Communion Discipline for the Orthodox shows the wisdom of Amoris Laetitia

The following article was written at my request by reader Marco, based on his excellent comments about Amoris Laetitia in other posts.

Many claim that allowing the divorced and remarried to receive Communion would go against Divine Law. They claim that such a change would contradict Catholic dogma. I’m sure that it isn’t true, and I’ll explain my understanding in the following article.

For one, I would like to make things clear: the divorced and remarried, if they do not refrain from any sexual activity, commit adultery, and adultery is always an intrinsically evil act. Adultery is always, in and of itself, an objective mortal sin. The Holy Bible is very clear:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

But we cannot infer, from this truth, that adultery always implies subjective culpability. In other words, we cannot, and should not, say that adultery is always an actual mortal sin.

The difference between the objective mortal sin of adultery and the subjective sinfulness (or lack, thereof) of the adulterers (subjective sinfulness which, if not followed by repentance before death, condemns the adulterer to hell, as 1 Cor 6:9-11 clearly states) is the principal argument that has been upheld to show that there is no intrinsic relation between the indissolubility of a validly contracted marital bond and the reception of the Sacraments for people living in objective contradiction with said bond.

Is the fact that God’s law is objectively contradicted by divorced persons who have remarried a sufficient reason to exclude them from the sacraments? Pope Francis clearly thinks not, because, as was already said, the objective sinfulness of a situation does not necessarily translate into full subjective guilt for individuals, “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (Amoris Laetitia, § 301).

Only the sin committed with full culpability excludes the sinner from Heaven and deserves eternal punishment.

The conclusion that Pope Francis draws from this reasoning is that access to the Eucharist must be determined by pastoral discernment on a case-by-case basis. In other words, he softens the rule by applying the distinction between objective sin and subjective culpability. An irregular marriage-situation can be objectively sinful (contrary to God’s law), but if those involved in it either do not have full knowledge of its sinfulness, or if their decision to remain in it is not sufficiently free, then they need not be subjectively culpable. In that case, there may be no obstacle for them to receive absolution and Holy Communion.

And make no mistake, the fact that adultery is always an objective mortal sin is clearly stated in Amoris Laetitia, the Pope alluded clearly to this fundamental teaching: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully so—a person can be living in God’s grace” (§ 305, my emphasis.).

The fact that Pope Francis bases his argument on the reasons why subjective responsibility may be lacking in persons who are divorced and remarried is evidence that he takes the objectively sinful character of second marriages after a divorce for granted.

In my understanding, it’s hard to say that a validly married person may lack the full knowledge, and it seems to me that the Pope’s attention is focused on the second subjective condition—deliberate consent. Subjective responsibility for an objectively sinful situation may sometimes be lacking because the freedom of the parties involved is restricted as a result of various factors or circumstances, such as “duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments,” “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors” (§ 302, quoting the Catechism).

When the Argentinian Bishops, for instance, in their guidelines endorsed by the Pope and declared by him to be of the “authentic Magisterium”, say that “especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351)”, they are clearly referring, I think, to relationships in which one person is either not Christian or not practicing the faith, and also threatening serious consequences, e.g., leaving a civilly remarried spouse and children if they do not consent to sexual relations (which is pretty obvious because a non-Catholic would not understand such a requirement and this would seem to him/her as an absurd intrusion in his/her private life, thus damaging the relationship).

In this case the person might not be guilty of actual mortal sin, for example, if the divorced and remarried Catholic:

1. For serious motives is not able to separate.

2. He/she intends to refrain from acts proper to spouses, even though he/she can’t do that for the reasons explained above.

3. He/she has received the sacrament of Penance with this intention.

If these conditions are met, the divorced and remarried need not need be in the state of actual mortal sin and he or she can be absolved and receive the Holy Eucharist, if he/she receives in such a way as to avoid scandal. And I would like to point out that there is no general invitation made to divorced and remarried to receive, so it remains clear that it is not normal, but an exception for them to receive.

Many people, even high prelates, argue that a softening of the Eucharistic discipline for the divorced and remarried would contradict the divine law, and they draw from this (wrong) premise the (wrong) conclusion that Pope Francis is at least a material heretic.

But what if we actually have a precedent? What if the Church already allows people in an objective state of grave sin (which would be actual mortal sin if the subjective conditions are met) to receive the Catholic Sacraments? In that case, it would be impossible to condemn them without condemning that previous practice at the same time. And the fact is, said precedent actually exists.

I’m talking about the permission for the Orthodox Christians to receive Catholic Sacraments without converting to the Catholic faith.

This permission is explicitly stated in the new Code of Canon Law (1983), where Canon 844 § 3 says:

“Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed. This is also valid for members of other Churches which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition in regard to the sacraments as these Eastern Churches.”

Now, this was by all means a “new” discipline, at least at that time, because the Church never considered schismatics, in 2000 years of history, eligible to Communion, unless they repented of their errors and embraced the Catholic Faith. This practice of excluding them from catholic Sacraments was clearly stated in codex iuris canonici ( 1917) Can 574 § 2.

“Canon 574 § 2: It is forbidden to minister the Sacraments of the Church to heretics and schismatics, even though they are in good faith and ask for them, unless they have first renounced their errors and been reconciled to the Church.”

