Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees

Most Catholics will be aware of the recent, vigorous debate that has emerged the last few months on the subject of whether remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion. The debate was given impetus by the desire of German bishops to change the immemorial teaching of the Church. Following the explicit and unequivocal teaching of Christ, the Church does not recognize the possibility of divorce. Spouses can separate without any canonical consequence. Any civil divorce has only civil effect, and does not affect the sacramental bond which endures. The problem comes if a civilly-divorced spouse re-marries. It would have to be a civil wedding, naturally. In the eyes of the Church, with the original marriage bond intact, that spouse is now officially and publicly committing adultery. Adultery is a grave sin that precludes one from receiving Holy Communion.

As any sensible pastor, like our own Bishop Philip Egan, will tell you, this canonical consequence is not an act of retribution but is, in fact, medicinal. On the one hand, it reminds the erring spouse that Eucharist is the highest of gifts, and that it is a gift that can be lost by our own actions. On the other hand, scripture and Church teaching are consistent in holding that receiving the Eucharist when in a state of grave sin will have no good effect on the soul of the grave and un-absolved sinner, but in fact will only harm the sinner, as s/he will be bringing judgment down upon them. Eucharist received by grave sinners who remain un-absolved is poison to their souls, not balm. So to deny them Communion is an act of charity.

The counter argument usually rests on the purpose of the Eucharist in the lives of Christians. As medicine, it is precisely the grave sinner who needs it, the argument maintains. What is more, some divorces come about due to situations of irreconcilable difference, or even abuse. The Church already allows separation on these grounds, but cannot permit divorce because she has no power to grant a divorce. She may determine that the marriage itself was not validly contracted, and so annul what had been thought a marriage. But a valid marriage endures till death.

However, there is an underlying point in this debate that is, by and large, not being addressed, and if it were it might take the sting out of the question. The point is this: that for the vast majority of Catholics (and even non-Catholics, God help us) the reception of Communion is just another part of the ritual, an instance of their “active participation”, and indeed, a habit. St Pius X may have been right to remind the Church that receiving Holy Communion is saving food to our souls, and so we should receive it more than once a year. But frequent Communion has, in the modern Church, become regular Communion, habitual Communion, and for many, unthinking Communion. Which raises the question: how many Catholics receiving Communion every Sunday are actually free from grave sin? This question is all the more moot given the decline in recourse to the sacrament of Confession. Have Catholics really become so holy on such a widespread scale? Or are many regularly receiving the Eucharist unworthily, and not just profaning the Sacrament but poisoning their souls? Are our parishes in fact largely administering poison to a disturbing number of those who present themselves for Communion?

Those in grave sin have no right to receive Communion at all. None. At. All. Thus, remarried divorcees have no right to receive Communion, and in fact have the right to be denied Communion for their own spiritual well-being. Reception of Holy Communion must not be reduced to a mere act of belonging the local group, of exterior participation and inclusion stripped of its supernatural reality and purpose. It is primarily a spiritual event, with spiritual consequences, and eternal ones at that. It is not a sacrament of social inclusion.

Our Sunday obligation is not to receive Holy Communion. Our obligation is to attend Mass every Sunday. Have many Catholics lost sight of this fact?

Or perhaps individuals judge for themselves and decide that they can receive despite Church teaching? Perhaps they would call this an act of conscience. While we cannot read people’s consciences, we can safely say that anyone who makes a judgment against Church teaching does so without any objective authority. It is the same for priests who unilaterally decide to offer Communion to those who are impeded by means of publicly-known grave sin or who are non-Catholics. In this case, those priests are exercising an authority they do not have. This makes them dangerous men indeed from a spiritual point of view.

So the question of Communion for remarried divorcees needs to be re-focused. The burning question really is: how many who present themselves for Communion are actually in communion with Christ and His Church and not impeded by grave sin? Another question presents itself in consequence: how many see Communion merely as an act of exterior participation rather than an essentially spiritual act with effects not only for now but for eternity?

If you are in a state of grave sin, Holy Communion is not your remedy. Confession and penance: that is your remedy. Only then will Holy Communion do you any good. Only then will Holy Communion not bring you spiritual woe. What we need now is not a campaign for frequent Communion, but one for frequent Confession. Dare we say it: Holy Communion can be dangerous – it is not for the unready.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

(1 Corinthians 11:23-30 ESV)

 

 

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61 thoughts on “Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees

  1. Angela says:

    ‘God is Love, and the one who lives in Love, lives in God and God lives in him.’
    Sadly (and frankly scandalously), as a life-long Catholic, I feel judged and condemned by this post and a very long way from feeling loved and accepted

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Well, if that is how you feel then I am sorry for you. But I am only repeating the clear and consistent teaching of the Church. No one has condemned you, and if you feel condemned then that is a feeling coming from inside of you. The basic import of the article is that anyone in grave sin does the best thing by him- or herself in refraining from Communion since it can only do spiritual harm. That is not my teaching but the Church’s, and the Bible’s.

