Thursday, December 14, 2023




Doctrine of the Faith: Encourage single mothers to approach the Sacraments

Responding to a question from a bishop in the Dominican Republic, who pointed out that some single mothers abstain from Communion out of fear of the clergy's rigorism, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith recalls with Pope Francis that women in such situations, already facing difficulties for having chosen life, must be encouraged to encounter the saving power of the Sacraments

Vatican News

Single mothers must not be prevented but encouraged to approach the Sacraments, writes the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in response to a question from Bishop Ramón Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera of San Francisco de Macorís, in the Dominican Republic.

Letter approved by the Pope

In the Letter, approved on Wednesday by Pope Francis and published today on the Dicastery’s website, Cardinal Victor Fernandez responds to the Dominican bishop’s concern that some single mothers “abstain from Communion out of fear of the rigorism of the clergy and community leaders.” The prefect notes that “in some countries, both priests and some lay people prevent mothers who have had a child outside of marriage from accessing the sacraments and even baptizing their children.”

The Eucharist, God’s answer to the hunger of the human heart

Recently, the Letter points out, Pope Francis himself has recalled that “the Eucharist is God’s response to the deepest hunger of the human heart, the hunger for authentic life, for in the Eucharist Christ himself is truly in our midst, to nourish, console and sustain us on our journey” (Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Organizing Committee of the National Eucharistic Congress of the United States of America, 19 June 2023). This, the Dicastery says, is why “women who in such a situation have chosen for life and lead a very complex existence because of that choice, should be encouraged to access the saving and consoling power of the Sacraments.”

The courage of single mothers

“The issue of single mothers and the difficulties that they and their children face in accessing the sacraments,” the document notes, “was already addressed by the Holy Father when he was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires: ‘There are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because [the children] were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. They are the hypocrites of today. They have clericalized the Church. They turn God’s people away from salvation. And that poor girl who could have sent her child back to the sender but had the courage to bring him into the world goes on pilgrimage from parish to parish to have him baptized” (Homily of September 2012).

The letter notes, too, that Pope Francis has recognized the courage of these women in carrying the pregnancy to term: “I know that it is not easy to be a single mother. I know that people can sometimes look down on you. But I want to tell you something: you are a brave woman because you were able to bring these two daughters into the world. You could have killed them in your womb, yet you respected life: you respected the life you had inside you, and God will reward you for that, and he does reward you. Do not be ashamed; walk with your head held high: ‘I did not kill my daughters; I brought them into the world’. I congratulate you; I congratulate you, and may God bless you” (Video conference hosted by ABC, 11 September 2015).

Being a single mother does not prevent access to the Eucharist

“In this sense, pastoral work should be done in the local Church to make people understand that being a single mother does not prevent that person from accessing the Eucharist,” the Letter explains, adding, “As for all other Christians, sacramental confession of sins allows the person to approach communion. The ecclesial community should, furthermore, value the fact that single mothers welcomed and defended the gift of life they carried in their wombs and struggle, every day, to raise their children.”

Indeed, the Letter observes, “there are ‘difficult situations’ that need to be discerned and accompanied pastorally. It can occur that one of these mothers, given the fragility of her situation, sometimes resorts to selling her body to support her family. The Christian community is called to do everything possible to help her avoid this very serious risk rather than judge her harshly.”

The logic of compassion

“For this reason,” the Letter continues, “‘the Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements’” (Amoris laetitia, 308).

Cardinal Fernandez then points out that often, commenting on the biblical episode of the adulterous woman (Jn 8:1-11), Jesus’ final words – “Sin no more” – are emphasized. “Certainly,” he writes in his Letter, “Jesus always invites us to change our lives, to respond more faithfully to God’s will, and to live with greater dignity. However, this phrase does not constitute the central message of this Gospel pericope, which is simply the invitation to recognize that no one can cast the first stone.”

For this reason, he writes, “Pope Francis, referring to mothers who must raise their children alone, reminds us that ‘in such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort, and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy’” (AL, 49).

Chauvinistic and dictatorial attitudes

Finally, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith recalls what the Pope said in his message to the Synod on the feminine and maternal face of the Church, when he denounced “chauvinist and dictatorial attitudes” of those ministers who “exaggerate in their service and mistreat the people of God” (Address to the Synod of Bishops, 25 October 2023).

“It is up to you,” Cardinal Fernández concludes in his reply to the Bishop of San Francisco de Macorís, “to ensure that such behaviour does not occur in your local Church.”

MY COMMENTS: MY! MY! MY! Shall we turn to TC and the Dicastery for Divine Worship and its dictatorial attitudes about the TLM and even preventing that Mass from being in a parish church or advertised in the bulletin??????? Tone deafness anyone?


Unknown said...

I pray for the day that we are led by one who does not seek to use papal power to settle scores and attack those who, through an imbalance of power, can't speak up on their own behalf, from "trads," to seminarians, to priests who wear cassocks (the horror!), to (married) women (of too many children), and on, and on.


Mark Thomas said...

Here is a 2014 A.D. that addressed the topic at hand.

The article was written by Very Reverend Rosendo Urrabazo, CMF. He has served as provincial superior of the USA-Canada Province for the Claretian Missionaries since 2011 A.D., and previously served as vicar general in Rome.

-- Don’t be stingy with the sacraments

Instead of greeting people with the third degree, the church should welcome them with open arms.


"Six months before his election as pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio used unusually blunt language when he criticized priests who refuse to baptize children born to single mothers."

