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Priests ‘confused’ over bishops’ new guidelines

Guidelines concerning divorced or remarried Catholics divide clergy

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has invited priests to discuss the guidelines.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has invited priests to discuss the guidelines.

There is deep discomfort among some priests over the bishops’ guidelines that make it possible for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

The situation was prompted by a document released a fortnight ago in which Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech offered their interpretation of Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

A parish priest who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity said that he was confused by the guidelines because they proposed things that went against established Church doctrine.

INTERVIEW: A priest's troubled conscience

In an interview published today, the priest admits having a troubled conscience, since he feels the guidelines are morally wrong and risk giving “false hope”.

The guidelines are morally wrong and risk giving false hope

Sources within the Church told this newspaper the reaction of the parish priest was hardly unique and many felt confused by the guidelines. The unease cuts across ages and is not limited to elderly priests, the sources added.

This is what prompted Mgr Scicluna on Xarabank last week to invite priests who were troubled by the guidelines to come forward and discuss their concerns with the bishops.

He went so far as to say that if a priest felt unable or uncomfortable to accompany divorced Catholics in a process of reflection, he ought to refer them to others.

The bishops, who have faced flak from international conservative Catholic news portals for their trailblazing, liberal stand, will discuss the guidelines with priests in the coming weeks.

In a letter to the Times of Malta last Friday, Fr David Muscat, from Mosta, asked whether the guidelines made confession redundant by putting the conscience of the individual at the centre of decisions.

The guidelines focus on chapter eight of the papal exhortation, which deals with the pastoral care of Catholics in complicated family situations.

They state that divorced Catholics who remarry or are cohabiting and believe they are at peace with God following a process of reflection may not be denied Communion and absolution.

Until now, these people were barred from participating in the sacraments, since they were deemed to be living in sin.

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