And for a very good reason: it has been dogmatically taught that the schismatics are excluded from the Heavenly Kingdom, if they die in their errors (with the full culpability of actual mortal sin).

“It [the Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” (Cantate Domino, Council of Florence, Session 11).

The same teaching was repeated in Lumen Gentium § 14 as well

“Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”

These condemnations are just as serious and infallible as the ones stated in 1 Cor 6:9-11 and reported at the beginning of this article, and imply that the schismatics, just like the adulterers, cannot be saved if they are fully guilty of their sin and they persist unto death in their sin without repentance.

Now, the current Ortodox Christians are certainly not guilty of the sin of leaving the Church, but they might be guilty of the sin of refusing to enter in it, the sin of refusing to embrace the Catholic Faith, the sin of persisting to remain in a schismatic Church. They are, at least, material schismatics, and this sin would condemn their souls to Hell if they realized the truth of the Catholic Faith and still decided not to convert (Lumen Gentium is very clear, talking about people who “would refuse to enter or to remain in it”, and so was the Council of Florence). Just like an adulterer who knows that he is sinning and can stop sinning (in this case he/she would be guilty of actual mortal sin because the two subjective conditions would be met) cannot be saved if he decides to persist unto death in said sin without repentance.

Then why does the Church allow Orthodox Christians to receive the Catholic Sacraments, even though their situation is, objectively speaking, a very dangerous one, knowing that if they realize the truth and still decide not to convert they shall not be saved?

Since these Christians are in a public state of material schism and material heresy, why doesn’t canon 915 exclude them from Eucharistic Communion?

The reason is that, thanks to their good faith, they might be in the state of Grace, which would allow them to be joined with the Catholic Church, although in an invisible way, and be saved.

We know that Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is a catholic dogma, as I have clearly shown by quoting the infallible teaching from the Council of Florence. But that doesn’t mean that someone needs to belong to the Church in a visible way. Someone may reject the Church outwardly and still belonging to her, if his/her refusal is done in good faith. Every person who is in the state of Grace belongs to the Catholic Church, visibly or invisibly.

I’m not aware of any even semi-authoritative account, but suggest that the presumption is made that they are not culpable for their schism or heresy, and that this is a common and public presumption. In my understanding:

1. It is common knowledge that Orthodox are sincerely convinced of their position rather than moved by bad will, so their receiving Communion on their own request causes no great scandal with respect to the obligation to seek and adhere to the true Church.

2. There is no general invitation made to non-Catholics to receive, so it remains clear that it is not a norm, but an exception for them to receive.

Consequently:

1. If the non-Catholic members of the oriental Churches ask on their own for the Sacraments.

2. If the non-Catholic members of the oriental Churches are properly disposed.

3. If they are not able at the time to cease from the public schism, as that would be contrary to their convictions in conscience.

4. If they are well-disposed, having confessed any grave sins they are aware of and intending to avoid them in the future, etc.

If these conditions are met, they can receive the Catholic Sacraments, even though they remain in a state of material schism and heresy.

The point I’m making, at the end of the day, is that the Orthodox are in an objective situation of grave sin and they can be saved only thanks to their good faith, certainly not because their decision not to convert to the Catholic Faith is good and legitimate in and of itself. If they are deemed eligible to receive Catholic Absolution and the Eucharist, it is evident that even the divorced and remarried can be eligible to the Sacraments, if they benefit from mitigating factors reducing their guilt.

After all, the good faith of the Orthodox, which allows them to receive Catholic Sacraments and be saved, involves mitigating factors, and the divorced and remarried might be in the state of Grace as well due to mitigating factors such as lack of knowledge (unlikely, if they are validly married) or lack of deliberate consent (this is more likely for the reasons stated above).

It is plainly absurd to state that the divorced and remarried are intrinsically ineligible to receive Catholic Sacraments and, at the same time, claiming that unrepentant schismatics might be eligible. And it is plainly wrong to state that allowing the divorced and remarried, on a case by case basis, to receive the Sacraments, implies the legitimization of adultery, because it is tantamount to stating that allowing schismatics to receive Catholic Sacraments on the basis of their good faith implies the legitimization of their schism. Of course that is not true. Recognizing that a sinner doesn’t carry the full culpability for his sin in no logical way implies a legitimization of his sin.

My conclusion: claiming that Pope Francis is allowing and legitimizing adultery because he endorsed the Argentinian Bishops’ guidelines implies that the Church legitimized the sin of schism when She allowed, under Pope Saint John Paul II, the Orthodox schismatics to receive Catholic Sacraments.

So the papal critics are in a pinch, because they cannot logically condemn Pope Francis without, at the same time, condemning said discipline regarding the schismatics, which is from Pope Saint John Paul II. They simply can’t. It cannot be simply stated, for the reasons explained above, that the Church’s former legislation on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried was, in its entirety, a necessary consequence of the nature of Eucharist and marriage, and thus irreformable. Otherwise we would be applying a deplorable double standard, where the sin of schism “is not that big of a deal” and the sin of adultery is that big of a deal, when it is clearly not the case, since we know that the unrepentant guilty schismatic goes to hell just like the unrepentant guilty adulterer and that both of these sins are very grave.

