Eleven Thousand Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family

A book titled: “Eleven Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family” opposes changing the discipline on who may receive holy Communion. The 11 authors especially reject the idea that divorced and remarried Catholics be permitted to receive Communion.

First, my preference for discipline on reception of Communion is strict. I would like the Church to only permit reception by persons who are free from all objective mortal sins, including contraception and all grave sexual sins, and who have been to Confession within the last 3 to 4 months. Under this plan, the vast majority of Mass-going Catholics would not be able to receive. So my preference is stricter than the eleven Cardinals.

However, the Pope holds the Keys of Peter. The teaching authority and the temporal authority of the Church are represented by the figure of two keys, as seen on the Vatican flag (for example). When he opens the door, no one can close it. When he closes the door, no one can open it.

[Matthew]
{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
{16:19} And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

The book called “Eleven Cardinals Speak….” argues for a narrower discipline on reception of Communion than what many persons anticipate Pope Francis and the approaching Synod of Bishops (Oct 2015) will decide. I don’t disagree with their preferred discipline.

What troubles me deeply is the attitude, already being expressed on some ranting blogs, that any loosening of current discipline on reception of Communion is so grave an error as to imply a rejection of infallible doctrine. In other words, they represent this proposed change as if it were tantamount to heresy.

So my first point is that if instead of 11 Cardinals, there were 11,000 Cardinals, all in agreement on a different discipline for Communion that whatever Pope Francis decides, their authority still pales beside his authority. For the Pope holds the Keys, not any number of Cardinals. If the Pope decides to open a door, and eleven thousand Cardinals cry out vociferously against that decision, the door opens. And if the Pope decides to close a door, and an even greater number of Cardinals cry out in opposition, the door closes.

Pope Francis holds the Keys. He is the current valid Pope. He does not commit apostasy, heresy, or schism by having a liberal point of view on doctrine and discipline. He does not offend God by being liberal, instead of conservative or traditionalist.

I favor the view that divorced and remarried Catholics, absent an annulment, should not receive Communion, because they commit the objective mortal sin of having sexual relations outside of a valid marriage. But I must point out that the vast majority of Mass-going and Communion-receiving Catholics are likewise unrepentant from objective mortal sin, including:

* holding heretical views on the Eucharist, on the immorality of abortion and contraception, on gay marriage, and on many other matters of faith, morals, and salvation.
* use of contraception; use of abortifacient contraception
* grave sexual sins: pornography, masturbation, unnatural sexual acts in marriage, premarital sex, etc.
* the rejection of the Sacrament of Confession

Most Mass-going Communion receiving Catholics never go to Confession. Most do not accept the teaching authority of the Church. They believe whatever the prevailing view may be in sinful secular society, or else they exalt their own ideas above the definitive teaching of the Church.

So while I agree that the divorced and remarried should not receive Communion, I find the position hypocritical which defends the current practice in the Church whereby many persons unrepentant from objective mortal sins receive, while the divorced and remarried do not.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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13 Responses to Eleven Thousand Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family

  1. Debbie says:

    Such a good point! What if many of these people in these circumstances are truly sorry and repentant. … But their current spouse is not open to a marriage in the Catholic Church. Wouldnt mercy preceded on the repentant sinner be sufficient for him or her to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. What about those who have surgically controlled their response to no more children and then deeply repent of their decision they have made and gone to confession. Their sin is wiped free thanks be to God and yet they still physically are closed to life yet allowed to receive communion…. So why not these other poor souls who are deeply sorry for their past…. The sin has been made just like abortion, or infidelity, souls deeply sorry want and need to move forward and receive fully all of our church not just some but all….in the Eucharist. Some repentant sinners can stop that ugly sin from reoccurring in their lives while others have to live deeply with their past choices and the essence of it is always there. Sometimes we can go back and fix our sins that hurt others while other times we can’t go back and fix for it may be unfixable. Isn’t that what Christ was really after… A repentant heart a changed heart and minde to His:)

    • Ron Conte says:

      If someone is divorced and remarried, and repentant, the situation is complex. They must at least refrain from sexual relations, and go to confession. They might be able to remain in the same household for the sake of the children. But in the present circumstance, few appear to be repentant. They have accepted the ideas of secular society on divorce and remarriage.

  2. Michael says:

    Quite right that the Pope holds the keys. His decision is the one we all must follow. In my opinion, I’d like to see the annulment process simplified even more to allow the parish priest the ability to sign off on straightforward annulments and lack of form. They old the faculties to perform marriages and forgive sins, they should hold the ability to sign annulments too, but that’s just my humble opinion.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The parish priest assists the Bishop in exercising the Bishop’s authority. Parish priests have no authority of their own. So the Bishop must be involved in annulments. Priests only have faculties to forgive sins and perform marriages if given the faculties from the Bishop.

  3. Dot says:

    I feel such “liberal” concepts make a bit more sense when a spouse involved is not Catholic and/or children are involved. Things can get very complicated very quickly. Imagine a fallen away Catholic spouse re-married without annulment to a Protestant spouse, who then had children together. I know several couples like this. One day, the repentant former Catholic may wish to return without the spouse converting. The Church, which has no authority over the Protestant, wants them to abandon relations, which may lead the Protestant spouse to file for divorce. Most agree this would be destructive to the children. But there’s more…

    To me, what follows is proof of why we should never judge… In one true life scenario, the first divorce was due to abandonment, so that the first spouse, a homosexual, could now legally “marry” another homosexual. In case number two, the former spouse got a sex-change operation, which is the only reason why the Catholic spouse re-married.