      Love without truth is no love at all. God’s love is inextricably entwined with with Cross. The problem with the Cross is that it appears in our lives where we least like it to do so.

      Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

      Peace upon you.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Angela says:

        I thank you for your pity, which I reciprocate, and for your explanation. I disagree with you profoundly – intellectually, theologically, experientially, philosophically, emotionally and spiritually but I do not want to argue with you. I trust that your pity extends to keeping me in your prayers as I will keep you in mine. Perhaps, ‘I will pray for you and you will pray for me till we all meet merrily in Heaven’

        Like

      • Fr Hugh says:

        Angela, I am not going to accept your emotive argument. I never said I pitied you, so please do not say I did. Read what I write and not what you have decided I have written. I felt sorrow that you felt the way you said you did; sorrow is not pity.

        Disagree with me all you want. It is inconsequential. But if you disagree with the teaching of Christ and his Church then that is a more serious matter between you and God. Shooting the messenger is no solution, nor is complaining about the challenge of Church teaching. You can embrace it or reject it, but that will be your decision not mine.

        Of course I will pray for you. Not, Angela, from pity, but from the goodwill that should be in the heart of every Christian, even sinners like me.

        Pax.

        Liked by 5 people

    • Matthew says:

      God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 Jn. 4:16b)

      However, the same letter of Holy Scripture also says that: He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. (1 Jn. 2:4-5a)

      And, further: Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as [God] is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother. (1 Jn. 3:7-10)

      Love is not a license to do what we like, or ignore those parts of the teaching of the Church and the Bible we might personally feel are unpalatable. As Father Somerville-Knapman has already said, love without truth has long since ceased to be any sort of love at all.

      Liked by 3 people

    • lady3550 says:

      No one’s here to fill your requirements of love and acceptance, but to care for your soul. If you ‘feel’ that way know, how will you feel standing before the Lord? This isn’t a game, this is about eternity. You’re only on this earth until you’re not… Flames are forever. Get your house in order, as i’m working on as well. I’ll pray for you.

      Like

  2. Annamaria says:

    God bless you Farther. This is what needed to be said.
    Only with understanding and an examination of conscience can one approach Communion knowing that we are truly recieving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not to be taken lightly.
    Annamaria

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Of course, it is not an easy topic for many. But the silence of the shepherds on matters of such importance not only leads people astray but endangers the shepherds’ souls as well.

      The bottom line is the same: if you are in grave sin, repent, receive absolution and the Church’s altar will be open to you once more. The sinner is not totally a victim.

      Pax.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Thank you Annamaria. Hard truths are, not surprisingly, hard to preach sometimes. Unless one revels in opprobrium! But truth remains true, and it sets us free, from ourselves not least of all.

      Pax!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. vox says:

    Preach it, Dom. Who can accept our Lord’s hard teachings? Never mind that – how can we even hope to strive for the perfection He desires for us if our priests do not teach them to us? More and better than any military personnel, thank you for your bravery and sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Thank you, friend! It is harder today than ever to preach on some topics because of the almost inevitable cries of “how dare you judge?”, or “hypocrite” etc. The preacher never sets himself up as perfect or without fault, and indeed he preaches as much to himself as to others.

      But the pastor’s own fallibility does not preclude his preaching from the Church’s infallibility. He is ordained to do it, personal sins notwithstanding. The apostles were not perfect as we know too well. Yet when they did what Christ commanded them to do, and in his power, they worked wonders.

      On some scores the Church’s teaching challenges me significantly. There are two possibilities: complain about the teaching, or accept the challenge and conform myself to God’s teachings (with the help of the grace he always offers us) as a radical way of sharing in the Cross.

      No Cross, no Christianity. But no one is pretending it’s easy!

      Peace upon you.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Eamonn Kirke says:

    well father, I am not sure how to reply. Your article is I suppose ‘correct’ and in keeping with all your obvious knowledge and learning and I imagine intellectually you are easily prepared to repel all attacks, alternative interpretations, counter arguments and outrage. However, in what you have written it strikes me as mean and lacking in any compassion and I am not sure Jesus or God operates within such tight boundaries and limitations. Such high standards as you maintain run the risk, it seems to me, of putting any real and meaningful relationship with God beyond the reach of most ordinary people.

