“Reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy”

My friend Fr. Gerald Murray, a canonist, has a good piece at The Catholic Thing about Communion for the divorced and remarried.

Excerpts:

Denial of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried, however, is not based on an assumption that everyone in an adulterous relationship is in fact subjectively guilty of mortal sin. (Canon law operates on the assumption that we are responsible for our external acts and their consequences, unless the contrary can be demonstrated). The denial is based on the assumption that those who publicly enter into an adulterous union (such as a second civil marriage) are committing objectively grave sinful acts of adultery, thus wounding the Mystical Body of Christ. When that is not the case, say for a couple who live as brother and sister in view of the good of raising their children, they can be admitted to Holy Communion after making a good confession, provided that scandal is avoided.

[...]

The Declaration continues: “But the unworthiness that comes from being in a state of sin also poses a serious juridical problem in the Church: indeed the canon of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches that is parallel to can. 915 CIC of the Latin Church makes reference to the term ‘unworthy’: ‘Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist’ (can. 712). In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: [NB] in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.”

[...]

Read the rest there. You will enjoy Father’s direct, concise approach and clarity.

Fathers!  Rise up and teach, not with misplaced compassion, but with charity in truth.

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7 Responses to “Reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy”

  1. JustaSinner says:

    “say for a couple who live as brother and sister in view of the good of raising their children”, and therein lies the problem. Can this done done? Yes. Will it be done? Not so sure.

  2. Franko says:

    As long as people like Nancy Pelosi are allowed to receive communion week after week when they publicly advocate evil and defy bishops in the public square, no one will take the Church seriously on the matter of communion for the divorced and remarried.

    I’m not saying two wrongs make a right and that the church should just toss its rules out, don’t get me wrong. What I’m saying is that the hypocrisy is plain to see for everyone and no one in the Church should be surprised at the constant campaign to have the rules changed.

    Consistency is important in matters like this. What’s good enough for the common people should also be good enough for the likes of Pelosi and Biden.

  3. StWinefride says:

    JustaSinner says: “say for a couple who live as brother and sister in view of the good of raising their children”, and therein lies the problem. Can this done done? Yes. Will it be done? Not so sure.

    I don’t know if Bishops in the English speaking world have written books on this subject, so I can only speak from my experience over here in Continental Europe. When the current Bishop of Malines-Brussels, Mgr André-Joseph Léonard was Bishop of Namur he wrote a book called “Divorcés, remarriés, l’église vous aime!” There is a new edition out now. I saw him speak on one of the Belgian channels (RTB) a few years ago and he came across as very caring and supportive of people who are living the brother/sister arrangement, in fact he said: “Il y a des Saints parmi les divorcés, remarriés” – (there are Saints amongst the divorced and remarried).

    Contrast the above with Cardinal Kasper’s comment:

    To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this,” he told Commonweal’s Matthew Boudway and Grant Gallicho, referring to divorced partners who have entered into a new civil marriage.

    “But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian.”

    Well, I humbly disagree with the Cardinal because we are all called to be Saints and “to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect”. (Matt. 5:48)

    http://www.amazon.fr/LEglise-desp%C3%A9rance-s%C3%A9par%C3%A9s-divorc%C3%A9s-remari%C3%A9s/dp/2353891357

  4. ConstantlyConverting says:

    Can. 1135 Each spouse has an equal duty and right to those things which belong to the partnership of conjugal life.

    Can. 1136 Parents have the most grave duty and the primary right to take care as best they can for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of their offspring.

    I fail to see how scandal wouldn’t exist in either of these scenarios. The reality is living in open defiance of the authority of Rome denies the Godhood of Christ. Living in open defiance of marriage denies the reality of the Trinity. As a child who grew up in a “brother sister” phony marriage I learned that the Church has no authority, God is a fairy tale and the Church doesn’t even bother following up on its own policies. Thankfully, God must have been looking out for me as only a perfect Father could have because he sent me a spouse who taught me all of the things that I wasn’t taught as a child: the Church is run by man who isn’t perfect, and I have the responsibility to determine right from wrong even if the weeds and wheat can’t seem to make heads or tails of it.

    This: “That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: [NB] in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.” and “Fathers! Rise up and teach, not with misplaced compassion, but with charity in truth.” are completely spot on.

  5. jacobi says:

    It is high time the Church looked again at the reception of Holy Communion.

    Pre Vat II, Communion was received relatively sparingly and only after a conscious assessment of conscience and conclusion that one was in a state of grace. After Saturday night at the Uni dance and seeing one of the nurses home to the residency, this was not always the case.

    Nowadays this approach does not exist. The pendulum has swung to the other extreme.

    Communion is received as a matter of routine, by all and sundry, without thought of what is involved, one minute prayer, then sit back and look around to see which of your friends have bothered to turn up for Mass this morning after the all night marathon, for whatever it was.

    We receive the Body and Blood of Christ too often and without preparation. The Mass has become a protestant communion service.

    This has to be re-assessed by the Church!

  6. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    The extent of the confusion (culpable, wilful confusion) that exists on this issue can be seen in the fact that for TEN YEARS, the official policy of the American bishops has been that a bishop may “legitimately” choose mortal sin.

    I.e., in their document, Catholics in Political Life, adopted immediately after Cardinal McCarrick returned from Rome, concealing a memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger from his brother bishops, and lying about its substance, the bishops declared that, in the matter of pro-abortion politicians, a bishop could “legitimately” choose to give them Communion.

    Subsequently, Cardinal Raymond Burke, then-Archbishop of St. Louis, demonstrated conclusively that this act is ALWAYS a grave sin. Cf. his article: http://tinyurl.com/canon195 .

    This scandal is growing like a cancer. An insidious, evil force is at work in the Church. There are undoubtedly unbelieving, pro-abortion bishops. There are others who are cradle Democrats, unwilling to punch their way out of that paper bag. There are those who cannot imagine life without dining and hobnobbing with the powerful–no matter how wicked. There are those who are paralyzed by fear of the loss of government money for their “good works.” There are those who are subject to blackmail because of their corrupt private lives.

    One thing is certain. Because the act in question–GIVING Communion to notorious grave sinners–is always a mortal sin, NONE of the specious reasons of a higher order that bishops offer for their behavior can be valid. There can be no honorable, valid reason for committing mortal sin. There are no valid “prudential reasons” for mortal sin. The notion that committing this mortal sin constitutes a “pastoral approach” to the issue is preposterous and is a blasphemy against the very concept of “pastor.”

    That all but about fifteen American bishops are guilty of publicly manifest mortal sin, and have closed ranks and stopped their ears, on a moral issue that could not be more settled and certain, tells us that the putrefaction is unimaginably deep and far advanced.

  7. Daniel W says:

    Thank you Fr Z for the excerpts from the informed and balanced analysis of Fr Murray. He rightly outlines the conditions necessary for the “brother and sister” (ie no sexual acts because they would be adulterous) situation where the divorced and remarried might receive communion.

    So what about the person who is willing to forgo adulterous acts but whose partner will not agree? Given that the other conditions (confession of sin, objective need to stay in the relationship, absence of scandal, real resolution to avoid occasion of sin etc) are met, why not admit this person to Holy Communion.?

    I think this is a far better way of seeing the problem, rather than the Kasperian idea of letting the individual determine whether they are responsible for adulterous acts. If a person is convinced he or she is not responsible for adulterous acts, that person still should not be admitted to Holy Communion unless he or she manifests the determination to avoid all future adulterous acts in the union (as well as contrition for any culpability in adulterous acts committed).