We cannot say that adulterers are intrinsically ineligible to Communion and, at the same time, say that unrepentant schismatics, people who want to remain in the errors of their schismatic Church, might receive. For this would imply that we believe schismatics can be subjectively innocent while at the same time we believe that the divorced and remarried are always subjectively culpable, and this would be a grave form of rash judgment. Or, alternatively, it would imply that we believe refusing to convert to the Catholic Church is not, in and of itself, a grave sin, and this would be downright heresy, since it is dogmatically stated that every man and woman has the duty to convert to the Catholic Faith.

— Marco

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65 Responses to Communion Discipline for the Orthodox shows the wisdom of Amoris Laetitia

  1. Guest says:

    Of course there is one Catholicism. It is founded upon a rock and the gates of hell will never conquer it. When Old Catholics left the Church, was there more than one Catholicism. Nope. Same with all other schisms, as well as this one. What we are seeing now is how powerful social pressure and propaganda was during other schisms.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, and make no mistake about it, many papal critics are on the path to formal schism, not because they adhere to error with sincerity and a mistaken good conscience, but because they have adopted the attitudes of secular society, esp. pride in one’s own understanding, rejection of authority, adhering to the ideas of one’s own cultural or political group, and treating all who disagree with disdain. They behave like partisan politicians, not like disciples of Christ seeking truth.

  2. Marco says:

    @Ron

    Do you agree with me when i say that the ortodox case cannot be easily dismissed? What’s your specific opinion on this matter?

    • Ron Conte says:

      As I said before, I think it is a valid argument. If a divorced and remarried couple are guilty of objective mortal sin, but not actual mortal sin, AL says they can receive Communion. But that same distinction applies to many other types of sin, including material schism and material heresy.

    • Marco says:

      That’s exactly what i think. But apparently Stefano (with which i have already argued in Italy) thinks that material schism isn’t a big deal.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Stefano has some good points. The material schism and heresy of the Orthodox is different from the objectively grave sins of Catholics. The Orthodox are following the faith of their Church; some of the divorced and remarried are not. But we are still talking about objective mortal sins in both cases.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “ But we are still talking about objective mortal sins in both cases.”

      And that is precisely my argument.

  3. stefano says:

    The point that I am trying to make not only is that the orthodox are not culpable subjectively, but they are not even to be considered in an objective state of sin, since they did not commit the material sin of schism of their ancestors. The only individual culpability would be to subjectively refuse the communion that is being offered to them in hate of the catholic faith; which in turn cannot be blamed on those who instead accept to share communion. Therefore ther is no scandal if that happens, but only the glory of the Lord Gesus.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It’s a good point. They are not committing schism in the sense of departing from communion with the Pope and the Bishops subject to him. However, all human persons who have sufficient accurate knowledge of the Catholic Church have an objective moral obligation to convert to Catholicism. Very often, those who fail to do so are not guilty to the extent of actual mortal sin. But it is an objective mortal sin of omission not to convert. So the Orthodox are objectively committing the sin of remaining in an objectively schismatic and heretical Church.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      Precisely.

      And that’s what i have already said in the article as well.

    • Marco says:

      @Stefano

      Quoting from my article

      “the current Ortodox Christians are certainly not guilty of the sin of leaving the Church, but they might be guilty of the sin of refusing to enter in it, the sin of refusing to embrace the Catholic Faith, the sin of persisting to remain in a schismatic Church. They are, at least, material schismatics, and this sin would condemn their souls to Hell if they realized the truth of the Catholic Faith and still decided not to convert (Lumen Gentium is very clear, talking about people who “would refuse to enter or to remain in it”, and so was the Council of Florence). Just like an adulterer who knows that he is sinning and can stop sinning (in this case he/she would be guilty of actual mortal sin because the two subjective conditions would be met) cannot be saved if he decides to persist unto death in said sin without repentance.”

    • stefano says:

      @Ron
      “So the Orthodox are objectively committing the sin of remaining in an objectively schismatic and heretical Church”. May be, but this statement clearly does not apply to those who accept the catholic sacraments, even if they formally stay orthodox. What you see from the outside is just an external appearance, but within they have in fact separated from the schism. They made schism from the schismatics, so to speak.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think you are referring to persons who are subjectively not culpable for remaining Orthodox, which is many persons. But objectively, don’t they have an obligation to become Catholic?

    • Marco says:

      “May be, but this statement clearly does not apply to those who accept the catholic sacraments, even if they formally stay orthodox.”

      This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even catholics have the permission, from the Catholic Church, to fulfill the Sunday obligation going to an ortodox Mass, if they can’t assist to a Catholic Mass, and we could even access to their Sacraments if it wasn’t for the fact that the ortodox Church doesn’t allow catholics to receive.

      But this doesn’t mean that a catholic who participates to an ortodox Mass has to repudiate the Catholic Faith becoming ortodox.

      In fact, i know ortodox who participated to catholic Sacraments for the reasons stated above, and yet they still believe that the true Church is the Ortodox Church, and they refused to accept many dogmatic catholic teaching which conflict with their owns (just like a catholic doesn’t become an ortodox only because he goes to an ortodox Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation)

    • Marco says:

      Also, Stefano, let me remind you that Blessed Pope Pius IX, In his Syllabus of Modern Errors, condemned the following statement

      “Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

      The fact that our Church allows them to receive doesn’t imply by any means that they don’t have the grave obligation to become Catholic.

