Here is an interesting contrast.
First, a snip from an off-the-cuff, non-Magisterial remark of Pope Francis during a daily homily. Note his disparaging words about “doctors of the law”.
Hmmm… it seems to me that there is something missing. Of course these are only off-the-cuff remarks that have no magisterial weight whatsoever and no preacher can be expected in a short time to hit every possible point. But it seems to me that he has set up a straw man: who the heck are these “doctors of the law” whom he has been disparaging with some frequency? I think he means those who argue that people who are divorced and civilly remarried should not be admitted to Holy Communion because they are objectively living in a state that is inconsistent with our understanding of the Eucharist.
Next, let’s review Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, which has teaching about the Eucharist and marriage.
The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage
29. If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church’s pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved. [NB] The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet [here we go] the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, [and] listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.
You see? It doesn’t have to be a choice between “come to Mass and receive Communion anyway” and “don’t come to Mass if you can’t receive Communion”. Another option, and one that Francis didn’t choose to mention when attacking “doctors of the law”, is as described, above, by his predecessor Benedict in what clearly is a magisterial document.
We have to ask ourselves the questions:
Is it nothing to go to Holy Mass and not receive Communion?
Do we get nothing out of Mass unless we receive Holy Communion?
It seems to me that the near mania to have everyone receive at every possible opportunity has created an unhealthy expectation that, in turn, has fogged our understanding of what the Eucharist is.
People who are not properly disposed to receive Communion (because, for example, they are living in an ongoing adulterous relationship) nevertheless still can participate in the life of the Church in many ways, as Benedict XVI (and that previous Synod) pointed out.
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