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hello Eamonn.

      First of all, you assume that because an argument is logically sound it must therefore be purely intellectual. That is a sweeping assumption that is an insult to many a good Catholic writer.

      Secondly, you assume that compassion is somehow able to be separated from truth. If that were true then compassion would be reduced to mere sentimentality. Christ had compassion on the woman caught in adultery, but the last thing he said to her was “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). That is true compassion.

      Thirdly, it was not me who came up with “What God has joined together let no man put asunder”; it was Jesus Christ. Was Jesus Christ thus bound by “tight boundaries and limitations”? No, he was preaching a truth that comes from God and is for our welfare.

      Fourthly, you claim that such “high standards” risk putting any “real and meaningful relationship with God beyond the reach of most ordinary people”. So, we lower the standards? Or should we just keep quiet about them and pretend they are not there? “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matt 5:48). This is the work of a lifetime, and is the Christian’s truest mission. Christ did not come to make us feel good, but to make us be good.

      Beyond our reach? Not at all. If we sin, we must repent. If we sin again, we must repent again. No excuses or self-justifications. The sacrament of Confession is available to all at no cost.

      We can complain about the Cross; or better, we can embrace it and drink in its grace. That is a “real and meaningful relationship with God”.

      Pax.

      Liked by 3 people

      • momofcase says:

        Beautifully and compassionately stated Father……all truth has the ring of compassion :) May the truth of Christ guide you always..

        Like

    • Annamaria says:

      Remember the camel and the eye of a needle.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Matthew Roth says:

      Perhaps as a follow-up I will ponder and blog myself about how we can suffer with, which is to truly have compassion, those who cannot receive Holy Communion because they choose to attempt marriage after civil divorce while their respective spouses are still living.

      Like

  5. Oh Father—this is so good, so true on so many levels—I wish to digest and reread before thoughtfully commenting but I will just say that what was once seen as, or aptly put, considered to be “sinful”, is no longer exactly seen or considered as such–we live in a no holds bared society. You want to be gay? Fine, here’s acceptance. You want to divorce, remarry? Fine, here’s acceptance. You want to bask in the banal materialism, having cake, eating it all? Fine, here’s acceptance.
    We spread everything out so evenly, over the board—everyone being equally fine, accepted, ok…and lest you see it differently—you then are the one at fault–
    Thank you Father for the honest look at something of tremendous importance—a matter truly of life and death—
    Blessings to you this beautiful Sunday here in Georgia—-Julie

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Missing the real point: the debate on Communion for remarried divorcees. […]

    Like

  7. fitzrufus says:

    Reblogged this on Reports from Rainland and commented:
    Deo gratias for Dom Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

  8. leifhendrik says:

    The ‘campaign for frequent confession’ is one I can agree with at a deeply heartfelt level. If I were to receive Holy Communion only once a year, but go to confession once a month or even once a week, I would consider that to be a very healthy spiritual program well worth following. But another very grave question arises from your post: what of the thousands of priests around the world who must give Holy Communion to anyone who presents himself to receive it at mass every week? I know one priest who in fact withdrew from public ministry altogether rather than be forced to administer the Sacrament each week to hundreds of people he had every reason to believe had not been to confession in years–if ever at all–and thus bring down eternal condemnation not only upon them but upon himself. This is a very serious matter for many priests and one no one is really interested in addressing it. But you have addressed it, and that is a very fine thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Oh dear. What a hornets’ nest you have uncovered! 20 years ago I might have poured scorn on your priest friend. But now, much older and slightly wiser, I can see that he has taken things to their logical conclusion. While I lament his loss to active ministry, I respect his principles, and indeed I am challenged by them. However, the harder choice is to remain in ministry and to start preaching loud and clear and regularly the full consequences of Communion in the state of grave sin. Yes, I tremble at the prospect.

      Our problem today is that we think of Communion purely in natural, temporal terms. It has become a sacrament of social belonging and inclusion. It is to make us feel good that we receive it. However, when we sit down and really think through its supernatural and eternal aspects we should be well and truly sobered up. When the priest comes down to administer Communion, we should all hold it in our minds: if in doubt, leave it out. We can always make a spiritual Communion (are people taught that anymore?). Even better, we can get our backsides into a confessional and deal with our sinfulness.

      We always have options.

      Pax tecum!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Fr Ray Blake says:

    I think the problem is focussing on the remarried, they are indeed a special pastoral case but it is not just they who are unable to receive Holy Communion but the mafia member, the thief, the liar, the corrupt politician, the wife beater, the angry, the drunk, the cruel, the spiteful; even as a little lad recently reminded me, the boy who kicks his sister on the way to Mass and makes her cry.

