Franciscan Archbishop Calls for Path to Communion for Remarried, Divorced Catholics

Maria Hayes In the Headlines


VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Roberto González, OFM, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, made headlines during the 2015 Synod of Bishops when he called for a penitential path toward taking Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried.

The current practice of remarried Catholics entering the Communion line with their arms crossed for a blessing instead of the Eucharist demonstrates that “spiritual communion is not enough,” according to Roberto, who was quoted in an Oct. 19 National Catholic Reporter article.

“This gesture shows and suggests several things,” said Roberto during his three-minute address to the synod. “It is a manifestation of the desire of sacramental communion and they humble themselves before the community by making clear to all their illegal status; as if to say: ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.’”

Roberto suggested that instead, certain divorced and remarried persons might enter something similar to an “order of penitents.” This penitential pathway would offer divorced and remarried persons a kind of “second baptism” that would resolve a “conflict of values” between the indissolubility of marriage, human dignity and salvation, according to National Catholic Reporter.

This pathway would include places of encounter with Christ that Roberto defines as scripture, prayer, liturgy, Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“[The Eucharist] will not be a prize because they are good, but it will be their strength in weakness… an aid to help them continue on the journey,” said Roberto. “The consecrated host is the medicine for the soul, and whoever has a wound looks for medicine, says St. Ambrose.”

While the synod’s final document did not state that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should receive Communion, the bishops encouraged the Church to determine whether these Catholics can be included in elements of Church life from which they are now excluded.

In an exclusive interview with America magazine, Roberto shared his thoughts on the synod, saying that he feels the bishops are “leaving the doors open” and giving Pope Francis “the freedom to follow up” on questions that have emerged during the gathering.

“I think that the majority of the bishops are coming down in the center and are very sympathetic to the Holy Father’s pleas,” Roberto said. “In my group, for example, we had both voices represented but, after intense dialogue and very divergent points of view expressed, in the end we were able to come to consensus.”

When asked if this surprised him, Roberto replied “Yes, and I was quite moved by it, because I felt that in some way the Holy Spirit was present and working. It was an eerie kind of feeling, but I could see where there was a genuine effort of bishops to come together in my group.”

This is Roberto’s fourth synod and “the most intense synod that I have been at,” he said. “The topics have been quite complex, quite difficult to deal with because the pastoral impinges upon the doctrinal and the doctrinal impinges upon the pastoral.”

The XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family took place from Oct. 4 to 25 and marked the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops. The theme was “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The synod continued the work of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family that took place from Oct. 5 to 19. Its theme was “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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