Divorce, Remarriage, and “Discerning the Body”: On Pope Francis’ Interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27-34 in Amoris Laetitia

Over the past year since its release, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia has elicited a great deal of consternation among the faithful of the Catholic Church. The controversy surrounding the document has centered on its eighth chapter wherein the Holy Father suggests that in certain cases sacramental discipline need not require that divorced and remarried couples live “as brother and sister” if they are to receive the help of the sacraments. I have recently authored an article entitled “Divorce, Remarriage, and “Discerning the Body”: On Pope Francis’ Interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27-34 in Amoris Laetitia” which deals not with the well-known controversial Chapter 8 of AL but rather with a shorter and much lesser-known section from the fifth chapter of Francis’ exhortation.. The text to which I refer is the following exhortation of St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).

While a great deal has been written on Ch. 8 of AL over the past year, to my knowledge little attention has been paid to Francis’ interpretation of this passage in AL §185-86. This essay aims to make a contribution toward understanding what Francis intends with his interpretation of it, and how this interpretation compares to that of the dominant magisterial tradition, and of contemporary biblical scholarship. An evaluation of Francis’ position is offered in light of Benedict XVI’s exegetical principles, with a brief concluding reflection on the possibility of spiritual communion for the divorced and remarried as proposed by the emeritus pontiff.

This article is one of three–two of which will be published and one kept for myself–that I wrote over the past year while researching Amoris Laetitia during my sabbatical and teaching an amazing group of students in a capstone senior seminar course on the document at Benedictine College this spring.  As divine providence would have it, our class was blessed to have two incredibly unique guest speakers on the subject.

Raymond Cardinal Burke — who, as anyone following the controversy surrounding Amoris will well know — was uniquely qualified to speak on the topic.


And our very own Archbishop Joseph Naumann, shepherd of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, who gave his annual “fireside chat” to our senior majors on the topic of Amoris Laetitia