    • I think the main point is the extent of the Papal power of the keys. We know that a marriage cannot be dissolved by human authority, but we may presume that the Pope has the power of despensation on the obligations of a couple to stay faithful to each other. We don’t know unless the pope defines the issue and the Bishops should just wait and see rather than claiming to be more Catholic than the Pope.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Pope can dissolve a merely natural marriage (Pauline privilege), but he cannot dissolve the Sacrament. If a couple have the Sacrament of marriage, the Church cannot dispense the obligation to remain faithful.

  4. It is not true to refer to these norms as merely “disciplinary.” To assert that a Catholic objectively and unrepentantly committing adultery can receive the Eucharist under ordinary (e.g. non life threatening) circumstances is against *doctrine,* not merely discipline. For it is impossible to make such an assertion without denying at least one of the following doctrines:

    1) Marriage is indissoluble.
    2) Adultery is intrinsically evil.
    3) The Eucharist cannot be received ordinarily except by those in a state of grace. (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1415. 1 Corinthians 11:29. Council of Trent. Etc.)

    You are right that Francis cannot teach heresy, for he is the Vicar of Christ. You are right that we must be submissive to him. But he will never (no matter what all these stupid worldly rumors say) teach the Kasper proposal. Period. Matthew 16:18 ensures that.

    • Ron Conte says:

      You err gravely by assuming that everyone who commits an objectively grave sin has also committed an actual mortal sin. Only when a grave sin is committed with full knowledge and full deliberation is the soul deprived of grace. You also err by oversimplifying the other doctrines of the Church. Natural marriages can be dissolved by the Pauline privilege. You don’t know if the earlier marriage is a natural marriage only, or an invalid attempted Sacrament, or the Sacrament of marriage. Also, the couple might be repentant, and have gone to Confession, and be living chastely.

      Actually, the Eucharist can only ever be received by persons in a state of grace, with no exception. The exceptional case is if the person has repented from actual mortal sin with perfect contrition, but has not yet been to Confession. Such a person returns to the state of grace by perfect contrition, and can receive in exceptional circumstances (most commonly a priest who must say Mass and has no other priest to whom he can confess right away).

      You arrogantly assume that your understanding is inerrant, and that you have understood better than the Pope.

  5. By the way, in your arrogant assumption that I arrogantly assume (man, this is fun!) that my understanding is inerrant and better than the pope’s, perhaps you could quote for me somewhere the Pope has taught that it is okay to receive Communion in an objective state of grave sin, or that valid sacramental marriage is dissoluble, or that adultery is not an intrinsic evil.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The way that you speak about the Pope and the Magisterium is proof of your arrogance. You assume that the first marriage was a valid Sacrament; perhaps it was not. You decide for the Church who may and may not receive, yet you have no authority. You continue to speak as if you could not err. You don’t know if the couple are having relations, so you don’t know they are guilty of extra-marital sex. You don’t know if the first marriage was a valid Sacrament.

      I would prefer the rules to say that objective mortal sin prohibits reception of Communion. But the Pope holds the keys, and he can decide. It is foolish to conflate a *perhaps* imprudent decision on discipline with a denial of doctrine. The current rules prohibit reception (with exceptions) if the person is conscious of grave sin, or if the sin is manifest grave sin. I’d like stricter rules, but I will not accuse the Pope of denying doctrine if he chooses looser rules.

    • You are missing my point. I am granting your concerns (valid though they may be) as the very premises of my syllogism. I am saying that:

      IF one has been validly sacramentally married

      and IF that person leaves this marriage in order to cohabitate with another (even if they get a civil “marriage”)

      and IF that person engages in sexual relations with that other person

      then that person is objectively committing an intrinsic grave evil (adultery).

      which means that this person, doctrinally, should not present him or herself for Communion if he or she is unrepentant. Yours is the burden of proof; for you are claiming that something that Scripture, the Catechism, and the Council of Trent all present as doctrine is actually just discipline simply because there are unfounded rumors that the Pope might change it.

      Like you, I have never nor will I ever accuse the Pope of teaching heresy. My point is simply that we need not worry about him trying to do so — he won’t. Just like we know he won’t condone abortion or gay marriage.

    • Ron Conte says:

      OK you weren’t as clear before. My opinion is that such persons should not receive Communion. But the only doctrinal requirements, in my understanding, are baptism and that the person reasonably believes himself to be in the state of grace. That is the absolute minimum, as proven by the exceptional case of a person guilty of actual mortal sin, who still can receive (with a grave reason) if they repent with perfect contrition. Imperfect contrition is not sufficient without confession. So the state of grace is the standard in doctrine for a moral reception. If the Church can permit reception after actual mortal sin, prior to confession, then She can permit reception with a merely objective mortal sin (not also actual mortal sin).

      The burden of proof is not on me, since the hypothetical is IF the Pope decides to permit reception. The burden is on those who may claim that it is contrary to doctrine. The standard established in Canon Law (which often expresses or is based on doctrine) is the state of grace, not mere objective mortal sin (absent confession).

      The current accepted practice is that persons who are guilty of contraception, abortifacient contraception, adhering to heresy (in supporting abortion rights or gay rights or gay marriage), publicly teaching heresy, and grave sexual sins still receive without repentance or confession. That is wrong, and it needs to change.

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