      Codex iuris canonici ( 1917) Can 574 § 2 excluded them from the Sacraments precisely because of this reason

      “Canon 574 § 2: It is forbidden to minister the Sacraments of the Church to heretics and schismatics, even though they are in good faith and ask for them, unless they have first renounced their errors and been reconciled to the Church.”

      As you can see, they needed to become catholic and to repudiate their errors, to receive catholic Sacraments, for deciding to remain in a schismatic Church is an objective mortal sin: often not imputed to the sinner because of his good conscience; but objective mortal sin nonetheless.

      And the argument “if they ask for the Sacraments they should be admitted because they are, in reality, making schism from the schismatics”, crumbles like a box of tissue under that Canon.

      Not to mention that, flipping your statement on its head, the very fact that a catholic asks for ortodox Sacraments because he can’t fullfill the Sunday obligation going to a Catholic Mass, would imply that he is, albeit not formally, repudiating the Catholic Faith. It that was the case, the Catholic Church would have never allowed such a thing.

    • Ron Conte says:

      This condemned proposition — Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ — refers to those who are “not at all” in the true Church. But all Christians in the state of grace are in the Church, and non-Christians can be implicit members of the Church, by a baptism of desire. So that condemned saying doesn’t really apply to the Orthodox. The better citation would be the Council of Florence, which condemned to eternal punishment all schismatics, heretics, etc. But of course, they are only condemned if their sin of schism, heresy, etc. is unrepented actual mortal sin.

    • stefano says:

      @Ron
      I might be mistaking, but I believe that an orthodox who accepts the sacred sacraments from the Catholic Church is inherently catholic, hence he has basically fulfilled his obligation to become catholic. What I see there is a core unity that withstands without a formal adhesion to the catholic superstructure.
      To answer to Marco, I can hardly understand how an orthodox could honestly believe that the Catholic Church is heretical, and yet access to its communion. If that is the case he is in serious spiritual confusion. And of course that creates scandal, if you want me to say that.
      As an aside, if, as you say, the Orthodox Church does not allow catholics to the orthodox communion, how can they allow their own faithful to the catholic sacraments? It really intrigues me.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The obligation to become Catholic includes the requirement to accept the Roman Pontiff as the head of the Church on earth, and to believe all the dogmas of the Church with the full assent of faith. Reception of Communion is symbolic of the union of all Catholics in one Church, so it is an imperfection that so many receive Communion who do not believe what the Church teaches. Interestingly, the newest Doctor of the Church, Gregory of Narek, was a member of one of the Orthodox Churches, not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

    • Marco says:

      “This condemned proposition — Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ — refers to those who are “not at all” in the true Church. But all Christians in the state of grace are in the Church, and non-Christians can be implicit members of the Church, by a baptism of desire. So that condemned saying doesn’t really apply to the Orthodox.”

      You are right.

      “The better citation would be the Council of Florence, which condemned to eternal punishment all schismatics, heretics, etc. “

      And that is the citation quoted in my article.

      “ But of course, they are only condemned if their sin of schism, heresy, etc. is unrepented actual mortal sin.”

      For sure, just like, for example, the divorce and remarried catholic.

      The point is that Stefano’s argument isn’t tenable, precisely because of these reasons.

      We indeed have a precedent, even though he tries to refuse that (because admitting that we have a precedent would make impossibile to condemn Amoris Laetitia without condemning the precedent and Saint John Paul II at the same time).

      The argument “ the divorced and remarried can’t be admitted because they are always subjectively culpable”isn’t tenable, even according to the four Cardinals (their words on the matter can be found here http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351414bdc4.html?eng=y ) and the argument “the divorced and remarried can’t be admitted because they are living in a state of objective mortal sin” isn’t tenable either, otherwise we should, and would, apply the same strict criterion to the schismatics.

      @Stefano

      “To answer to Marco, I can hardly understand how an orthodox could honestly believe that the Catholic Church is heretical, and yet access to its communion.”

      A Catholic needs to believe that the ortodox Church is a schismatic Church and that converting to said Church would mean eternal damnation for his would, for he would be departing from the truth.

      And yet we are allowed, by our Church, to receive Ortodox Sacraments, if that is the only way to fullfill Sunday obligation. That is because they still have valid Sacraments and a valid Mass.

      “how can they allow their own faithful to the catholic sacraments? It really intrigues me.”

      They don’t allow their own faithful to the Catholic Sacraments, but our Church recognizes the possibility for them to receive. The ortodox who receive Catholic Sacraments do so because they ignore that it is forbidden by their Church, mostly.

      Anyway, this is not really important, my point still stands: they can be saved, if they decide not to convert to the Catholic Church, if and only if they do so in good faith, really believing that they are doing God’s will.

      If they realize the truth and not convert they cannot possibly be saved.

      Also, regarding Ron’s point

      “The obligation to become Catholic includes the requirement to accept the Roman Pontiff as the head of the Church on earth”

      We have the infallible teaching of Unam Sanctam

      “ Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

      So, again, my point stands firmly.

      We have a precedent, whether you like it or not. To state that this is not a precedent you should prove that refusing to convert to the Catholic Faith isn’t an objective mortal sin in and of itself, the problem is that you can’t do that, for the infallible teachings of the Council of Florence and Unam Sanctam cannot be abrogated, even by the Pope himself, even if he wanted to abrogate them.

