Scott Eric Alt takes a careful look at one of the most polarizing and controversial sections of the pope’s new exhortation:
In the few days since the Vatican’s release of Amoris Laetitia, there has been talk of footnote 351 being a “smoking gun” that endorses communion for the divorced and remarried who lack an annulment. In the text preceding this note, Pope Francis observes that, while certain individuals may be objectively in sin, they may not be fully culpable. This is nothing new; the Church has long taught that mortal sin requires the presence of three criteria: grave matter, full knowledge and freedom of the will (CCC 1857). So the pope is saying that, though grave matter is always present in an irregular union, the other two criteria may not be. In such cases, the pope says, the Church can not merely state a rule as though it were “a stone to throw.” Rather, it must be a source of help for the couple to “grow in the life of grace.” And then he adds this footnote:
In certain cases [emphasis added], this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.” … I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”In “certain cases,” but which? If the text that precedes the note is of any help, the pope would seem to be referring to cases where there is grave matter but not the other two criteria for mortal sin. If there is no mortal sin, nothing bars one from the Eucharist. Only a pastor who knows and has counseled the individuals in question can make this determination.
There’s much more. Read it all.