(To save words, in all discussions of this topic, I'm excluding cases of repentant remarried couples choosing to either move apart or live together as "brother and sister.")
A Facebook friend just reposted an April 11, 2016 article from Church Militant.
Amidst the ever increasing controversy over Amoris Laetitia, published on April 8, 2016, certain previous statements made by Pope Francis regarding communion for the divorced and remarried, have been all but forgotten.
Here is Church Militant:
The Pope fielded 12 questions during his hour-long in-flight interview returning from Juarez to Rome in mid-February. Anne Thompson from NBC asked the Pope a question regarding mercy to the divorced and remarried.
In response, Pope Francis emphasized, "The key phrase used by the synod, which I'll take up again, is 'integrate' in the life of the Church the wounded families, remarried families, etc."
Thompson then asked, "Does that mean they can receive Communion?"
Pope Francis, with unusual clarity, responded, "This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church doesn't mean receiving Communion."
The Pope immediately gave an anecdotal story to make clear his point.
I know married Catholics in a second union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want Communion, as if joining in Communion were an award. It's a work towards integration; all doors are open. But we cannot say from here on they can have Communion. This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it wouldn't allow them to proceed on this path of integration.
The Pope gave a similar response in March 2015 concerning the admittance to Holy Communion of the divorced and remarried during an interview conducted by Vatican Radio in Rome with a Mexican correspondent from Televisa. The interview was published one week later in L'Osservatore Romano on March 13.
The journalist, Valentina Alazraki, asked Pope Francis, "Will the divorced and remarried be able to receive Communion?"
The Pope responded, "What the Church wants is for you to integrate yourself into the life of the Church. But there are those who say, 'No, I want to receive Communion, and that's it' — like a rosette, an honorary award. No. Reintegrate yourself."What are we to make of this?
This piece was published only three days after the release of Amoris Laetitia, long before the dubia were submitted and then made public, and long before other explosive developments. At that early date, it was an attempt by Church Militant to argue for what we might call the "restrictive" interpretation of the document.
Whatever anyone might have thought then, I think it is absolutely clear now that Pope Francis intends Amoris Laetitia to be interpreted "expansively" - that is, as allowing communion for the divorced and remarried. I say this based on the Pope's refusal to answer the dubia, on his favorable response in a letter to the Buenos Aires bishops that their expansive interpretation was the only possible one, on his studied refusal to condemn expansive interpretations by other groups of bishops in the Philippines, Malta and Germany, on the statements and arguments of clergy and journalists favored by or allied with the Pope and on anecdotal evidence such as Cardinal Bruno Forte's scandalous public admission that Francis intended to change the teaching of the Church via calculated ambiguity.
If you read his actual words, above, Pope Francis doesn't explicitly forbid giving communion to the divorced and remarried. With respect to the Church Militant author, Bradley Eli, he did not speak with "unusual clarity." That some divorced and remarried might be able to take communion was not ruled out by his actual words - he only said that "integration" didn't necessarily mean communion. It's possible now, for example, post-Amoris Laetitia, to read "all doors are open" as leaving open the possibility of communion after a period of "discernment." But pre-Amoris Laetitia, what he said was interpreted to mean that communion was indeed ruled out, and I assume this is how the Pope meant it to be taken, at least to the mass audience (we cannot rule out the possibility that the largely unnoticed ambiguity was at the same time a signal to his allies). Since this had always been the teaching of the Church, the seeming defense of the teaching by the Pope, even if it was technically ambiguous, did not raise any eyebrows.
So why did he give those answers? In February of 2016, it can be assumed that Amoris Laetitia had already largely been written, or at the least, the Pope knew what it was going to say. I assume it's as simple as that Francis had nothing to lose and everything to gain at that time by appearing to defend the orthodox position.
Pope Francis is sometimes portrayed as being a bit "out of it," based partly on his often rambling homilies and remarks. I think this is a dangerous misestimation of the man. I would argue that he is in fact extraordinarily clever - or, if you prefer, cunning. He may state, or at least appear to state, one thing today and another thing tomorrow. Or he may artfully use ambiguity to simultaneously suggest one thing to the public and quite another thing to friendly "insiders."
It's all good, as they say, as long as it advances the cause.