    • stefano says:

      Seems like we keep running in circles.
      If an orthodox openly refuses to convert to the Catholic Faith, for he believes it is heretical, he clearly is in an objective state of sin.
      But, if an orthodox access the catholic sacraments, not believing that the Catholic Church is heretical, nontheless he doesn’t formally convert to it, in order not to create scandal in his neighborhood (e.g. this is already the case with the converted muslims), or just for cultural and religious identity (he was born in the Orthodox Church and cannot refuse his roots), he is neither subjectively culpable, nor he is in an objective state of sin, simply because there is no material sin being committed.

      The matter of the sin is in the schism itself (that is believing that the Catholic Church is heretical); it is not to formally stay an orthodox. Even with the divorced and remarried the Church does not require them to leave their present partner, as long as they remove the formal state of sin, that is the spousal relationship.
      There are catholic churches of oriental rite that you would not distinguisch from the othodox, but that is not enough to make them heretical. Yes, I know, they also confess the catholic dogma in its entirety, but here we are not talking about the formal teaching of a church, we are talking about the objective state of sin of an individual person.

      Therefore – objectively – we cannot blame the same objective state of sin to those who openly confess that the catholic church is heretical, as well as to those who instead openly confess the contrary by attending and receiving the catholic sacraments.

    • Marco says:

      “If an orthodox openly refuses to convert to the Catholic Faith, for he believes it is heretical, he clearly is in an objective state of sin. But, if an orthodox access the catholic sacraments, not believing that the Catholic Church is heretical, nontheless he doesn’t formally convert to it, in order not to create scandal in his neighborhood (e.g. this is already the case with the converted muslims), or just for cultural and religious identity (he was born in the Orthodox Church and cannot refuse his roots), he is neither subjectively culpable, nor he is in an objective state of sin, simply because there is no material sin being committed.”

      The material sin is the sin of not converting to the Catholic Church. You are applying double standard here: if a divorced and remarried continues to live in adultery because he can’t act otherwise for various reasons (for example he or she is living with a non catholic partner who threatens to leave the family if, right off the bat, he is imposed to live chastely, for he doesn’t believe in the moral authority of the Church) he is still committing objective mortal sin, even though he might not be imputable.

      The same can be said for the ortodox: unless they repudiate their errors, they are still committing the sin of remaining in a schismatic Church.

      That’s why, i repeat for the upteenth time, the Church excluded them from Catholic Sacraments with the following Canon

      Codex iuris canonici ( 1917) Can 574 § 2.

      “Canon 574 § 2: It is forbidden to minister the Sacraments of the Church to heretics and schismatics, even though they are in good faith and ask for them, unless they have first renounced their errors and been reconciled to the Church.”

      Otherwise, following your untenable argument, we should say that those who apostatized in the early centuries because they were tortured or because they were forced weren’t materially committing the sin of apostasy.

      Your argument is untenable.

      For nearly 2000 years the Church required that the Schismatics leaved their schismatics Church, repudiating their errors. There was a reason for it.

      “The matter of the sin is in the schism itself (that is believing that the Catholic Church is heretical); it is not to formally stay an orthodox. “

      False, it is. Every man and woman has the duty to convert to the Catholic Faith. What you’re saying is heresy, you are basically saying that if someone was born ortodox, or protestant for that matter, he doesn’t have the duty to convert to the catholic faith and to submit to the authority of the Pope.

      “ Even with the divorced and remarried the Church does not require them to leave their present partner, as long as they remove the formal state of sin, that is the spousal relationship.”

      This argument is totally untenable. If two remarried and divorced live like brother and sister they aren’t committing any objective mortal sin, for it is not an objective mortal sin living with someone else, otherwise we should say that universitari students are in the state of mortal sin.

      The objective mortal sin is having sex, for sex outside of a validly contracted marriage is an objective mortal sin.

      On the other hand, the ortodox, by persisting in their errors, are committing an objective mortal sin, as Ron already exaplined, reiterating what i stated in the article.

      “ There are catholic churches of oriental rite that you would not distinguisch from the othodox, but that is not enough to make them heretical. Yes, I know, they also confess the catholic dogma in its entirety, but here we are not talking about the formal teaching of a church, we are talking about the objective state of sin of an individual person.”

      If this individual person doesn’t accept the catholic dogma in its entirety and doesn’t recognize the authority of the Pope, he or she is committing the sin of not converting to the Catholic Church, persisting in a Schismatic Church.

      “ Therefore – objectively – we cannot blame the same objective state of sin to those who openly confess that the catholic church is heretical, as well as to those who instead openly confess the contrary by attending and receiving the catholic sacraments.”

      I had already demolished this argument before: Catholics are permitted by the Catholic Church to attend Ortodox Sacraments, but this doesn’t mean, of course, that a catholic who attend ortodox Sacraments in order to fullfill the Sunday obligation is repudiating catholic dogma and embracing ortodox errors. The same can be said for the ortodox, they are permitted to receive, if they are in good faith, even though, thanks to their good faith, they believe that their Church is the true Church and that the Catholic Church is a schismatic and heretical Church.

      You are argument crumbles, Stefano, you can’t back it up.

    • Marco says:

      Also, let me tell you that your argument crumbles for one further reason: the Catholic Church doesn’t require that the ortodox accept catholic dogma to be converted, not even implicitely. The Catholic Church admits them on the basis of their Good Faith, which excuses them from the imputation of the actual mortal sin of refusing to convert to the Catholic Church, she doesn’t require them to accept papal authority and catholic dogma in its entirety.

