On Oct. 5, 2014, the Catholic church began a special synod on Marriage and the Family. At the beginning of the synod we can not be certain what instructions the synod may give for the improvement of marriage and family life. However, much of the disccusion before the beginning of the synod has focus on the question of whether or not Catholics who meet the following conditions may receive the Eucharist.
The conditions are
1. The couple is married in a valid civil ceremony
2. At least one of the spouses has had a Catholic Church marriage broken by civil divorce but there has been no Church annulment of the validity of that broken marriage
3. They have no intention to discontinue having marital relations.
What do we want to know when we ask whether or not they may receive the Eucharist? If we are asking whether or not they may receive the Eucharist in accordance with Church teaching, the answer is clearly NO. See article 1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). I propose interpreting what is being asked as the following complex question. Are there some Catholics in these conditions who receive the Eucharist despite the current teaching of the Church, commit no sacrilege by doing so but rather receive spiritual graces with their reception? If so, should the Church change her teachings to recognize the validity of these people’s reception of the Eucharist?
I hope that the bishops, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, provide an answer to the first question. My current answer to the first question is that it is possible by God’s grace that someone receiving the Eucharist under these conditions commits no sacrilege but receives graces of the sacrament, amongst which might be the strength to carry out a resolve to refrain from marital relations. However, the Eucharist is also communion which unites us closely with God and others receiving the Eucharist. A person receiving the Eucharist under these conditions has a diminished communion with those receiving the Eucharist fully in compliance with the Church’s rules.
I could try to list several conditions under which I am confident such people would be committing a sacrilege by reception of the Eucharist. For instance, if a man had only three years ago divorced his wife to marry a younger more attractive woman he almost certainly would be committing a sacrilege by receiving the Eucharist. A list of all such necessary conditions for this possibility would be an indefinite list formed by considering indefinitely many particular cases. An indefinite list is no list at all. I could not give a sufficient condition for this possibility unless the bishops change the teaching of CCC 1650. I can offer no sufficient condition for the validity of a sense of a personal revelation from God.
I think that the bishops should recognize the possiblity to which I alluded. After all, with God all things are possible. However, the bishops should not change the teaching of CCC 1650. A change would do nothing to strengthen Catholic marriage and respect for the Eucharist. I suggest, though, that they publish a warning to those in these specified conditions who judge that they may receive the Eucharist without sacrilege. The warning would be along the following lines.
Objectively you are not eligible to receive the Eucharist. Because the sacramental marriage is still valid, in the sacramental order you are living in adultery. However, if after careful thought, prayer and consultation with a Catholic spiritual advisor you decide that you may still receive the Eucharist without sacrilege, do so with the realization that you might be committing a sacrilege. Be especially careful that your reception of the Eucharist does not lead others to lose some respect for Catholic marriage or the Eucharist.
I have had personal experience with this topic of reception of the Eucharist under the above conditions. I discuss my case in a subsequent post. I bring out personal details to show that I have some standing for addressing this issue. I have “paid my dues.” Some of the ideas of this post were brought out in the chapter on birth control in my book on sexual morality
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
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Charles F. Kielkopf
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