"He called priests who deny the sacraments to people because of their life circumstances the 'hypocrites of today' and 'followers of the Pharisees,' and he chastised them for 'driving people away from salvation.'"

"Unfortunately, I have heard far too many stories of people who were driven away from salvation because of how they were treated by a priest, a sister, a lay catechist, an usher, or a parish secretary. As the body of Christ, we must do better than this."


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

In regard to the topic at hand: I have found several such articles that go back years.

I just read the following article:

-- What It’s Like to Be a Catholic Single Parent

"Mostly it’s lonely. As a Catholic I feel like an odd woman out. My sins, which are more obvious than most, are still being held against me.

"Imagine walking into Mass every Sunday with a scarlet letter pinned to your chest. I feel that sometimes when going with my daughters and no ring on my finger."

"Pope Francis once spoke to a woman in America about being a single mother. She stood before him and explained the shame and guilt she carried. I felt her words as if they were torn from my own lips. How courageous she was to stand in front of the world and admit it hurt when people judge her!"


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Here is a wonderful article published by Human Life International..."the largest international pro-life organization in the world."

-- Facing Life’s Challenges as a Single Catholic Mother

Susan Ciancio. January 8, 2020 A.D.


"According to the Pew Research Center, “Twenty-four million U.S. children younger than 18 are living with an unmarried parent. Most (15 million) are living with a solo mother…"

"The Church herself must open her eyes to the needs of her divorced and single parents."

"When I first got divorced, I wanted to join a group for divorced people at my church, but there wasn’t one. There were other groups in the area — secular ones and ones at churches of different denominations — but I wanted a Catholic group."

"I remember one day just sitting in a pew at church in tears, begging God to help me."

"Single mothers definitely have a unique cross to bear. That is why they need the help and support of the Church community — of fellow parishioners, of friends, and of the priests."

"Imagine the comfort a parish could offer if there were a once-a-week group for single moms to get together to talk and share stories — a place where the priest or deacons would stop by and offer words of wisdom and advice and ways to help those women hold fast to their faith."

"In addition, imagine the relief a single mother would feel if the parish could also offer a night out for single moms, where moms could drop their kids off for a few hours, knowing they were safely taken care of by qualified adults or kids from the youth group."

"That’s the community coming together to build that Culture of Life!"


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

In regard to the topic at hand: I have read wonderful several articles today that go back years.

It is clear that many single Catholic mothers face difficult challenges, within, and, certainly, without the Church, in regard to their situations. Unfortunately, many such mothers have not received from their parishes the spiritual, not to mention financial, support/assistance that they have sought.

Deo gratias for Cardinal Fernandez and his letter in question (approved by His Holiness, Pope Francis).

The DDF's letter in question has opened my heart and mind regard to the plight that a Catholic mother who is single will often face.

In regard to the often difficult challenges that a single Catholic mother may experience:

Deo gratias for the tremendous love, mercy, and pastoral awareness/concern that God has instilled in Pope Francis, as well as Cardinal Fernandez.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...


Letter to His Excellency, the Most Reverend Ramón Alfredo de la Cruz Baldera, Bishop of the Diocese of San Francisco de Macorís (Dominican Republic) Regarding Access to Eucharistic Communion for Single Mothers

Prot. 803/2023

13 December 2023


Mark Thomas

rcg said...

This is a beautiful letter and instruction, something the whole world needs to hear. Hopefully, someday, all bastard children will be similarly welcomed.

Catechist Kev said...

@ rcg

"Hopefully, someday, all bastard children will be similarly welcomed."

Most especially TLM adherents with several diocesan TLMs!

Fr Martin Fox said...

This instruction serves as a reminder that the Church encircles the globe, and it's a really big and diverse globe.

None of what I read sounds at all like anything I've seen or heard about in the U.S. A single mother seeking the sacraments? No problem. The only issue is whether there is, as relevant church documents say, a "well founded hope" that the child will be raised as a Catholic. But that is entirely up to the mother; being a single mother (or father) does not prevent anyone from coming to confession and Mass. I didn't know that needed to be explained.

I would be grateful if some reliable journalist dug into this and illuminated the real scope of this problem. It just seems incomprehensible to me that anywhere in the world, Catholic priests would be unclear on this, but as I said at the outset, it's big world.

rcg said...

It seems to be relatively new. History is full of stories about the children of unwed women being recognized as such and baptized. The main issue was usually inheritance or support.

Mark Thomas said...

The DDF letter offers great hope and mercy to various single Catholic mothers.

"On 24 October 2023, this Dicastery received your email expressing concern about single mothers who “abstain from communion out of fear of the rigorism of the clergy and community leaders”.

"Several letters from lay people received by the Holy Father return to the same theme."

"It is noted that in some countries, both priests and some lay people prevent mothers who have had a child outside of marriage from accessing the sacraments and even baptizing their children."

"As for all other Christians, sacramental confession of sins allows the person to approach communion."

"The ecclesial community should, furthermore, value the fact that single mothers welcomed and defended the gift of life they carried in their wombs and struggle, every day, to raise their children."

"Indeed, there are “difficult situations” that need to be discerned and accompanied pastorally."


Mark Thomas

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, the pope and the DDW prevent single mothers from having their children baptized in the pre-Vatican II Rite and won’t let them go to confession in that rite either and they prevent good Catholics from attending the TLM and won’t even let it be advertised in bulletins or be celebrated in parish churches. Truly male chauvinism and dictatorial attitudes prevail at least at the Vatican.