Bishop Renato Marangoni of the northern Italian diocese of Belluno-Feltre has apologized to remarried Catholics, urging them to come forward and receive the Eucharist.
In a public pastoral letter, Bishop Marangoni apologizes to divorced Catholics who have begun “new experiences of union” through civil remarriage or cohabitation and have felt judged, criticized, or ignored in our parish communities.
“For a long time, we have also said that you could not be fully admitted to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, while in many of you there was a desire to be sustained by the gift of the sacraments and by the warmth and affection of a community,” the bishop laments.
“In this we have become rigid in a very formal vision of the family situations you are in,” he said, in reference to the Church’s longstanding belief in the permanence of sacramental marriage.
“We were wrong not to consider as much the personal situation, the dreams that you had nourished, your vocation to married life with the life plans it entailed, even though you had to face troubled family events, where many factors may have been decisive in hindering all of this,” he writes. “It is precisely in these complex situations that personal responsibility needs to be supported and helped in its frailty.”
In his pastoral letter, the bishop invites divorced Catholics to attend a “friendly and familiar meeting,” to reflect together on the pope’s controversial 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
After the publication of that text, many within the Church expressed concern that the pope’s “cautious opening” to the possibility for remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion would lead to widespread abuses of sacramental discipline.
A second Italian bishop, Corrado Pizziolo of Vittorio-Veneto, has similarly announced in his diocesan newspaper “a novelty,” which would give “certain couples who do not live Christian marriage fully the possibility of access to sacramental participation.”
Conservative groups in Italy were quick to criticize the unilateral moves by bishops to reinterpret the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and marriage.
For two millennia, the Catholic Church has always adhered closely to the tough words of Jesus: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
One well-known Catholic site, Radio Spada, noted that even though the Marangoni letter was written by a bishop, “there’s no call to abandon a gravely sinful situation that puts the eternal destiny of one’s soul at risk, no mention of the high Christian values of chastity and the holiness of the family, no reference to the unity and indissolubility of marriage.”
“More than a letter of a successor of the Apostles, it’s a letter of a successor of the Apostates,” the site said.