Due to the media circus surrounding Cardinal Burke’s dubia 2.0 and 2.1 this morning, the publication of a second Vatican document appears to have gone largely unnoticed. Responses by Cardinal Fernandez to questions about Amoris Laetitia posed by Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka, OP, Archbishop emeritus of Prague, were also posted to the DDF website. Pope Francis signed this document, apparently in the same audience he consented to the publication of his responses to Burke and company. Once again, it was not published in English, so here is an unofficial translation. I have not yet proofread the footnotes, so they surely contain editorial mistakes.

Also, there does not appear to be an official English translation of the Buenos Aires bishops’ proposed Guidelines for the implementation of Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis’s response, so we will be relying on a translation provided by Crux. — ML





Response to a series of questions, proposed by H.Em. Card. Dominik Duka OP, regarding the administration of the Eucharist to divorcees living in a new union

On July 13, 2023, a request was received by this Dicastery from H.Em. Card. Dominik Duka OP, Archbishop Emerita of Prague, on behalf of the Czech Bishops’ Conference, which asks a number of questions regarding the administration of the Eucharist to divorcees living in a new union.

Although some of the questions are drafted in an insufficiently clear manner and, therefore, may harbor some inaccuracies, this Department intends to answer them to help resolve the doubts raised by them.

1. Is it possible for a diocese in an Episcopal Conference union to make decisions completely independently, referring to the facts mentioned in questions two and three?

The Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, a document of the ordinary pontifical magisterium, toward which all are called to offer the obsequiousness of intelligence and will, states that “presbyters have the task of “accompanying the persons concerned on the path of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the orientations of the Bishop.”[1] In this sense, it is possible, indeed desirable, for the Ordinary of a diocese to establish certain criteria that, in line with Church teaching, can help priests in the accompaniment and discernment of divorced persons living in a new union.

2. Can Pope Francis’ response to the question from the pastoral region of the Diocese of Buenos Aires,[2] given that the text was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, be considered an affirmation of the Church’s ordinary Magisterium?

As stated in the rescript accompanying the two documents on the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, these are published “velut Magisterium authenticum,” that is, as authentic Magisterium.

3. Is this a decision of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church based on the document Amoris Laetitia?

As the Holy Father recalls in his letter to the Delegate of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region[3], Amoris laetitia was the result of the work and prayer of the whole Church, with the mediation of two Synods and the Pope. This document builds on the magisterium of previous Pontiffs, who already recognized the possibility for divorcees in new unions to have access to the Eucharist, as long as they make a “commitment to live in full continence, that is, to abstain from the acts proper to spouses”[4], as was proposed by John Paul II, or to “commit themselves to live their relationship … as friends”[5] as proposed by Benedict XVI. Francis maintains the proposal of full continence for the divorced and remarried in a new union, but admits that there may be difficulties in practicing it[6] and therefore allows in certain cases, after proper discernment, the administration of the sacrament of Reconciliation even when one fails in being faithful to the continence proposed by the Church[7].

4. Is it the intention of Amoris Laetitia to institutionalize this solution through an official permission or decision to individual couples?

Point 1 of the document “Basic criteria for the implementation of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitiaexpressly states, “we should remember that it is not advisable to speak of “permissions” to have access to sacraments, but of a discernment process in the company of a pastor. It is a “personal and pastoral discernment” (300). (AL 300)”[8]. It is therefore a pastoral accompaniment as an exercise of the “via caritatis,” which is nothing but an invitation to follow the way “of Jesus: of mercy and integration.”[9] Amoris laetitia opens the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist[10] when, in a particular case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and guilt[11]. On the other hand, this process of accompaniment does not necessarily end with the sacraments, but can be directed toward other forms of integration into the life of the Church: a greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, or involvement in various church services[12].

5. Who should be the evaluator of the given situation of the couple m in question, any confessor, local parish priest, vicar forane, episcopal vicar, or penitentiary?

It involves initiating an itinerary of pastoral accompaniment for the discernment of each individual person. Amoris laetitia emphasizes that all priests have the responsibility to accompany the persons concerned on the path of discernment[13]. It is the priest who welcomes the person, listens to him attentively, and shows him the maternal face of the Church, welcoming his right intention and good purpose to place his whole life in the light of the Gospel and to practice charity. But it is each person, individually, who is called to stand before God and expose to him his conscience, with its possibilities and limitations. This conscience, accompanied by a priest and enlightened by the Church’s guidelines, is called to be formed in order to evaluate and make a judgment sufficient to discern the possibility of access to the sacraments.

