Sunday, April 3, 2016


There is anxious anticipation for Pope Francis' exhortation on the recent synods on family life. It is said to be a two hundred page exhortation called "The Joy of Love." My clairvoyance tells me that it will heavily quote Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, issued on Christmas Day, 2005. It was well received by the secular press who otherwise were opposed to him and crushed the perception of Joseph Ratzinger as a hard-liner meany.

There are those who believe Pope Francis' exhortation will turn up-side-down centuries, in fact going back to the Scriptures itself, of Church teachings on natural law, meaning His Holiness will undermine it, as well as what it means to be in a state of grace to be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

As Cardinal Mueller recently reiterated, there are only two sacraments for the dead, Baptism, which can be received only once which is a rebirth or being born again for the soul dead to sin and Confession which can be received over and over again, for the soul that is dead again through actual sin.

Only the living soul can receive the other Sacraments with the resulting benefits of actual grace, such as Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders. If the soul is dead because of mortal sin, one receiving these sacraments brings condemnation upon themselves not salvation.

We all know people, who each Sunday receive Holy Communion and have not been to Confession in years or maybe only once, when they made their First Confession. If they are in a state of objective mortal sin, their reception of Holy Communion in the eyes of pure Catholic teaching states they are not receiving the graces of Holy Communion because their soul is compromised or dead because of mortal sin.

We also know that Catholics who are living in a state of sin, i.e. in a sexual relationship with someone to who they are not married, should not be receiving Holy Communion. This extends not only to fornicators, but Catholics who are married civilly and thus outside the Church to someone with a major impediment, such as a previous marriage recognized in a presumed manner by the Church to be a Sacrament.

So the biggest question, which I think will be the smallest part of the exhortation, is whether or not Catholics in a presumed state of mortal sin, i.e. homosexuals in a civil marriage or simply living together, or heterosexuals in the same boat, will they be allowed by Church edict to receive Holy Communion under some circumstances?



Under what circumstances?  

The use of the internal forum in the context of Sacramental Confession, the penitent tells the priest that even though he/she is in a civil marriage arrangement and may have once engaged in illicit, immoral sex, they are now living as siblings and not having illicit sex of any kind. They still love and care for one another and otherwise give good Christian example to others.

In this situation, the priest can then offer the person actual absolution, not just a blessing, and the person may licitly return to Holy Communion.  

But what about scandal to the larger community? 

Let's say that the parish where this person attends is aware they had a previous marriage in the Church which ended in a civil divorce and then that person remarried civilly outside the Church, would it not still cause scandal for that person to receive Holy Communion, although he may be abstaining from the marital act in that new civil marriage? Wouldn't the parish simply presume that he is having illicit sex with his new partner?

The same can be said of a homosexual Catholic living with a partner in a civil marriage or without benefit of it.

Perhaps what Cardinal Kasper has proposed may be concretized for these situations, that the person go through a penitential rite and be reconciled publicly to the Church and all know that the rules for this is that the person being publicly reconciled is living according to Church teaching. 

I'm not sure how many would put themselves through this public scrutiny, though. Thus the other legitimate pastoral solution is to tell the penitent that they should not receive Holy Communion in the parish where they are known, but to go to a different parish where they are not known and thus avoid any scandal to Catholics who might be scandalized by that person receiving Holy Communion.

Is this going to be a Paul VI moment for Pope Francis, or more accurately for the Church?

Pope Francis in his savvy is quite ambiguous in his teaching style. Therefore he may throw a bone to both factions in the Church, the Kasperites and the othodox Band of Cardinals who oppose him. 

Thus progressives in general will get something and the orthodox Catholics will too.   

This will prevent the massive polarization in the Church in 1968 when Pope Paul VI defied common perceptions that he would eliminate natural law from Catholic moral teachings and allow for artificial contraception.   The Church isn't as polarized on this issue as she was in 1968 primarily because Catholics do whatever the hell they want to do in this regard and proudly receive Holy Communion if they still go to Mass on the Sundays they are there or at funerals or weddings, Christmas or Easter. 
I think most priests who have parishioners who are conflicted by their use of artificial contraception in their sacramental marriage, have heard them confess these sins against marriage and natural law time and time again and we offer absolution and don't quiz them too much about their resolve to refrain from it, just as we don't question them too much about refraining from other sexual sins, such as pornography and masturbation. We're simply glad that the Holy Spirit has cajoled them into going to Confession to confess whatever habitual sins they have and that in due time they will be purified of that habit through frequent confession.

As for me, I will be happy to read any clarification Pope Francis proposes on the use of the internal forum in Confession--currently it has no official clarity.  


Anonymous said...

In all honesty I can say I have always mistrusted Pope Francis. But for some unexplainable reason, after I left confession this Sunday (Divine Mercy) I am completely calm about this issue and I trust that Pope Francis will uphold Church/Christ's teaching while showing clearly that God is the Father waiting there for the prodigal to return. I can't explain this. Not that it means anything, it's just a feeling. But there you are.

rcg said...

This all sounds like the wrong way to get to the right answer. The divorce was public, the adultery was public, but now the reconciliation is private? This sounds as if they presume on the mercy of Holy Spirit. That is very bad.

Jusadbellum said...

Doesn't it boil down to the difference between a penitent and a non-penitent?

I.e. if I've committed some random sexual sin - porn or masturbation (I suppose they go hand in hand...) but repent and seek confession, there's no built in guarantee that I'm going to return to the sinful ways. Normally the priest would (or should) suggest eliminating all porn from one's life, computer, etc. and if the sin is masturbation will counsel a dozen penitential practices to avoid the 'occasion of sin' (typically having to do with the famous HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired).

But going to confession for a situation of on-going sin that I have no intention of stopping.... how does that make me a penitent?

If one is living with one's concubine or frequenting prostitutes regularly and sees it as a good thing, one is not going to repent. Indeed the homosexual activists who join the choir or run some ministry insist that their live-in boyfriend or so-called "spouse" is perfectly just and good and holy so won't have any sin to beg pardon for!

How can one reconcile someone who insists there's nothing wrong?

I think much of our problem could be that Catholics have reduced the prayers in the liturgy to pro-forma, rote babblings - we acknowledge sinfulness in public but don't really mean it. It's just something we say of no deep conviction like the "Amen". But if we meant it, if we felt our shame for sin down to our toes, then we'd recall this at least the next time we're "in the zone" and tempted to abuse Our Lord's mercy with another fling of license.