    Parents preparing children for Holy Communion should teach them when not to receive.

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Fr!

      Indeed the remarried divorcees are a special case, all the more topical for their prevalence today. But there are other sins, far grosser and more heinous sins, that seem not to register much on people’s radars, such as those you list. Perhaps our catechetics need a total rethink. Rather than reduce the teaching to “if you do a then you cannot receive communion”, might it not be better to say, “If you choose to do a, then this has consequences for your relationship with God and thus also God’s Church. To do a is to choose self before God in a bold and definitive way, and the choice is a ‘no’ to God, a breaking of communion with him and his Church. Why then would you want to receive Communion?” The language of relationship is powerful today,and while we are getting used to throwaway relationships, the one with God is not so lightly dispensed with.

      But even more important is the concept of repentance and forgiveness. The sinner can ALWAYS repent. Perhaps too many wish to remain in their sin and have the Church approve it, or at least ignore it. If the pastors are complicit, then I see millstones on our horizon.

      Blessings and peace upon you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Matthew Roth says:

      I also fear today that through pornography and masturbation nearly an entire generation of men is in and out of mortal sin.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Karl says:

    Who knows what sin is any more? No one is responsible for anything, except who the courts force their findings upon and/or who the Catholic Church ignores with its support for the guilty party, overwhelmingly usually, in marriage/divorce/annulment cases. Get real man!

    The Church is run by idiots or worse.

    I receive communion from time to time, but I am not in union with the Church who consecrates it. That Church is in grave unrepentant sin and in no position to judge me. I rarely go to confession because I see it as a mere extension of a completely corrupted pastoral game. I tried to get the Church to intervene when my wife violated two of our childrens confessions with the help of the priest involved. The kids were punished for the confession…by their mother and her lover/civil husband. The Church told me to go away! I could go on and on and on and on….

    In short, I have lost almost all respect for the Catholic Church, especially the clergy, but really all who represent it, except those who are brutally critical of it from a more traditional standpoint. I do understand being causght in a vice, as some may be. It is a tough spot.

    I am divorcee, abandoned by my wife and a father of five. I know these issues, inside and out. The Church is wrong but there is no hope at all for it to acknowledge this and to change course. I do not believe, pretty much any longer, that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. I believed it for a very long time. Perhaps if the clergy can be deaf to the Holy Spirit I could imagine that. I pray that God decimates the Catholic clergy, as I believe that is the ONLY way things can improve. The clergy are far more of a problem than the rank and file. They have the power. We are just stupid pions, the clergy are educated idiots!

    I hope October results in unprecedented upheaval and schism, unless Francis forces a radical change toward very conservative pastoral practices and specifically involves faithful annument respondents in the
    marriage/divorce/separation/annulment practices of the Church with authority exceeding their ordinaries and answerable only to the Pope.

    It is the ONLY way.

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Karl. You are welcome here even though you wish me decimated. You are probably the angriest person to comment here!

      From the snippets you have mentioned you seem to have suffered much, not least at the hands of clergy. To the extent that my apology has any value (as a priest and representative of the Church) I apologize for any wrong done to you by the ministers of the Church.

      You seem an intelligent person so I shall approach you on that basis. You claim that the Church cannot judge you (if, indeed, it really wants to) yet you seem to be ready to judge Her. The clergy you have dealt with do not equate to the Church Universal. They represent her, and seem to have done so badly indeed. But you do us, and yourself, a mis-service to judge the Church by those who have failed to fulfill the commission she has given them. The Church has endured evil times before, and evil ministers. St Peter Damian even wrote a thunderous tract on the sins of the Church’s clergy in his day. Yet that same Church recognizes him as a saint; and he never left the Church, refusing to abandon the Church because of the evil of her ministers. That would have been to crown the Devil’s work with final success.

      Without the Church there is no salvation. I think you know and can accept that. Christ guarantees the Church at its very core and essence. He does not guarantee that there will not be a multitude of sinful or idiot priests, bishops, even popes, in her service. But he does guarantee it as his Body, the privileged and certain locus of salvation. Please do not throw the baby (Jesus) out with the (ecclesial) bathwater.

      The Lord has allowed you a cross of particular burdensomeness. There is nothing I can do about that. All I can say to you is that if you search this cross as you carry it, the grace you need will not be denied you.

      Peace and very blessing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Karl says:

        I accept that you words are sincere, as you see things. But, to me, they are empty.