6. Would it be appropriate for these cases to be handled by the appropriate ecclesiastical court?

In cases where it is possible to establish a declaration of nullity, recourse to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal will be part of the discernment process[14]. The Holy Father wanted to simplify these processes through the “Motu proprio” Mitis iudex[15] The problem arises in the more complex situations where none is possible to obtain a declaration of nullity. In these cases, a discernment process that stimulates or renews a personal encounter with Jesus Christ[16] also in the sacraments may also be possible.

7. Can this principle be applied to both parties to a civilly divorced marriage, or distinguish the degree of fault and proceed accordingly?

St. John Paul II had already stated that “the judgment on the state of grace, of course, belongs only to the person concerned, since it is an evaluation of conscience.”[17] Therefore, it is a process of individual discernment in which “remarried divorcees should ask themselves how they behaved toward their children when the marital union entered a crisis; whether there were any attempts at reconciliation; the situation of the partner abandoned; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; what example it sets for young people who are to prepare for marriage. Sincere reflection can strengthen trust in God’s mercy, which is denied to no one.”[18]

8. In the case of this single permission, should it be understood that married life (the sexual aspect) should not be mentioned in the sacrament of reconciliation?

Even in the sacrament of marriage, the sex life by spouses is subject to examination of conscience to confirm that it is a true expression of love and helps growth in love. All aspects of life should be placed before God.

9. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the whole matter to be better explained in the text of your competent department?

Based on the words of the Holy Father in his letter of response to the Delegate of the Pastoral Region of Buenos Aires, in which he stated that there are no other interpretations[19], it seems that the matter is sufficiently explained in the aforementioned document.

10. How to proceed to establish internal unity, but also not to disturb the ordinary Magisterium of the Church?

It would be appropriate for the Bishops’ Conference to agree on some minimum criteria, in order to implement the proposals of Amoris laetitia, that would help priests in the processes of accompaniment and discernment regarding the possible access to the sacraments of some divorcees in a new union, without prejudice to the legitimate authority that each bishop has in his own diocese.



Victor Fernandez


[1] FRANCIS FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia on Love in the Family, March 19, 2016, No. 300. (forthcoming AL).

[2] REGION PASTORAL DE BUENOS AIRES, Criterios basicos para la aplicación del capitulo VJJ de Amoris laetitia, AAS 108 (2016)1072-1074.

[3] See FRANCIS, Charter to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy, Delegado de la Region Pastoral de Buenos Aires, AAS 108 (2016) 1071-1072.

[4] JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortia about the tasks of the Christian family in today’s world, Nov. 22, 1981, no. 84.

[5] BENETDETTO XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacrametum caritatis on the Eucharist Jonte e cu/mine of the Life and Mission of the Church, Feb. 22, 2007, no. 29.

[6] See AL, citation 329.

[7] Cf. AL, citation 364. Pope Francis argues that we should not demand from “penitents a purpose of repentance without any shadow, whereby mercy fades under the pursuit of a hypothetically pure justice,” and recalls Jvani Paul II’s teaching to Cardinal W. Baum where he states that the foreseeability of a new fall “does not undermine the authenticity of the purpose” (Letter to Card. William W. Baum on the occasion of the course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary (March 22, 19961. 5: Insegnamenti XIX, 1 [1996], 589).

[8] REGION PASTORAL DE BUENOS AIRES, Criterios basicos …, op. cit., p. 1072: “None appropriate to speak of ‘permits’ for access to the sacraments, but of a process of discemimento accompanied by a pastor. And a ‘personal and pastoral’ discemination (AL 300)” (English translation by this Dicastery).

[9] AL no. 296.

[10] See AL, citations 336 and 351.

[11] Cf. AL, nos. 301-302.

[12] See AL, no. 209.

[13] See AL, no. 300.

[14] “Where doubts legitimately arise as to the validity of the sacramental Marriage contracted, all that is necessary should be undertaken to verify its validity,” in BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Exhortation

Sacrametum caritatis …, op. cit., no. 29.

[15] FRANCIS, Apostolic Letter in the form of “Motu proprio” Mitis iudex Dominus Jesus on the reform def canonical process for causes of declaration of nullity def marriage in the Code of Canon Law, AAS 107(2015) 958- 970.

[16] Cf. AL, no. 58.

[17] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, on the ‘Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church, April 17, 2003, no. 37b.

[18] AL, no. 300.

[19] Cf. FRANCESCO, Charter to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy …, op. cit., p.l 071.

Image: Cardinal Duka. By Svajcr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110347318

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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