continence. Despite the fact that this ideal is not at all easy, there may be couples who, with the help of grace, practice this virtue without putting at risk other aspects of their life together. On the other hand, there are complex situations where the choice of living “as brothers and sisters” becomes humanly impossible and gives rise to greater harm (see AL, note 329)....needs to be read in the light of a footnote - number 329 - to Amoris Laetitia that does not characterise living as brother and sister as "humanly impossible" nor make any comparative judgement as to greater or lesser harm:
John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living "as brothers and sisters" which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, "it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers" (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes n.51).[It is incidentally useful to also follow through and read the texts of Familiaris Consortio n.84 and Gaudium et Spes n.51, to gain the full context of the references being made to them in the footnote. The context of the phenomenological observation about the endangering of faithfulness and the good of the children suffering is very different in Gaudium et Spes than in Amoris Laetitia, though that does not invalidate the referencing.]
6. And the problematical n.10. The English makes use of the term "cannot be precluded" where the Italian of Osservatore Romano uses a term which, in my translation is, "cannot be prevented from". There is a very subtle difference here. The English text suggests "cannot be ruled out from" rather than "must be allowed to" - which is, in essence, what the controversial Amoris Laetitia footnote indicates. (I am not able to comment on the Maltese text.)
If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).The Italian text from Osservatore Romano:
....non le potra essere impedito di accostarsi ai sacramenti della riconciliazione e dell’eucaristia....[...they cannot be prevented from approaching the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist...]And, of course, read the paragraph in the light of the three indicated references to Amoris Laetitia, particularly the text of n.300. Reading it out of that context gives a completely different impression of the intent of the bishops of Malta with their guidelines.
I would observe that:
- the Maltese bishops are giving an instruction here to their pastors with regard to the admission or otherwise of the faithful to the sacraments; they are not saying that it is for the faithful in these situations to come to their own decision
- the situation of not being precluded from the sacraments only arises when objective conditions are met, and not just from the subjective sense of peace with God of the faithful (and perhaps the reference to peace with God should be read, too, in the sense of the situation for making a good choice of state of life of the Spiritual Exercises, rather than in a purely subjective sense); the conditions include love for the teaching of the Church; and the conditions arise within a process of discernment, whose terms are indicated in previous sections of the Guidance
- it is quite misleading, and, it appears to me, deliberately mischievous, to simply headline coverage of the Maltese Bishops' Guidelines as unconditionally admitting those in second unions to the sacraments.
[ This characterisation at EWTN , for example, seems to me quite false, however learned its author or acclaimed the site publishing it:
The bishops of Malta, in a document that can only be called disastrous, repeatedly invoking Pope Francis’ Amoris laetitia, have directly approved divorced and remarried Catholics taking holy Communion provided they feel “at peace with God”. Unlike, say, the Argentine document on Amoris which, one could argue, left just enough room for an orthodox reading, however widely it also left the doors open for abuse by others, the Maltese bishops in their document come straight out and say it: holy Communion is for any Catholic who feels “at peace with God” and the Church’s ministers may not say No to such requests.]