Cardinal Coccopalmerio said that in Church teaching, 'it's not a natural condition'

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, one of the most prominent defenders of Communion for the remarried, has said that his proposed guidance would apply to the divorced and remarried, but not to gay couples. He explained: “It’s not a natural condition”.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said last week that divorced and remarried couples could take Communion if they found it “impossible” to avoid sex.

The Church has taught that the remarried cannot receive Communion, except possibly when they endeavour to live “in complete continence”. Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s critics said he had contradicted this doctrine, as well as the Council of Trent’s teaching that it is always possible to keep the commandments.

In a new interview with Crux, the cardinal was asked whether the Church’s traditional teaching should also be changed for sexually active gay couples.

The interviewer, Inés San Martín, reports: “Asked if this interpretation applies also to gay couples who live together, some civilly married too, Coccopalmerio said that it’s ‘clearly’ not the same situation because for Church teaching and doctrine, ‘it’s not a natural condition. We can accept them, welcome them, accept their decision, but it’s not [the same].’”

The question of Communion for sexually active gay couples has often been raised. In 2014, seven theologians and a canon lawyer wrote that if Communion for the remarried was accepted, “it is hard to see how the Church could resist admitting to Holy Communion unmarried cohabiting couples, or persons in homosexual unions, and so forth.”

A supporter of changing the teaching, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, has implied that both same-sex couples and the remarried should be permitted to take Communion. In 2015 Cardinal Cupich argued, on the subject of Communion for the remarried: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that.” He added: “I think that gay people are human beings too and they have a conscience.”

By contrast, Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s interview suggests that remarried couples should be distinguished from gay couples, possibly on the grounds of how “natural” they are.

Elsewhere in the interview, the cardinal told Crux: “Some people have spoken about doctrinal confusion, but no … If we can speak of confusion, it’s due to the abundance of issues present.”