The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

Confessional should not be a ‘torture chamber’ – Gozo Bishop Mario Grech

Wednesday, 8 June 2016, 07:30 Last update: about 6 years ago

Priests should be mindful of their language when speaking about relationships that differ from the normally accepted form of marriage and the confessional should not be a “torture chamber,” according to Gozo Bishop Mario Grech.

Bishop Grech was delivering a presentation on Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis.  The ground breaking document speaks, among other things, of how divorced and remarried Catholics should be more fully integrated into the Church, and how the divorced and remarried, those who cohabit and those in a civil union should not be denied access to communion.

“The Church should always propose perfection and invite people to give a more complete answer to God, but we should also appreciate the constructive elements of those who do not yet correspond or can never correspond with Church teaching on marriage. These include cohabiting couples, divorced people and those in a civil union. The church should look with love towards those who participate in its life in an imperfect way,” Bishop Grech said. “We should pray with them for the grace of conversion, encourage them to do good,  to look after each other with love and be of service to the community they live in.”

“Our pastoral activity should be based on four actions – accepting, accompanying, discerning and integrating. The Pope tells us it is important that we help divorced people who are in a new relationship to feel part of the church, that they are not excommunicated or regarded as such, because they also form part of the ecclesiastical communion.”

These situations require “cautious discernment and respect,” Bishop Grech said, noting that the language and attitude used can make people feel they are being discriminated against. “By taking care of them the Church is not weakening its faith or its belief on the indissolubility of marriage.”

“The Pope also applies the logic of integration in the case of those who cohabit or are in a civil union. We have to affront these situations in a constructive way.”

As a rule, the divorced and those who remarry cannot receive the sacraments. “But the Pope tells us that it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God's grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. In certain cases this help can also be the sacraments. Holy Communion is not a gift for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak"

Bishop Grech said that, when he was recently asked if Church rules on access to communion had changed the Pope had replied in the affirmative. “Through the Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis is offering us a theological and morel framework – whilst continuing to deliver the message of the gospel, we also have to offer care to those living in irregular union.”

Bishop Grech encouraged priests to get their hands dirty, touch, risk and become involved. “Do not deal with the case but with the persons. Be mindful of the language you use.” 

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