        The entire Catholic Church is a scandal when the entire Catholic Church does not address its errors in public. If Jesus is inseparable from the Catholic Church, then I will see that at my final judgment. If that is true that the two are inseparable, then I pray to have the courage to reject Christ, at that moment.

        Like

      • Fr Hugh says:

        Rejecting Christ takes no courage at all. In fact, what you steadfastly refuse to accept is that for someone as angry and self-destructive as you appear to be, accepting Christ would be a true act of courage because it would mean putting yourself second, which no one finds easy. When one is angry, and wallows in one’s anger without trying to alleviate it by any reasonable means, the temptation is to accept that one’s anger accurately represents reality. It rarely, if ever, does.

        Perhaps the main problem for you is not the Church, but you. Only you can know this. Neither you nor I can change the Church; but you have some power over yourself and your destiny, including the freedom to seek help and/or accept Christ in the midst of a radically imperfect world. The choice is yours, as is the responsibility.

        Peace.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Karl says:

        Indeed, both the choice and the responsibility will be mine.

        Karl

        Like

  11. David Hayes says:

    I agree with the fundamental point of this post. I speak as one who has chosen to follow church teaching in this matter and hence who has not received Holy Communion for the past 4 years. I obviously don’t care to detail my case in a public forum, but I know that official church teaching does not allow me to receive communion. I agree with that teaching. One thing that could help is to focus on communion as a wider, deeper mystery, which culminates in actual reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. Spiritual communion, and participation in communion via adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, are available to anyone. I simply can’t understand why people feel ‘hurt’ about being directed to commune with the Lord in other ways. Communion is NEVER a right and ALWAYS a gift. The Church discerns who should be be given access to this gift. Some aspects of this duty of the Church are widely accepted (where is the movement claiming that 3, 4 and 5-year-olds are ‘hurt’ by being denied communion?). Feeling ‘hurt’ about being ‘deprived’ communion could indicate a lack of understanding of what communion is all about. One could obviously write a book on this subject…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Salut David!

      Obviously we cannot go into the details of your absence from the Communion rail. However, I can observe that the fact you can see the reason for the exclusion from the altar, and accept it, betokens a significant degree of spiritual health, as does the fact that you can see and accept other, if lesser, modes of engaging communion. And yes, it is hardly mature to whine over not receiving a gift to which you ultimately have no rights. The Lord determines how his gifts are to be shared.

      So all I can offer here in respect of your case is to reiterate what I said elsewhere: there are always options. I pray that you find a viable one that you can embrace soon.

      Pax et bonum.

      Like

  12. Matthew Roth says:

    Since 1 John 4:16 was brought up, I should like to direct you to one of my favorite spiritual works, Homilies on 1 John by St. Augustine. He writes on one level against the Donatists, and speaks of them as being anti-Christs, since they have ripped themselves apart from the Body of Christ, the Church. On another, he calls all of us sinners (especially those in unrepentant mortal sin, though in different terms) anti-Christs since we are in communion with the Church externally but not in our hearts.

    I believe that once again, something was changed but something else was overlooked. That would be the age of Confirmation which remained around 12 even as Holy Communion was administered around 7. It needs to be dropped…I think firstly the grace will aid young people from falling into sin as teenagers and secondly, I believe it is connected to receiving the Eucharist with love and fear. The details aren’t really worked out in my head, but the Church since the Fathers has associated the three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion, and so I go from there.

    Pax!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Matthew, I agree with you about the age of Confirmation. The later administration of that sacrament has allowed it to be distorted into a teenager’s rite of passage into maturity, by which s/he a makes a definitive decision for the Faith and for Christ, and “confirms” their Baptism. As we know too well, for many (most?) teenagers (and their parents), it is a social rite of passage, but little more. The question is obvious: with all these teenagers confirmed, why don’t we see most of them regularly at Mass?

      Far better to administer it young, as Christ confirming them in membership of His Body and equipping them spiritually to face the ordeal of being a teenager in an aggressively secular and atheistic world. In fact, why don’t we join it again to Baptism? Or if we insist on the Bishop as the proper minister of the sacrament, why could he not tour his diocese confirming infants in groups at each parish. He could even examine them on their catechism! Then after Confirmation, their parishes could prepare them for First Holy Communion.

      Something to pray for?

      Pax!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Imrahil says:

        That said, Confirmation is in actual fact the sacrament of the age of the fullness of faith (not necessarily body of course), as St. Thomas teaches. While Communion is not denied to a Christian who has reached understanding and is free from grave sin.

        Hence Communion at 7 or around it and confirmation at 12. Ah, would it be 12! it is 14 around here…

        Like

  13. Thank you for speaking the truth so clearly, Fr., and not wilting under the weight of sentimental garbage being hurled at you by your critics.

