Tuesday, February 23, 2016
NOW THAT POPE FRANCIS HAS RULED OUT HOLY COMMUNION TO THOSE IN A SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE BUT LIVING IN AN ADULTEROUS CIVIL UNION WITH SOMEONE ELSE, IN WHAT WAYS CAN WE INTEGRATE THEM INTO THE CHURCH APART FROM RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION?
To those who thought that he was going to overturn the Church’s doctrine on admission to the sacraments for the civilly divorced and remarried, Pope Francis responded that “all doors are open, but we cannot say they can receive Communion. It would be a wound to marriage.”
We do know that Pope Francis has streamlined the annulment procedure which I wholeheartedly endorse. We also know that in the internal forum if a penitent indicates that they are living with a person who isn't their spouse but it is a civil union, but they aren't having the marital act in any way, that they may be readmitted to Holy Communion if no scandal to the parish or community is given.
We also know that there are some circumstances where a person's presumed sacramental marriage that has been interrupted by a separation for good cause that has led to a civil divorce and has since tried unsuccessfully to receive a Catholic annulment can be considered for the internal forum under the following circumstances:
The external forum has been exhausted and no decision can be reached not because there aren't grounds for an annulment but because of the lack of cooperation of the other spouse or there are no witnesses available to corroborate the spouse's testimony. Otherwise, if there were witnesses the annulment would have been granted. So it is a procedural issue, a canonical or legal issue, but if witnesses were available, and they aren't, this couple would have been granted an annulment.
In this situation and within the context of confession, and its seal (internal forum) and if no scandal is given, the person may be told by the priest that if they return to Holy Communion, it is dependent upon their decision of conscience and the presumption that they could have been married in the Church if not for the fact no witnesses could substantiate their testimony. The priest of course cannot bless this union--it is a decision of conscience of the Catholic and they and they alone will be held accountable by God at their personal judgement if there is any dishonesty involved in this situation.
But what about those Catholics where it is abundantly clear that their marriage in the Church was sacramental and their second civil union is clearly adulterous? Can they be integrated into the parish in any way apart from the Reception of Holy Communion?
1. Yes, they are still obligated to attend Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation even if they are not allowed to receive Holy Communion.
2. They may present themselves for a blessing at Communion time.
3. In the Extraordinary Form of receiving Holy Communion, they may approach the altar railing for a "Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament by the priest" as the priest in distributing Holy Communion makes the Sign of the Cross with the Sacred Host in front of the person who is to receive. In the case of one who is not allowed Holy Communion, he simply receives the Benediction! How cool is that?
4. They are still encouraged to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, adore the Lord in Solemn Exposition and participate fully in Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Currently (and please correct me if I am wrong) a Catholic in an adulterous civil union is not allowed to teach in our Catholic schools or CCD programs. They are not allowed to be godparents. Should the pope change this and allow them to do these things?
However, are they allowed currently to lector at Mass and other sacramental services or at the liturgical celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours or other public devotions such as Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament?