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These days it helps to be from Missouri

April 23, 2014


See why I have pointed out (so many times) that Canon 915 does not deal only with divorced-and-remarried Catholics? It covers a variety of fact patterns including—it now seems we need to know—Catholics who are themselves free to marry but who enter purely civil marriages with other persons who are not free to marry.

The canonically correct advice to a Catholic in such a situation (outside of a few very rare circumstances which there is no reason to think are relevant to this case) is to refrain from seeking holy Communion per Canon 916, and to ministers in such cases to withhold administering holy Communion per Canon 915.

If, on these facts, a Catholic nevertheless approaches for holy Communion or if a minister nevertheless administers holy Communion, that act is on his or her conscience.



I think Canon 331 ably supports a pope making phone calls to whomever he wishes and saying pretty much anything he has a mind to say. We others will just have to deal with the recurrent confusion that such practices produce over time, beginning with wondering whether any given such phone call was ever made at all and, if so, whether it was reported accurately. In short, it helps to be from Missouri. That said, let me deal with some of the latest confusion here.

Now, I get that the alleged comment about receiving holy Communion was made to a divorced-and-remarried Catholic. Really, I do. But, read the report and look carefully at the phrasing actually attributed to the pope: “The woman’s husband, writing on Facebook, claims that the Pope – introducing himself as ‘Father Bergoglio’ – spoke to his wife, who’d been divorced before marrying him and told her that men or women who were divorced and received Communion weren’t doing anything wrong” my emphasis.

That claim would be right! “[M]en or women who were divorced and received Communion weren’t doing anything wrong.” Divorced persons, per se, are eligible for holy Communion. And the truth of that statement does not depend on to whom it is said. Would such language lend itself to instant misunderstanding? Sure, especially if it were not otherwise explained (and who knows whether this alleged comment was otherwise explained). But it’s not wrong per se.

While we’re at it, it might be worth repeating that there is no canon that specifically declares divorced-and-remarried Catholics ineligible for holy Communion; rather, (most) divorced-and-remarried Catholics are prohibited from being administered holy Communion under Canon 915, the norm whereby those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” (all those terms to be correctly parsed according to well-settled canonical and moral tradition) are declared ineligible for holy Communion. Modifying the interpretation of Canon 915 in regard to divorced-and-remarried Catholics would be, inescapably, to modify it in regard to many other persons as well, but that’s a different matter.

So, as I said above, these days, it helps to be from Missouri.

Updates: (1) Fr. Z goes to town on this mess, here. (2) So, I guess, at least, a papal phone conversation did take place?

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