Casting Stones at the Divorced and Remarried

As I’ve said many times now, my preference is for a strict discipline on reception of Communion: only believing and practicing Catholics, free from every objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin, who have been to Confession within the last 3 or 4 months, should be permitted to receive. But each Roman Pontiff has the authority to choose the discipline for reception of Communion, whether loose or strict. The only indispensable doctrinal requirements are that the person be baptized and in a state of grace.

Pope Francis has a wide range of options in the rules that he may establish for reception of Communion. He could permit very young children to receive Communion. He could allow priests to give infants baptism, immediately followed by first Communion, immediately followed by Confirmation. He can permit Orthodox Christians to receive Communion at Catholic Masses.

The Pope could permit persons who have sinned gravely to make an act of perfect contrition, and then receive Communion, with a later Confession. He could permit persons who are not conscious of actual mortal sin to receive Communion, as long as they are in good conscience. He could permit reception by some Catholics despite their rejection of some Church teachings on faith or morals.

I don’t advise this looser discipline, but he has the authority. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands of persons signed the filial petition, which treats the Supreme Teacher of the Church as if he has a poor understanding of Catholic teaching. The Pope has the authority to decide any and all questions of doctrine and discipline. One million petition signatories put together still do not have the authority to overrule him.

Catholics who are conscious of unrepented actual mortal sin cannot receive Communion, under the eternal moral law. But if a Catholic were not aware that he had sinned gravely, there is no way to prevent him from receiving, except to teach ethics more clearly and more widely. If a Catholic commits an objective mortal sin, without that act being also an actual mortal sin, the Church may permit him to receive, since he is still in a state of grace. My preference would be for all persons who have committed objective mortal sin or actual mortal sin, even with repentance, to go to Confession first. But I don’t think that my own judgment is equivalent to the eternal moral law.

What troubles me most about those who are adamant that the divorced and remarried may not receive Communion is the hypocrisy. If the divorced and remarried may not receive, then most Catholics who currently receive may not also. Of those 800,000 signatories to the querulous petition, how many are committing any of the following objective mortal sins:

* adhering to material heresy on abortion, contraception, sexual ethics, marriage, and many other topics within Catholic teaching;
* teaching material heresy online;
* rejecting the authority of the Pope over discipline;
* rejecting the authority of the Pope over doctrine;
* lust, or malice, or some other interior grave sin;
* pornography, masturbation, sex outside of marriage;
* unnatural sexual acts within marriage;
* use of contraception or abortifacient contraception for any purpose;
* rejection of the Sacrament of Confession.

I think that the vast majority of Communion-receiving Catholics are guilty of some of the above mortal sins. Use of contraception is very widespread. Sexual sins are very widespread. I know that most Communion-receiving Catholics go to Confession rarely or never. Material heresy is common among persons who teach the Catholic Faith and among Catholics in general. I have the impression that the vast majority of adult Catholics are committing some of the above listed grave sexual sins.

How many of the signatories of the petition are committing some of the above mortal sins, and yet they receive Communion? Worse still, they cry out in anger against the divorced and remarried, for receiving Communion, while they themselves commit sins that are just as grave, yet they receive also. What would Jesus say?

[Matthew 7]
{7:1} “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
{7:2} For with whatever judgment you judge, so shall you be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, so shall it be measured back to you.
{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?
{7:5} Hypocrite, first remove the board from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

But we are never going to solve the problem of Catholics who commit mortal sins, without repentance and Confession, by making the rules of the Church just right. The faithful must strive to know and live the ethical teachings of the Church. And the Church must teach ethics more clearly and more frequently. Those who lead and teach the faithful must not distort or water-down magisterial teaching on ethics. And something needs to be done about the plethora of false teachers on the internet who spread grave errors on ethics among the faithful.

If Pope Francis permits the divorced and remarried to receive Communion, it is not tantamount to heresy. Pope Francis has the authority to decide questions of discipline, and he has the authority to decide questions of doctrine. If he says that permitting reception is not contrary to doctrine, then it is not contrary to doctrine.

I am very concerned that a group of persons, led by some Cardinals, has risen up to decide for the Church what is permissible discipline and what is correct doctrine. They seek to impose their view on the Pope. And if he says or does otherwise, I’m certain that many of them will reject the Pope, falsely accuse him of heresy, and thereby become unfit for reception of Communion themselves.

You are free to agree with me, that the discipline for reception of Communion should be strict. You are free to opine that the discipline should be lenient. But it is an immoral hypocrisy for you to say that the divorced and remarried must not receive, while you commit grave sins and also receive.

{2:19} you become confident within yourself that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
{2:20} an instructor to the foolish, a teacher to children, because you have a type of knowledge and truth in the law.
{2:21} As a result, you teach others, but you do not teach yourself. You preach that men should not steal, but you yourself steal.
{2:22} You speak against adultery, but you commit adultery. You abominate idols, but you commit sacrilege.
{2:23} You would glory in the law, but through a betrayal of the law you dishonor God.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Sacraments. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Casting Stones at the Divorced and Remarried

  1. Jeff says:

    Well said. I haven’t received communion in years because I haven’t completed my annulment, despite going to confession, yet I see 95% of those at mass getting in line and heading toward the altar. But in the confessional hour on Saturday evening, the confessional door remains open, the light is on, and no one is in line to receive this sacrament.

Comments are closed.