    Unfortunately it is going to become more and more burdensome to preach the truth as long as we have a Pope who thinks that “excessive doctrinal security” is a bad thing which should be ridiculed and mocked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Salve amice!

      It’s spooky to read your comment today. Celebrating conventual Mass here I had to work with the wonderful incident of St Philip instructing and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, after which he (Philip!) promptly disappears. It seemed emblematic of the truth that the Message is more important than the messenger. Thus Christ in John 6 is blunt about the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, a shocking truth that caused many to turn away from him. The message had pride of place, and Christ did not sugar the pill. In time we learn the full implications of difficult teachings, and understand them to a degree that allows us peace of heart. But we will never have that blessing if the hard truths are kept from us in the first place.

      So it seems more important than ever to preach the faith in all its fullness, hard truths as well as the sweeter ones, and leave it to God to give growth to the seeds thus planted in people’s hearts. What they recoil from today they may accept tomorrow; some people need time. And we need to have confidence that it is not that people accept us that is important, but that they hear the good news. The rest we can leave in God’s hands. Do we have faith and charity enough to do that: to teach the radical truth and to be indifferent to whether people praise us or mock us?

      Pax!

      Like

  14. Ok, I have some time to digest and ruminate over your words—and I still hold to my initial response. From my observations in this life, I feel as if Christians (both Catholic and Protestants) feel as if the receiving of Communion / The Eucharist is a part of their inalienable rights—that once you become a Christian, the partaking of Communion / The Eucharist simply goes hand and hand—and therefore as you allude Father, there is little to none, if any, in the way of deep thought and reflection of the act of Communion. It has simply become a mere part of the service.
    So divorced or not, an average Christian seems to think it’s just one more piece of the worship service and they are simply jumping through the hoops.
    Which does take us to the question of the Eucharist becoming common place. As it is a part of the weekly service, perhaps it loses some of its impact as it just blends in to the regime of the service.
    The taking of Communion becomes somewhat rote as is the recitation of the Nicene Creed.
    I think it does boil down to how deeply reverent we as a society currently profess to be—which in my opinion is not much. We don’t contemplate the reasons and actions behind our faith. We take much for granted—as in things being an inalienable right of passage.
    People don’t necessarily see the taking of Communion as being in Communion with Christ but more as one more segment of a ritual.
    I’m not saying that all Believers feel this way, as there are some very devout individuals who attend worship services, but the overall general Christian populace seem more like mindless lemmings than they do ardent defenders of the Faith.
    We do not look deeply enough. And as far as being in “a state of grave sin”, society does not like to be told that they are “sinful”. As I stated in my previous response, we don’t like being called out as being “bad”–never mind that we may actually be “bad”– we simply don’t want to be reminded. We live in a time of global acceptance of any and all deviant standard of living—because we no longer see things as deviant. We are all encompassing and accepting as we want to be “nice” across the board. Why should anyone be held acceptable anymore? We simply accept everyone as they are therefore making all in life as all good.
    Never mind about living in a state of separation from God. We’ll sing kumbaya and live like one big happy family. Never mind we’ve allowed the family unit to disintegrate, we’ll create a new family. Never mind that lifestyle choices are destructive, if we say that it’s not destructive then all will be well.
    We don’t want to say the divorce is counter to God’s will as things happen.
    Accountability, responsibility, and living under the authority of a God who has set various covenants and rules is just not something society wants–too may restrictions.
    Oh I could ramble on–but I best stop.
    We must reconcile ourselves to the will of God—bottom line.
    Blessings Father.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Julie, your reflections are sound. You have identified that today, sadly even in the Church, there is more talk of rights than of responsibilities.

      While reading your comments it occurred to me to wonder whether many people go to Mass in order to get something tangible, namely Communion. That tangible concrete evidence of attendance might salve their consciences, especially if they spend the rest of the week acting in a way totally contrary to the faith they have professed on the Sunday. Or does the getting of something tangible perhaps imply an acceptance of them no matter what they have done, an acceptance they will wrest from the Church even if under false pretences?

      If so, there are two huge problems (among many!). One is that such an attitude reduces the Eucharist to something purely natural and this-worldly. The other is that it reduces the reception of the Eucharist to an act of ego, of self-affirmation and self-determination. Attending Mass then becomes a matter of what I get rather than what I can give. God becomes a doting, non-judgmental sugar-daddy, rather than the object of our worship and self-offering and repentance.

      If this is right, we should be very worried indeed.

      Blessings!

