The following is an excerpt from Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB’s address at the Dawson Society for Philosophy and Culture’s Speakers Forum of 28 March, 2017.
The full text can be downloaded here: Costelloe on AL
“It is important here to note that Pope Francis is not suggesting, and could not suggest, that the Church abandon its ideals or change its doctrinal teaching. Nor is he suggesting that it is objectively impossible for people to live up to the call or the demands of the gospel. God always offers us the grace to be faithful. What I think he is saying is that it may be subjectively impossible for a person, at the present time, to do so. This has long been the traditional teaching of the Church in moral theology. This teaching draws a distinction between the objective nature of a situation or an action and the level of subjective responsibility. An extreme example would be the question of an abortion which is always and in every circumstance objectively evil – an innocent human life is always destroyed – and the level of subjective responsibility for the woman who has the abortion or the person or persons who assist her in obtaining an abortion. Such responsibility may be diminished or even nullified if they truly believe that it is the right and good thing to do in the circumstances. One of the questions implicitly imposed by Amoris Laetitia is to what extent the principle of diminished subjective responsibility can be applied to what the Church has traditionally called irregular situations. A variety of answers have been and continue to be given to this question. This is confusing and unsettling for many but I think we have no option other than to accept that it will take time for this matter to be finally resolved. At the moment the Church’s objective position is clear: those who are in an irregular situation – living together without being married, living in a second marriage while the first marriage has not been annulled, living in a defacto relationship or a same-sex relationship and so on – should not receive Communion because their objective living situation is not in harmony with the Church’s teaching and one of the essential elements of Eucharistic communion is that it is a sign of the person’s communion with the faith of the Church. The logic is similar to that which would, in normal circumstances, indicate that those who belong to other Christian traditions, and who do not share our belief in the Eucharist and whose communion with us is imperfect, also should not receive Holy Communion. The Church’s judgment at the moment, and it is a disciplinary judgment but one deriving fromheological considerations, is that those Catholics in “irregular” relationships should not receive communion. I think Pope Francis is asking theologians to investigate whether or not the disciplinary provisions in this matter are the logical and inevitable result of the theological principles. This was certainly the conclusion reached by Pope John Paul 11 and expressed in Familiaris Consortio where he spoke about the need for people in such situations to live as “brother and sister”. There is no final agreement as yet as to whether in this disciplinary matter there is room for further theological development which could admit of some situations where John Paul’s basic position can be modified…”
read the whole address here: Costelloe on AL