Fr. Murray on Card. Coccopalmerio’s booklet defense of Communion for mortal sinners

I direct the readership to dash over to The Catholic Thing for a new column by my friend Fr. Gerald Murray.  He drills into the booklet offered to the public through the intermediary of the Vatican Press by His Eminence Francesco Card. Coccopalmerio: The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (still in Italian.  I wrote about it HERE).  The booklet, a few dozen pages, had been hyped as The Response™ to the Five Dubia of the Four “intransigent” Cardinals, who have been labeled as dissenters because, ironically, they defend doctrine.  It isn’t and can’t be a response to the Five Dubia, of course, and that was clearly stated during the press conference, presentation of the booklet.  Nevertheless, its out there and we should look at it honestly and rationally.

Fr. Murray, looking at the key excerpt of the booklet which have been brought to public view, brings up honest and rational points from the get go.  Here’s a sample (my emphases):

Coccopalmerio writes:

The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabiting, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic Doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way. Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and of Communion must be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment. . . .it is a gesture of openness and profound mercy on the part of Mother Church, who does not leave behind any of her children, aware that absolute perfection is a precious gift, but one which cannot be reached by everyone.

What do we find here? Slogans and euphemisms. A slogan is meant to stop discussion. Euphemisms intentionally steer the reader away from precise and accurate descriptions of reality. A seminary professor of mine once noted that verbal engineering always precedes social engineering. In this case, it’s doctrinal engineering

Slogans such as “look the other way” and “not leave behind any of her children,” and euphemisms such as “so-called wounded families” and “situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons” show a decision not to present a carefully reasoned and precise defense of what is being endorsed. Rather, Coccopalmerio tries to sweep the reader along with emotional appeals and misdirection.

“Not looking the other way,” means that the Church should simply ignore the sinfulness of certain behaviors. In the case of unions involving adultery and fornication, the question is not about healing “so-called wounded families” but warning sinners that their behavior gravely offends God.

When he says that the Church should “not leave behind any of her children,” he means that the refusal to give Communion to those publicly living a seriously sinful life would be an unjust abandonment. Adulterous unions are now simply “situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons.” God’s law on the indissolubility of marriage and the immorality of adultery is now a mere “tradition” embodied in a canon. Violating that law is only a “situation not in line” with that canon, which was written down somewhere, at some time, by someone. How important is a canon compared to actual people who “express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment”?

Coccopalmerio describes observing the Sixth Commandment as “absolute perfection [that] is a precious gift, but one which cannot be reached by everyone.” But [NB] the Church has never taught that observing the Sixth Commandment is a state of “absolute perfection,” beyond the capability of any of her sons and daughters. It’s an error to consider marital fidelity as an ideal not reachable by many Christians. The grace of the sacrament of marriage is given by God to strengthen married persons in fulfilling their obligation to marital fidelity. Infidelity is a choice against one’s obligations to God and one’s spouse. It is not an authorized alternative for those who “cannot” reach “absolute perfection.


That bit about “perfection” and “ideal” that many cannot attain is one of the most pernicious elements in this whole dreadful kerfuffle.

The idea is that God might give commandments in his divine positive law, but they are ideals.  Some people simply can’t live according to the ideas that God gave for every member of the human race.  In so asserting, we also assert that God does not offer graces to people to live a holy life.  God, so to speak, places burdens on some people that they cannot bear and He doesn’t offer any help.  He abandons some people, in effect.  And, since that is so, then the Church shouldn’t hold people to bear burdens that are really only “ideals” that not all can attain.

From the Council of Trent. … mind you, the what the Council of Trent is still true.  Right?  Even though it was a few centuries ago, it is still true what that Council taught and we Catholics are obliged to accept what that Council taught.

Celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of January, 1547.


On keeping the Commandments, and on the necessity and possibility thereof.

But no one, how much soever justified, ought to think himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one ought to make use of that rash saying, one prohibited by the Fathers under an anathema,- that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able; whose commandments are not heavy; whose yoke is sweet and whose burthen light. [That, dear readers, is true compassion.] For, whoso are the sons of God, love Christ; but they who love him, keep his commandments, as Himself testifies; which, assuredly, with the divine help, they can do. For, although, during this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, not therefore do they cease to be just. For that cry of the just, Forgive us our trespasses, is both humble and true. And for this cause, the just themselves ought to feel themselves the more obligated to walk in the way of justice, in that, being already freed from sins, but made servants of God, they are able, living soberly, justly, and godly, to proceed onwards through Jesus Christ, by whom they have had access unto this grace.


CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.

Back to Fr. Murray.

At the end of his offering, Fr. Murray, whose French is exceptionally good, quotes from Robert Card. Sarah’s new book (still in French but coming soon in English – now available for pre-order):

In contrast to all this, Cardinal Robert Sarah has published a second book-length interview with French journalist Nicholas Diat, which will soon appear in English: The Power of Silence, Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In this profound dialogue about the need for believers to recover a love for silence in our agitated world, Cardinal Sarah addresses the burning questions raised by chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia:

Christ is certainly afflicted in seeing and hearing priests and bishops who should protect the integrity of the teaching of the Gospel and of doctrine multiplying words and writings that dilute the rigor of the Gospel by their deliberately ambiguous and confused affirmations. To these priests and these prelates who give the impression of taking up the exact opposite of the traditional teaching of the Church in matters of doctrine and morality, it is not out of place to recall the severe words of Christ: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” “He is guilty of an eternal sin”, Mark adds. (Fr. Murray’s translation)

PRE-ORDER The Power of Silence in ENGLISH. It will be released on 15 April (Holy Saturday).  A great Eastertide reading gift to yourselves or friends.


The original French, if you prefer…


And if you haven’t read it yet…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:


  2. IHSV says:

    As a recently married myself, when we were married, in the TLM, we placed our hands over a crucifix and recited our vows. I’ve come to learn many new difficulties about my spouse and vice a versa that we had no idea at the time of our vows and I expect whole new worlds of difficulties down the road, especially with all the new stresses and anxieties of new careers/baby/etc.

    It, correctly, angers me to hear this sad creatures condescend to me about how we should not reach an ideal, about how it’s okay to drop our Cross and just give up. How dare they condescend towards a _Sacrament_. Perhaps it’s not as perfect as holy orders but this is our path to santicty and to have them attempt to pervet it instead into a path of damnation is outrageous, sad, and treacherous.

    Personally, I think this is just a prelude to these same prelates pushing this filth finally stating out in the open that the idea of perfect continence for holy orders is just an ideal, everything is just an ideal, etc. so they shouldn’t be held up to such high standards as not lying, stealing, sleeping around with whoever and whatever. The psychotic transference on this one is grave. Sorry Z if this is too harsh for this blog but the wolves in sheets clothing are revealing themselves and they wish to damn us, so I feel like it’s a charitable act to attempt to wake my brethren up.

    Make the Vatican great again.

  3. Joe in Canada says:

    It makes no sense. If it is not possible to live without sin, then truly Christ and his Mother were essentially different from the rest of us, unattainable idols. What an awful God that would be, who commands what is impossible for us, and who offers insufficient help.

  4. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Thank you for your clarity, Father.

  5. Lindy says:

    Excellent explanation from Father Murray! So, what to do, as a lay person? Suggestions, Father Zuhlsdorf??

    [Put your noses into the Catechism of the Catholic Church, into your daily “hand missals”, into Holy Scripture (get an indulgence for reading!), get on your knees and pray, examine your consciences, GO TO CONFESSION, fast and perform works of mercy. Pray the Rosary for specific people. Ask the Holy Angels to protect certain people. Make good Holy Communions. Pray and fast some more. When you are confronted with confusing issues, ask your pastors (priest, bishop) “What’s up with this?” ASK THEM.]

  6. JPA says:

    Just think, if Coccopalmerio had been Pope during King Henry VIII’s time, he could have deemed it “impossible” for Henry to keep the 6th Commandment and the whole Protestant Reformation might never have happened…

  7. JARay says:

    Thank you yet again Father Z.

  8. frmgcmma says:

    Pope Francis expressed at the synod his desire for “de-centralization” and “synodality”. It seems to me that he probably didn’t intend the consequences that have actually arisen: the “de-centralization” of Christ and his teaching as well as the “synodality” of heterodox bishops and conferences of bishops.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    “the Church cannot look the other way.

    Correct, of course, but the next sentence…

    Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and of Communion must be given even…”

    Are non sequiturs really so hard to identify that a Cardinal of all people is comfortable writing this publicly?

  10. dallenl says:

    I would suggest that those in favor of the Cardinal’s position take a moment to ask the innocent party of a spouse who abandoned and remarried what stance should be taken on the matter. I daresay he would be most enlightened by a comment from a person in the real world who seems not to have been heard from yet in all the learned comments from the worthies on this subject.

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