      So yeah, your argument isn’t tenable.

      And, please, stop bringing the “if they attend to catholic Sacraments they are making schism from the schismatics” argument to the table, because, as i said here https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/communion-discipline-for-the-orthodox-shows-the-wisdom-of-amoris-laetitia/comment-page-2/#comment-4985

      “flipping your statement on its head, the very fact that a catholic asks for ortodox Sacraments because he can’t fullfill the Sunday obligation going to a Catholic Mass, would imply that he is, albeit not formally, repudiating the Catholic Faith. It that was the case, the Catholic Church would have never allowed such a thing.”

      This argument would imply that the Catholic Church allows Catholics to repudiate Catholic teaching.

    • Marco says:

      Corrige

      “ Also, let me tell you that your argument crumbles for one further reason: the Catholic Church doesn’t require that the ortodox accept catholic dogma to be *converted* , not even *implicitely*.

      *admitted*

      *implicitly*

      Stefano, let’s play it out.

      A. You cannot state that someone, only because he wasn’t born catholic, doesn’t have the grave duty to seek and adhere to the true Church.

      B. You cannot state that refusing to convert to the Catholic isn’t an objective mortal sin, which, if committed with full culpability, would condemn said soul to Hell.

      Therefore, my argument remains untouched: we have a precedent.

      Let me quote this Italian priest https://www.amicidomenicani.it/leggi_sacerdote.php?id=4708 , i translate his words for the readers

      “ the Ortodox refuse some catholic dogmatic teachings (the teachings defined after the Great Schism in good Faith. They are convinced that only the Ortodox Church is the true Church. Theologically, they are called “material schismatic”, they aren’t formal schismatics.”

      “ if an ortodox comes to ask for Confession, and that already happened many times, I give him absolution for his sins and i don’t ask him if he believes in papal infallibility when he speaks ex Cathedra. “

      Therefore, as i have already stated multiple times, they need good faith to be in the state of Grace.

      Their good faith is a mitigating factor, which is necessary for them because their decision to refuse to convert to the true Church is an objective mortal sin. Good faith protects them from the imputation of said sin, but it doesn’t wash away the fact that refusing to convert to the Catholic Church is a grave sin, which can potentially condemn someone to hell.

      Once again and for the umpteenth time, Stefano: your argument crumbles.

      You are completely right when you state that they didn’t commit the sin of leaving the Church, but you can’t sorry, continue to overlook the fact that they still have the grave duty to convert to the Catholic Faith.

      That priest, Angelo Bellon, overlooks the fact that even Catholics divorced and remarried can be in the state of Grace thanks to mitigating factors, but that’s not too important, for what he said regarding the ortodox proves my point and further demolishes yours: the material schismatics are admitted to catholic Sacraments even if they don’t repudiate their errors, for their good faith might protect them for the imputation of said sin. Period. This is a precedent indeed, for the divorced and remarried might be in the state of Grace when they benefit from mitigating factors as well, as it has been stated in Amoris Laetitia.

      Now that your argument is completely demolished (yes, it is) you can choose between two options:

      A. You can continue to repeat the same thing over and over again.

      Or

      B. You can drop your untenable argument for good.

      If you ask me, option B is the right thing to do, but of course you are free to act in any manner you deem fit.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Marco, you make a good argument, but you shouldn’t assume you have won the debate. Stefano is entitled to disagree, and his position is not without merit. At this point, guys, I’m not even reading the comments. I’m just clicking “approve” over and over. Maybe we should wrap up this debate for now.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “Marco, you make a good argument, but you shouldn’t assume you have won the debate.”

      I’m not. If Stefano has a good counterargument (which doesn’t mean reiterating the same argument over and over again) I’d have no problems to recognize it.

      “Stefano is entitled to disagree, and his position is not without merit,”

      He is certainly entitled to disagree, but not every position has the same value. I mean, the ortodox are material schismatics if they do not convert. Refusing to convert to the catholic faith is on objective mortal sin, as you yourself reiterated in the comments.

      These two facts are not up for debate, aren’t they?

      “Maybe we should wrap up this debate for now.”

      I don’t know Ron, the blog is yours, you are free to do what you like, of course.

      I was waiting for a good counterargument, a counterargument which cannot be refuted, but if it doesn’t come I guess i can live with that.

    • Marco says:

      Sorry if i got somehow carried away.

    • Marco says:

      Corrige

      “He is certainly entitled to disagree, but not every position has the same value. I mean, the ortodox are material schismatics if they do not convert. Refusing to convert to the catholic faith is on objective mortal sin, as you yourself reiterated in the comments.

      These two facts are not up for debate, *are they*?”

      I think that this is the key point, for my argument can’t be both good and wrong at the same time.

      If you see some flaws in my argument, Ron, feel free to indicate them. But it seems that you agree with me, given your precedent statements.

    • stefano says:

      I accept Ron’s arbitration. Why do not we start from one of my key points that Ron thinks is not to be disdained, unlike Marco?

    • Marco says:

      @Stefano

      “I accept Ron’s arbitration. Why do not we start from one of my key points that Ron thinks is not to be disdained, unlike Marco?”

      I do not disdain them. It’s just that they are not tenable, and i think i have shown why they aren’t.

