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The Maltese bishops on reception of holy Communion

May 25, 2010

It’s been chuckle time, again, reading some secular press characterizations of the Maltese bishops’ recent statement against reception of holy Communion by cohabiting couples. One would think, to judge from various secular headlines, that the bishops of Malta and Gozo had hurled some kind of anathema at quivering couples whose only sin was to love too much. Balderdash.

The bishops’ statement is, instead, a model of pastoral solicitude and firm but gentle recollection of the saving truths taught by Christ and his Church. Still, it needs no canonist come from America to tell us that. T’is plain from the statement itself.

Instead, I pause to say that, any implications that the Maltese bishops are announcing some new Communion policy are simply wrong: Specifically, no directives to ministers about withholding Communion were given in the statement. Instead, cohabiting couples themselves were urged to refrain from reception unless and until their external conduct is brought in line with Church teaching on sex and marriage. Even at that, no canons were cited, although Canon 916 (distinguished from Canon 915) would be an obvious and correct choice.

Time will tell whether the Maltese bishops are setting stage for a more direct intervention in defense of the Eucharist against objectively sacrilegious reception. But for now, it seems, the bishops are asking offending couples themselves to amend their conduct, both for their own good and for the good of the wider Church.

Which is exactly how good pastors go about caring for their flocks.

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