      Like

      • First–apologies always for the miscue of wording as well as for typos, as I think much faster and usually much clearer than I type :)
        I think your previous point, that we don’t necessarily see the taking of Communion as being in communion with Christ, is key. I don’t think the general populace of believers stops long enough to really examine anything very deeply–let alone the relationship wine and a wafer has with their own connection to Christ.
        People argue about the Church and its stance on so many issues. I think it’s that they (meaning the general populace of believers and non believers for that matter) feel that it is really none of the Church’s business–i.e.. birth control, what a woman does with “her” body being her business and not the Church’s, as well as, in the case of your post, divorce and the allowance of the receiving of Holy Communion.
        I think a huge part of the problem is that the wayward children that we often become, being defiant and argumentative with that of a “parent”, in this case the “Mother Church”, boils down to “you can’t tell me how to live my life,” or maybe it is better put as “I don’t want you to tell me how to live my life.”
        Yes God is our loving Father who longs for a relationship with us. He longs for us to turn around, back toward His waiting arms. Yes He can and will forgive, but what we must remember is that our sins do carry consequence. Forgiven yes, but if there is consequence, He never said He’d wipe that away–we have to deal with any and all repercussions from the sin. The fallout of sin can, for some, be enormous. That’s why we are given rules—but sadly if we choose not to follow the rules, we have to deal with the aftermath. Of which can be painful and if we don’t have to deal with something painful, then why should we. Hence the mindset of total acceptance without consequence.
        The Church is our acting sign post, pointing the way–trouble is we don’t like the rules attached to the sign.

        On another note Father—my son, who is 25, is getting married in less than 4 weeks. He has had a time as of late with kidney stones. Turns out that he has a tear in the urinary tract, which has not healed properly. He is to have surgery Tuesday (5/13). I am asking for your prayers Father. Prayers for his healing, prayers that he will feel well for his big day. It’s an out of town wedding—4 hours from home. There is no changing or rearranging as it has been set in stone for over a year. I just ask for prayers—that he will sail through surgery, that all things will finally work properly and he will be free of pain, and that he will be fit as a fiddle for his big day on June 7th.
        Thank you Father and blessings—
        Julie

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      • Fr Hugh says:

        Julie, no need to apologize for typos. Most of my posts are littered with them, which I gradually remove as I notice them. The brain, as you say, moves faster than the hand.

        The argument that the bedroom is none of the Church’s business is too common, and too lousy to respect. It comes of divorcing (pardon the pun) Christ from his Church. It is as good as saying Christ has no place in the bedroom, or in parliaments and congresses for that matter. This compartmentalizing of our lives solves nothing, and will not convince our Lord on the Last Day. He has a say in every aspect of our lives, for our lives come from him. God made us and we belong to him, paid for with Christ’s blood to boot!

        Likewise the totem of unconditional love, which you implicitly advert to, is another example of fool’s gold. Unconditional love is merely cover for self-indulgence and a refusal to grow, to improve, and to repent. God’s love does have conditions, namely that we do not reject it. What people who are not trying to justify their misdeeds is that God’s love is unearned. That, for sure, is true. If we had to earn it, most of the world would certainly be lost!

        Please send me your son’s name so I can pray specifically for him, and put him on our prayer list. Congratulations to him as well on his impending happy day. Let’s make sure we get him there hale and hearty.

        Pax!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your words ring so true Father–
        my son’s name is Brenton. I could write a book about him—he has struggled with a severe learning disability all throughout school. The story of his life and hard work is too much for this forum–I’ll send you an email to the abbey one day, but suffice it knowing that life has never been easy for him. He lacks two more terms in order to finish his undergraduate degree. It has been a long road. Now on top of everything else, his health took a beating this last school term.
        He will have a procedure on Tuesday, but they will have to let us know tomorrow or Monday if he will have the full surgery as they are still waiting on test results.
        I greatly appreciate your time and prayers Father–as well as your lone voice of truth in the wilderness of our barren lives–
        blessings—Julie

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  15. As a Blogger focusing on Sacramental Marriage and all things to do with the Catholic Faith – I wanted to thank you for an outstanding insight. Often we can get so wrapped around a small grove of trees that we fail to see the forest clearly – thank you for a clear and eloquent view.

    Pax Christi,

    Colin

    http://catholichusband.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hey Colin!

      Thank you for the kind words, and thank you too for getting out and talking about Catholic marriage from first-hand. What is really needed now is more married people talking about the Church’s authentic (and life-giving) teaching on marriage, and not just the priests. Not that we have nothing to say, but it makes better sense when married people confirm the theory with their insight born of experience. And with 21 years of marriage, you have some experience!

      Blessings!

