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Let’s understand what’s at stake

December 12, 2013

I suspect we’ll see more of this in coming months: certain Catholics, including some prelates, calling for the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to holy Communion, which calls will be lionized by the secular press, of course, and only occasionally countered by other Catholics, such counters being dismissed by the secular press. Pope Francis’ governing style seems unlikely to put the kibosh on pro-reception agitation or, for that matter, to discourage its occasional rebuttal. So we’ll just have to deal with it.

To me, though, the whole thing is rather simple: either holy Communion is Who the Church says it is or it isn’t; either typical divorce and remarriage by Catholics constitutes objective grave sin (nb: no one is reading souls here, rather, one is noting public conduct) or it doesn’t; and, either those manifestly remaining in objective grave sin are prohibited from reception of holy Communion, or they aren’t.

Now, since time immemorial, the Church has answered all three questions affirmatively. But if she were to answer any ONE of those questions negatively, Eucharistic discipline would certainly (and immediately, and drastically) change for divorced and remarried Catholics—and inevitably for several other groups, too. Those calling for this momentous change need, therefore, to understand exactly what they are asking the Church to do; those opposed to the change need to understand exactly what’s at stake in the call.

Now, frankly, no one in the Church is challenging the Church’s answer to the first question, but, if the Church decides that typical divorce and remarriage is not objectively sinful for Catholics, and/or if the Church decides that holy Communion need not be withheld from those who openly persist in objectively sinful conduct, then we are all in for, as the saying goes, interesting times.

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