This post assumes some familiarity with the controversy about Pope Francis’ position in his recent Amoris laetita and the five Dubia of Cardinal Burke et al. See my post A Catholic Layman’s Response to the Five Dubia.The controversy focuses on reception of the Eucharist by Catholics legally divorced from a spouse in a valid Catholic marriage, civilly remarried without a Catholic annulment of the former marriage. A footnote #351 in §305 suggests that under certain conditions in consultation with a priest a person in such a marriage may find it helpful for his or her spiritual life and salvation to receive the Eucharist.
The footnote reads as follows.
In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44:AAS105, 1038) I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”(ibid., 47:1039)
The footnote is referenced at the end of the following sentence in §305. “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity while receiving the Church’s help to this end”
Pope Francis has claimed that his stance in Amoris laetita proposes no change in Catholic moral theology. The Dubia challenge Pope Francis to explain how his suggestion about reception of the Eucharist can be consistent with Catholic moral theology because such a couple are living in a habitual grave sin according to Catholic moral theology and cannot receive sacramental absolution. The Dubia confront Pope Francis with a dilemma:
1.Your footnote requires that you teach a change in Catholic moral theology or teach that on occasion reception of the Eucharist by people in a situation of grave habitual sin may work for the salvation of their souls.
2. If you teach a change in Catholic moral theology you teach contrary to the Catholic faith in footnote #351.
3. If you teach that on occasion reception of the Eucharist by people in a situation of grave habitual sin may work for the salvation of their souls, you teach an interpretation of St. Paul’s, 1 Cor 11:27-30 condition for worthy reception of the Eucharist in conflict with the Church’s constant interpretation of St. Paul’s text and thereby teach contrary to the Catholic faith in footnote #351.
4.Therefore, you teach contrary to the Catholic faith in footnote #351.
GOING BETWEEN THE DILEMMA’S HORNS
In §304 and by his refusal to answer the Dubia Pope Francis goes between the horns of the dilemma. His silence shows that he is not teaching. Teaching requires at least giving instructions. No instructions are given for reception of the Eucharist by people in these irregular situations. Actually, Pope Francis wrote in the previous paragraph §304 that no teachable rules for these special cases should be given. “it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment cannot be elevated to the level of a rule. That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry…”
If he is not teaching there is nothing more than a suggestion. Of course, a suggestion from the pope is very significant. It is proposed that individuals with a confessor or spiritual advisor can suspend the moral requirements and canonical rules for reception of the Eucharist if they discern in ways that cannot be articulated that they may, or even should, receive the Eucharist
This is a very radical proposal and it cannot be properly appraised by discussions in moral theory about universal laws etc.,.
The Church needs serious discussion of the Eucharist and what God wants to bring about for us by coming to us, Body, Blood Soul and Divinity, as real food –real bread and wine.
I have written a book defending traditional sexual morality. In Chapter VIII on birth control I discuss a similar situation about reception of the Eucharist by Catholics practicing artificial birth control.
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 $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
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