      Don’t get me wrong, i see where you are coming from, from the “guts” point of view your argument is pretty sound. The problem is that this is a theological argument and, as Ron said in this comment

      https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/communion-discipline-for-the-orthodox-shows-the-wisdom-of-amoris-laetitia/comment-page-2/#comment-4976

      “Stefano has some good points. The material schism and heresy of the Orthodox is different from the objectively grave sins of Catholics. The Orthodox are following the faith of their Church; some of the divorced and remarried are not. But we are still talking about objective mortal sins in both cases.”

      And that’s my point as well.

      Your argument is not unreasonable or stupid, it’s just untenable theologically, because of the reasons stated above by Ron and by miyself.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Since this is a matter of discipline, the Church can admit both groups, neither, or only one and not the other. The substantial differences in their cases could be the basis for a decision to admit one and not the other. But Canon 844 does prove that mere objective mortal sin, apart from being conscious of actual mortal sin, does not absolutely require refusal of Communion, as if Canon 915 were an expression of divine law.

    • Marco says:

      @ Ron

      Perfect.

      “ Since this is a matter of discipline, the Church can admit both groups, neither, or only one and not the other. The substantial differences in their cases could be the basis for a decision to admit one and not the other. “

      Absolutely. In fact, as everyone can see, I’ve never questioned Saint John Paul II’s decision of admitting unrepentant material schismatics to the Sacraments when he mantained the prohibition of the (materially) unrepentant adulterers (regardless of mitigating factors).

      Saint John Paul II’s decision was totally legitimate. As is Pope Francis’ decision.

      “ But Canon 844 does prove that mere objective mortal sin, apart from being conscious of actual mortal sin, does not absolutely require refusal of Communion, as if Canon 915 were an expression of divine law.”

      And this is precisely my argument and the very reason behind my decision of writing this article.

      Stefano, even when we argued in Italy, claimed that the divorced and remarried, if they do not live like brother and sister, needed absolutely to be refused absolution and Communion.

      If that was true, Pope Francis would have gone against Divine Law itself, he would have committed a grave abuse of power, maybe even becoming a material heretic.

      What i wanted to show is that is not possible, for we DO have a precedent established by Saint John Paul II.

      So, as you said, Canon 844 does prove that we have a precedent and that admitting material (that is, not fully imputable) adulterers to absolution and Communion is not heresy, otherwise the precedent would be heresy as well.

    • Ron Conte says:

      My preference for discipline is for persons who are guilty of objective mortal sin to go to Confession before Communion, as the general practice. I also think every Catholic should go to Confession once a month (at least).

    • Marco says:

      Yes, Ron, i’m aware of your preference. And what we should should learn from you is to not put out personal preferences before the authority of the Church, as if our personal sensibility could restrict the power of the keys given by the Divine Master Himself to Saint Peter.

      This is what we should learn.

    • stefano says:

      Ron, to start with, we could try and undo this knot. Communion with the Orthodox is a matter of discipline, but communion to the remarried divorcees is not. According to the previous magisterium, and also according to the present, it concerns dogmatics. Answering to his critics, Pope Francis clarified very well that it is possible to allow divorced and remarried to the sacraments not due to a doctrine change, but thanks to a better understanding of the doctrine: so, according to the Pope himself, discipline is not in question (as a matter of fact if the doctrine hasn’t changed, neither has Canon 915).
      If this is the case, there is no precedent as Marco claims, as the orthodox question and the divorced and remarried pertain to different matters. Do you agree? If not, why?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Good discipline is always based on or related to doctrine. However, most disciplines can be changed or dispensed. (All the OT disciplines were dispensed by Christ and His Church.) The Mosaic discipline of the death penalty for adultery was based on the doctrine that it is a grave sin, and harmful to the family and society. Yet Christ did away with the Mosaic death penalty, without touching the doctrine against adultery. Similarly, permitting Communion for persons who commit adultery, but might not be guilty to the extent of actual mortal sin does not change the doctrine against adultery. See my post here, subsection “Other Sacraments”
      https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/a-canon-lawyer-narrows-the-baptism-of-desire/
      So neither discipline (Orthodox, divorced) is solely of doctrine or solely of discipline. I don’t agree that the one is discipline (844) and the other is doctrine (915). The distinction that Pope Francis’ decision turns on is that between an actual mortal sin (of which one is conscious) and an objective mortal sin, without full culpability. That distinction is doctrine, but the discipline could be decided either way.

  4. Marco says:

    @Stefano

    As you can see from Ron’s answer, we do have a precedent.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not necessarily right; it’s just my opinion.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      I don’t know, it seems to me that we are discussing about objective matters. If the refusal to convert to the catholic Faith and aduterous acts are both objective mortal sins i fail to see how our argument could be just an opinion and how it could be claimed that both of these papal decisions do not pertain to the same matter.

    • stefano says:

      Thank you Ron, I value your opinion. However, it seems to me that you haven’t touched the core of the question.
      If denying sacraments were the modern way of stoning the adulterers, you would be right in saying that the Pope can legitimately decide to change this rule, granting communion to someone at certain conditions without this constituting a change of the doctrine. Because, in this case, the word discipline would refer to the relationship between crimes and punishments and the need to enforcing a law, something on which he was given the authority.