      Like

      • Thank you Father Hugh!
        Actually it’s 23 now – need to update that at some point :) Are you on facebook? I’d be interested in following you there as well.

        Blessings to you as well!
        Colin

        Like

      • Fr Hugh says:

        23! Yes, you do need to update that header. Look for the Facebook link above the caricature of me, under “About Fr Hugh” – my full name is the link. But maybe I will track you down first.
        :-D

        Pax.

        Like

  16. Peter Collins says:

    Fr Hugh: You speak with great certainty about what people have in their minds when they receive Communion. Do you have any evidence to support what you say? If so, please share it with us. If it is speculation and assumption on your part, you would be wise to tread more carefully.

    Peter

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Peter,

      Not counting my life as a lay Catholic beforehand, 7 years of offering Mass, hearing confessions and general pastoral observation more than confirm what I said. If you do not agree, so be it. As to “treading carefully”, I hope that does not equate to watering down the teachings of Church and Bible. When it comes to teaching the Faith I suspect we could do with a little more boldness.

      Pax.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Peter Collins says:

    By ‘treading carefully’ I mean not rushing to judgement about other people without proper consideration of real evidence. ‘General pastoral observation’ is likely to tell us as much about the observer as anything else – it’s pretty vague as evidence. Do you know what proportion of, say, English Benedictines draw the same conclusions as you from their experience?

    Peter

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      You are changing the argument to a subjective one, and I am not going there. When people get subjective it is often not long before they get snide. I hear confessions, Peter, so let’s leave it at that.

      So I shall repeat my main point, which was to say that the general decline (in the last 60 years) of the sense of sin has been matched by an increase in those receiving Communion, to the point where it is pretty much universal. Have we all ceased to be sinners? Really? That is a question, directed at no individual in particular, that deserves further pondering. And it is a vital one, as it has eternal consequences. Of course for those who believe everyone goes to heaven, or indeed that Christianity is effectively all about this life, the questions of mortal sin and worthiness to receive Communion will be irrelevant, or even ‘judgmental’.

      It is quite irrelevant what other English Benedictines might think, though I suspect you are seeking to imply that I am isolated, a fringe dweller in the EBC. Truth be known, I am not as isolated as you might think and can think of a dozen monks who would agree with me, and from several houses. But, as I said, that matter is quite irrelevant.

      In all, my final justification is the teaching of the Church. And that is what you will find here. If you want the articulation of doubt or dissent, you will not find it here.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Peter Collins says:

        Hugh

        I quite agree with you about not getting subjective. Hence my interest in seeing the evidence. But I accept that, in the nature of things, evidence accessible to everyone on these matters is not readily available.

        Peter

        Like

  18. Imrahil says:

    One thing, though:

    you do not need to be breathtakingly holy to fulfil the requirement “upon best but not scrupulous self-knowledge, free from grave sin since last confession”. I’m certainly not the former but most of the times I do fulfill the latter. I’d say that being in the state of grace is the normal state of affairs for a Christian.

    It might in theory be an idea worthwile to require those who have committed some specific and remarkable venial sin to Confession, but it is not the case.

    As for the divorced/remarried issue, well in my opinion is it is ultimately about the a quite downright theoretical question. The question whether not the sex within such a (long-standing, or what have you) couple is excused from being a mortal sin.

    It is neither about mercy, as the progressists claim, and reverence and remembering that Holy Communion is not obligatory is – forgive me – a side-issue too. Sure, they won’t quite like missing the social ritual which Holy Communion also is. But behind the withholding of Holy Communion lures the quite more awful threat that they will go to Hell if they don’t show their partner the door, and it is here that the problem lies. If it was only – as is sometimes claimed among the defenders of the Church practice – about a sort of “ritual impurity” which they have to bear because their status is not in order, the problem would be far less pressing to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. […] The deeper issue beneath the debate on the admission of remarried divorcees. […]

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  20. […] the explicit and unequivocal teaching of Christ, the Church does not recognize the possibility of divorce. Spouses can separate without any canonical consequence. Any civil divorce has only civil effect, […]

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  21. I love this – Awesome post! It’s time more people spoke up!

    Like

    • Fr Hugh says:

      Bless you Colin!

      It seems a few more are speaking up. I am about to post some profound insights from a Polish married couple that put more than one cardinal to shame.

      Pax!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I cannot wait to see them. I have a few posts on hold since I blog mostly about marriage and though I teach from Catholic Doctrine – To have Cardinals and Bishops telling people the opposite makes it very hard to get the word out because people hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. Once the synod is done, or at least stops questioning doctrine openly – I’ll start posting in earnest again on my own blog.

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