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Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, all over again

Saints Peter and Paul (c. 1620, Anonymous/Roman School) [Wikipedia]
In April 2016, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, issued a pastoral letter on the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia (the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on marriage) and re-affirmed the Church’s long-settled teaching: the divorced and civilly remarried, while members of the Christian community, are not living in full communion with that community, and thus should not present themselves for Holy Communion until their manner of life changes or their irregular marriage has been regularized under Church law. Last month, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Bishop Mario Grech of Malta also issued a pastoral letter on Amoris Laetitia and invited divorced and civilly remarried couples to present themselves for Holy Communion if they were, in conscience, at peace with God.

It happens that a woman in the Portsmouth diocese has vacation property on Malta. She’s divorced and civilly remarried and seems to understand the Church’s longstanding teaching about what her situation means for the worthy reception of Holy Communion. Shortly after the Malta bishops’ statement, she ran into the local priest on his village rounds and asked, “When it comes to Communion, do I follow Bishop Egan or Archbishop Scicluna?” As the priest in question put it in an e-mail, “What could I say, ‘Egan when you’re here, Scicluna when you’re there…’?”

At the very beginning of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul lamented that his fractious converts in rowdy Corinth were divided: “For it has been reported to me…that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas’….” These divisions were not simply a matter of who-got-converted-by-whom, Paul insisted. They were misunderstandings fracturing the body of Christ: “Is Christ divided?” [1 Cor. 1.11-13].

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