      But if, on the other hand, we use theological categories, rather than legal ones, to define the discipline for the access to sacraments, requiring, for example, to receive baptism prior to communion, this would have nothing to do with the need to enforcing a particular law, having rather the scope to define how the Grace works a soul to her sactity and perfection, and allowing it to happen.
      Now, this kind of discipline should not in principle be subject to arbitrary changes, because it is based on the revealed truth and on sound theological arguments.

      Now, to me, the access of the orthodox to the catholic communion falls in the first category of “discipline”, whereas the access of the divorced and remarried, in the second. Marco instead believes they both fall in the first.

      I think this is a crucial point that we should clarify before we can even continue any discussion.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I see what you are saying, but if the divorced and remarried commit objective mortal sin, which lacks the full culpability of actual mortal sin, then they are in the state of grace. Suppose the discipline is that they still should not receive. This implies that everyone who commits objective mortal sin, with or without full culpability, cannot receive, including those who use contraception, commit any grave sexual sins, or who teach or adhere to any heresy. And yet the goal of the AL critics seems to be that the divorced and remarried should be denied Communion, and everyone else can receive. In all seriousness, some papal critics have committed public sins of calumny against the Pope, of promoting schism, of making false accusations. They are no more fit for Communion than the divorced and remarried. (There are papal critics who are free from sin, too, since criticizing the Pope is not necessarily sinful.)

      It’s a legitimate discussion among the faithful, who should be permitted to receive. We are all sinners, so we are all more or less unworthy. But at least the rules should be consistent. As for doctrinal limits, you have to be baptized and reasonably consider yourself to be in the state of grace, i.e. not conscious of unrepented actual mortal sin. Beyond that, the Church can set narrower or broader limits. A priest who commits actual mortal sin can receive Communion, if he makes an act of perfect contrition, and resolves to confess at his next opportunity.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “As for doctrinal limits, you have to be baptized and reasonably consider yourself to be in the state of grace, i.e. not conscious of unrepented actual mortal sin. Beyond that, the Church can set narrower or broader limits.”

      Therefore, as i’ve said many times, in answer to Stefano’s claim

      “ Now, to me, the access of the orthodox to the catholic communion falls in the first category of “discipline”, whereas the access of the divorced and remarried, in the second. Marco instead believes they both fall in the first.”

      They both fall in the first, since both the divorced and remarried and the ortodox are baptized and committing objective mortal sins, the divorced and remarried with adultery, the ortodox with their decision not to convert to the Catholic Faith.

    • Marco says:

      @Stefano

      Quoting Ron’s statement

      “Suppose the discipline is that they still should not receive. This implies that everyone who commits objective mortal sin, with or without full culpability, cannot receive, including those who use contraception, commit any grave sexual sins, or who teach or adhere to any heresy”.

      This, of course, would include the non-catholics, since they adhere to heresy and schism and refuse to convert to the true Church. (which is a grave obligation for every man and woman).

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’d like to close this discussion for now. Marco, you wrote the post and contributed much to the discussion afterward. I’ll let Stefano post the final comment, if he wishes.

    • Marco says:

      “I’d like to close this discussion for now”.

      I agree, expecially since the objections have been refuted and it’s no use to keep repeating the same thing over and over again, as if the mere repetition could change brutal facts.

      “Marco, you wrote the post and contributed much to the discussion afterward.

      Thanks to you, Ron. My hope is that this point will not be left behind in the future, since i think that it’s absurd to treat Amoris Laetitia as if it is absolute novelty when we know for a fact that it isn’t.

    • stefano says:

      Ron, it looks like we are getting to the point: “at least the rules should be consistent”. May be that’s precisely the point.

      As you say: “…This implies that everyone who commits objective mortal sin, with or without full culpability, cannot receive (communion)”. Yes, as a matter of fact, no one who has knowledge of having committed a grave material sin is allowed to receive communion until he confesses his sin; the confessor can then determine the degree of culpability in order to provide a fruitful spiritual direction. However, in order to be granted absolution, he needs to show full repentance and sincere desire not to fail again. This implies removing the matter of sin.

      Now, if this applies to all sins, why should it no longer apply to the divorced and remarried?
      It has been argued that it ows to the fact that their specific situation does not allow them to fulfill their moral obligation, therefore making them less culpable for not changing their objective state of sin. But that is precisely the reason why they could not access communion in the first place, which had nothing to do with their culpability, nor with a definitive judgement on their spiritual condition.
      To me, this is different from “setting narrower or broader limits”: it looks more like bending the rule to create a double standard.

      So, now the critics say that this starts an irreversible process, and that the obvious next step forward will be to re-align the standards towards the bottom (if one can’t move up, the other can go down, so to speak). Clearly, the diminished culpability theorists can start an unstoppable mud slide.

      For the time being I agree to stop it here, but I would appreciate a final remark from you. Thanks again.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Only if a person is conscious of actual mortal sin (grave matter, full deliberation, full knowledge) does he lose the state of grace, and only then is Confession required before Communion (with exceptions for a grave reason, and Confession at a later time). If you commit an objective mortal sin, but you are morally certain that it was not with full culpability, Confession is not required. But it is recommended.

  5. Ron Conte says:

    Marco, I thought we were wrapping up this debate for now? I gave Stefano the last word, just as I had said. If you have anything substantially different to add to your article and comments, e-mail me and we can discuss a follow-up article for a later time. Thanks.

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