Contrary to 2,000 years of Church teaching, the Catholic bishops of Germany have approved giving Holy Communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by their situation, living in a state of adultery, which the Church views as a serious, or mortal, sin. This change by the German bishops also contradicts recent teachings on the subject by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II.
As reported by The New York Times on Feb. 1, "Catholics in Germany who have divorced and remarried without receiving an annulment may receive communion on a case-by-case basis, the German bishops' conference announced on Wednesday."
The bishops, as translated by The Times, said, "Catholics who have been remarried under civil law after a divorce are invited to go to the church, participate in their lives and mature as living members of the church."
The statement relies heavily on the document Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), issued by Pope Francis in April 2016 as justification for allowing couples in adultery to receive Holy Communion.
The bishops cite Amoris Laetitia and state there is "no general rule" to follow but that adulterous couples must work with a pastor, and that there are "differentiated solutions, which are appropriate to the individual case."
In other words, the bishops and priests can work out the details on ofering Communion to people living in adultery, in mortal sin.
"[T]he bishops recommend that they [adulterous couples] walk the path of marriage and family with the Church, bearing in mind Pope Francis' pioneering and life-like words," reads the statement.
A similar new teaching has been adopted by the bishops of Buenos Aires and of Malta. In addition, numerous bishops around the world have individually endorsed or proposed essentially what the German bishops have done officially.
However, the bishops' conference of Poland has completely rejected this novel teaching and publicly stated its adherence and loyalty to what the Church has always taught -- until Pope Francis -- on the subject.
In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II issued a document, Familiaris Consortio (On the Christian Family in the Modern World). It partly states, "the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the eucharist.
"Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage."
Pope St. John Paul II further stated, "I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life.
"They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope."