If you are seriously concerned about being an authentic Catholic and your worthiness of receiving Holy Communion before your next confession, I strongly suggest you read the following reflections by Msgr. Charles Pope. Please share them with those you care about.
You can click on the links below to read these reflections directly on Msgr. Pope’s blog or scroll down to read them here.
On the Need to Receive the Eucharist Worthily
By: Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission)
In light of Sunday’s Feast of Corpus Christi, I would like to recall the need for the reverent and worthy reception of Holy Communion and to develop an explanation for the Church’s practice of what some call “closed Communion.” Not everyone who uses this terminology means it pejoratively, although some do. But to some extent it is fair to say that we do have “closed Communion.” For the Catholic Church, Holy Communion is not a “come one, come all” event. It is reserved for those who, by grace, preserve union with the Church through adherence to all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. Our response of “Amen” at Holy Communion signifies our communion with these realities and our faith in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Many today have reduced Holy Communion to a mere sign of hospitality, such that if the Church does not extend it to all we are considered unkind. There is often a mistaken notion about the nature of the Last Supper (and the Eucharist that proceeds from it) that lurks behind this misconception. Many years ago, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger articulated the misunderstanding well. I summarize the description here from his Collected Works, Vol 11, Ignatius Press pp 273-274:
Nowadays [some] New Testament scholars … say that the Eucharist … is the continuation of the meals with sinners that Jesus had held … a notion with far-reaching consequences. It would mean that the Eucharist is the sinners’ banquet, where Jesus sits at the table; [that] the Eucharist is the public gesture by which we invite everyone without exception. The logic of this is expressed in a far-reaching criticism of the Church’s Eucharist, since it implies that the Eucharist cannot be conditional on anything, not depending on denomination or even on baptism. It is necessarily an open table to which all may come to encounter the universal God …
However tempting the idea may be, it contradicts what we find in the Bible. Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that the meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (John 13:10) to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.
The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family.
That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment … (I Corinthians 11:27 ff). The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [the Didache] is one of the oldest writings outside the New Testament, from the beginning of the Second Century, it takes up this apostolic tradition and has the priest, just before distributing the sacrament saying: “Whoever is holy, let him approach, whoever is not, let him do penance” (Didache 10).
Thanks to Pope Benedict’s writing prior to his papacy, we can see the root of the problem: the failure to see the Eucharist for what it truly is—a sacred banquet wherein those who enjoy communion with the Lord (by His grace) partake of the sign and sacrament of that communion. Holy Communion serves to celebrate and deepen the communion already operative through the other sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Confession.
If you want to call this communion “closed,” fine, but at its heart it is more positively called a “sacrum convivium,” a sacred meal of those who share a life together (con = with or together + vivium = life). This is not a “come one, come all” meal; it is a Holy Banquet for those who wear the wedding garment. The garment is righteousness and those who refuse to wear it are cast out (cf: Matt 22:11-12 & Rev 19:8).
Many moderns surely would prefer a “no questions asked” invitation to all who wish to come; they love this notion of unity. But to a large degree it is a contrived unity that overlooks truth (the opposite of which is falsehood, not just a different viewpoint). Yes, it overlooks the truth necessary for honest, real, and substantive unity. Such a notion of communion is shallow at best and a lie at worst. How can people approach the Eucharist, the sacrament of Holy Communion and unity, and say “Amen” when they differ with the Church over essentials such as that baptism is necessary; that there are seven sacraments; that the Pope is the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ on Earth; that homosexual acts, fornication, and adultery are gravely sinful; that women cannot be admitted to Holy Orders; that there is in fact a priesthood; that Scripture must be read in the light of the Magisterium; and on and on? Saying that there is communion in such a case is either a contrivance or a lie, but in either case it does not suffice for the “Amen” that is required at the moment of reception of Holy Communion.
Such divisions do not make for a family meal or a “sacrum convivium.” Hence, to share Holy Communion with Protestants, dissenters, and others who do not live in communion with the Church is incoherent. To paraphrase Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict), the Eucharist is not a table fellowship with publicans and other “sinners”; it is a family meal that presupposes grace and shared faith.
This, then, leads us to a second point: the need to approach the Sacrament of Holy Communion free from serious and unrepentant sin. Let’s consider some texts to show that the Church’s desire that her sons and daughters receive Holy Communion in a state free from serious sin is not only a proper requirement but a loving one. Each quote is followed by some of my own commentary in plain red text.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:27-32).
St. Paul teaches that examining oneself is a prerequisite for worthy reception of the Eucharist. If not, Holy Communion has the opposite of the desired effect of union with our Lord, bringing condemnation rather than blessing. So, out of respect for Christ and for our own good, the Church requires us to be in a state of grace when we receive. We are required to abstain only when there is mortal sin. Confessions of devotion, however, are highly recommended.
[At the Last Supper the disciples asked]: “Lord, who is it [who will betray you]?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night (Jn 13:21-30).
It is unclear and debatable whether or not the “morsel” taken by Judas was Holy Communion (why would Jesus have dipped it?). But still, there is something of a picture of what unworthy (sacrilegious) reception of Holy Communion might cause in an extreme case.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (Mat 5:21-26).
Note the use of the simple word “first.” Jesus teaches that we cannot approach the altar if we are filled with hate or injustice toward our brethren. Reconciliation and the restoration of unity are required prior to approaching the Sacrament of Holy Communion, lest our “Amen” be incoherent or a lie.
A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law # 916).
Note that the use of the Act of Contrition mentioned here is an exception requiring moral or physical impossibility to go to Confession beforehand and the necessity of receiving Communion immediately (such as a priest who must celebrate Mass). There are some pastoral notes that can be added here later for those who struggle with certain habitual sins that are possibly grave (e.g., masturbation). The Catechism has some notes to review that a confessor can apply to a penitent in such cases. But no Catholic should simply take it upon himself to use the exception described in Canon 916. A confessor must be consulted.
To respond to this invitation, we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, 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 upon himself.” Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion (Catechism # 1385).
If anyone is holy, let him approach; if anyone is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen. … But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs” (Didache 10, 9).
Note that the Didache was written sometime between 90 and 110 AD. Hence very early on there was an understanding that the Eucharist was not a mere “table fellowship with sinners” but rather a sacral meal that presupposed grace and communion with the Church.
Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g., excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (Ratzinger Memo to Cardinal McCarrick, # 1). Clear enough!
In all these quotes we see a tradition that is Scriptural, ancient, and clear: the Eucharist is a sacred meal that requires of us something more than just “showing up.” Indeed, there are warnings against irreverent reception, in which the Eucharist is regarded as ordinary or is treated casually.
Is the Church merely being “fussy” about Holy Communion? No more so than were St. Paul and the Holy Spirit, who inspired him to write and warn us against unworthy reception of the Eucharist. The Church is charitably exhorting us to receive the Eucharist, but also charitably warning those who are unprepared to refrain from reception. Indeed, Scripture warns that the unworthy reception of Holy Communion brings not a blessing but a condemnation. This is God’s teaching, not mine.
Perhaps an analogy can be found by noting that some people are allergic to penicillin. For them, a drug that has saved many lives can threaten their own. They are simply not able to receive it, though it is good in itself. Similarly, sinners, not by accident of birth or genetics but by choice, will find that the Eucharist, though life-giving to many, is problematic for them. In charity, the Church teaches that individuals unprepared to receive Communion should refrain from doing so until the problem can be resolved. This is charity, not cruelty or a lack of hospitality.
I have written more extensively (here) on some pastoral issues and solutions related to the Church’s stance. Questions do arise as to what is meant by mortal sin and how to handle the current problem of dissenters, those in serious sin, and those in invalid marriages or other irregular situations. Such questions and issues must be handled charitably and equitably by the Church, but not in a way that violates the principles given by Scripture and Tradition on the need for worthy reception of Holy Communion. This fundamental stance of the Church deserves to be reiterated and needs to be better taught and applied with clarity and charity:
The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004).
On the Worthy Reception of Holy Communion (Particular Issues)
In yesterday’s post we examined some fundamental principles related to Holy Communion: that it is not akin to the “table fellowship” Jesus had with sinners but is rooted in the “family meal” of the Passover Celebration, and that it must be received worthily and authentically based on what Scripture and Tradition have set forth. Our “Amen” is more than an affirmation of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is an “Amen” to all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.
Today I would like to discuss some related issues.
- What is mortal sin?
- Why are the divorced and remarried asked to refrain from Communion?
- What should be done about Catholics who prominently and publicly dissent from the faith?
- Is there a way forward in restoring proper discipline in the reception of the Holy Eucharist?
I. What is mortal sin? – It is one thing to hear that we must confess all serious or mortal sins prior to receiving Holy Communion. As we saw in yesterday’s post, Scripture teaches that those who receive the Eucharist in an unworthy state (i.e., while in serious sin) do not obtain a blessing, but rather a condemnation.
But is there a simple list to be consulted to determine what serious or mortal sin is? No. But surely there is some guidance to be found. Common sense also tells us that certain acts are more or less serious depending on circumstances, not simply by declaration. For example, lying can range from being a very serious matter to a lighter one: there are serious lies that can ruin reputations and gravely mislead people, and then there are little polite lies (“white lies”) meant to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Other sins such as lust can range from rape to impure thoughts. Anger can range from physical assault to angry thoughts.
Thus a simple “list” approach to mortal sin will not suffice. However, we usually know that there are more serious sins in our life and less serious ones. With some degree of certainty we can also know what is more serious from what is less serious. We are asked to counsel with our own conscience, to allow it to be properly formed based on God’s teaching and to make honest judgments regarding ourselves.
Here are some parameters for mortal sin from the Catechism and Scripture:
1. When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object … whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. … But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial. … If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back (Catechism of the Catholic Church #s 1856, 1861).
2. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (Catechism # 1857).
3. Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger (Catechism # 1858).
4. One area, because it causes frequent trouble for many, especially younger men, receives special mention in the Catechism in terms of assessing culpability: By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.” “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.” To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. (Catechism 2352). However, since no one is a judge in his own case, if this area is a struggle one ought to confer with a confessor in order to set forth a regular schedule for confession that is reasonable and assists the penitent in staying faithful also to Holy Communion.
5. By extension, there are other scriptural lists of sins that can exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven:
1 Cor 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.
Gal 5:19-2:1 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Eph 5:3-6 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No sexually immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Rev. 22:12-16 – Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
Matt 25:41-46 – Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
And therefore we do well to examine ourselves and discern any serious sins we have committed and should confess them. And while we should avoid overly scrupulous fears, we also must not casually dismiss our sins with empty excuses. If we are faithful, God the Holy Spirit will bestow on us a Godly sorrow for sins, rather than a “worldly sorrow” that is deadly and discouraging (cf 2 Cor 7:10).
II. Why are the divorce and remarried asked to refrain from communion? – This matter became quite prominent at the extraordinary Synod in Rome last year. The odd thing is that there are already very generous possibilities offered in the Church to accommodate those in such situations. Some are so generous in fact that many wonder if we grant too many annulments for less-than-clear reasons (that is not a matter for this post, however).
But why is there an obstacle to such individuals receiving Holy Communion? Is this “another example” of an overly strict Church? No! The issue was set forth by Jesus himself, who was quite “restrictive” in offering divorce and remarriage to His disciples. He was asked if such a practice was to be allowed, as Moses had allowed it. The answer from Jesus was a strong “no,” with very little exception. Consider for example this rather typical answer of Jesus to the question of divorce:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt 19:3-9).
There are numerous other places in Scripture where Jesus and the Apostles make similar pronuncements and set strict limits against divorce and remarriage.
Now the Lord uses the word “adultery” to describe divorcing one and marrying another. This is His word. And He teaches in many places using this word. So we cannot simply say he had a “bad day” or that this is just an unusual saying of the Lord. It was His consistent teaching. The teaching was unpopular and considered irksome even when the Lord gave it. (See Matthew 19:10.)
As an Apostle of the Lord, St. Paul echoed the same stance:
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife (1 Cor 7:10-11).
Thus one in the state of being divorced and married to another is in an ongoing situation of what the Lord calls adultery, and cannot present himself for Holy Communion unless and until the objective conditions are changed. To those who consider this unkind or too strict we can only refer them to the Lord Himself, who unambiguously asserted it. In today’s “divorce culture,” we do well to ask ourselves who is wrong. Clearly, it is the culture that is wrong, not Jesus.
There are options and possible solutions. We can investigate prior bonds for the possibility of annulment and then grant annulments when possible and appropriate. In the meantime (or if an annulment cannot be reasonably obtained), the couple in the second marriage can live as “brother and sister.” Some scoff at this as being unrealistic. But some of the same scoffers see the denial of Holy Communion as so odious as to deny them essential graces. If they see Holy Communion as so essential (a good thing), then why are they not willing to make this sacrifice? Sex is not the only thing in life.
If they cannot obtain an annulment, and cannot live as brother and sister (for the reason of not wishing to deny their current spouse jus in corporis, (i.e., the expected recourse to marital intimacy)), then they must refrain from Holy Communion until the death of the current or former spouse or until they cease sexual intimacy with the current spouse.
Otherwise, we are dealing with a case of ongoing adultery (Jesus’ description, not mine). Adultery is objectively a serious violation of the 6th Commandment, even if there are subjective factors involved that some or all parties think mitigate the situation. No one is a judge in his own case and even the Church cannot blithely set aside the teaching of Jesus.
People in this situation who cannot reasonably attain an annulment (and that is rare today) or live as brother and sister should continue attending Mass for the other blessings available, such as the prayers, blessings, the proclaimed Word, the fellowship, the praise, and so forth. God, too, may be able to understand and offer them blessings that the Church, given our limits, cannot.
The fact is that many good people are caught in situations that often stretch back years before a conversion. Some of these situations are bound to occur in a culture as broken and dysfunctional as ours. But the Church can only do so much. God knows the heart, and the faithful in these situations should be taught to reach out to God and allow Him to care for them in other ways, unless and until the Church, which has some necessary limits, can readmit them to Holy Communion.
The Church cannot simply regard the needs of the individual but must also concern herself with the common good, the need to heed Jesus’ words and insist on the permanence of marriage. But God’s mercies are not exhausted and His compassion is not spent.
III. What should be done about Catholics who prominently and publicly dissent from the faith?– More and more Catholics in the public eye today dissent from the faith. Some of those even support things like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex unions.
Canon 915 speaks rather explicitly to this situation:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.
Cardinal Ratizinger, in a 2004 Memo to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, applied Canon 915 rather insistently. Here are some excerpts:
The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin … there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it … Christians have a grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. …
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist. …
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. [***]
And thus there is a clear teaching regarding what is to be done in such cases. That many bishops have declined to enforce Canon 915 and apply the norm as set forth by the congregation is irksome to many. Refraining from judging them or claiming to know their motives, it seems likely that a way forward needs to include a broad teaching by all the bishops to all of God’s people about the need to receive Communion worthily and in a way wherein their “Amen” includes not only a recognition of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, but also a union with his whole body, the Church (as we saw in yesterday’s post). This would avoid, to some degree, the charge that politicians of a certain party were being singled out. Fair or not, the charge would surely come in the current political environment in this country, in which popularity and power are more important than right and wrong. In such an environment, moral teaching and instruction is often misconstrued as mere politics. It is not a fair charge, but realistically there is little chance that a focused teaching of this sort will be heard through the static of the political filter.
IV. Is there a way forward in restoring proper discipline in the reception of the Holy Eucharist? – A broad initiative by all the bishops that includes all Catholics may be the best approach. On any given Sunday, there are many Catholics who should not approach Holy Communion for any number of reasons. Many of these reasons can be dealt with through the Sacrament of Confession. Other situations are more ongoing such as with those in invalid marriages and must be addressed in greater detail. Those who are in significant, obstinate, and often public dissent from one or many Church teachings need to work through their doubts and decide more clearly for the faith. Some who merely struggle to understand Church teaching might not need to stay away from Holy Communion. But we need to be clearer for all Catholics that our “Amen” confesses both the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and our belief in all the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and professes to be revealed by God.
Collectively speaking, it is clear that we in the Church, especially bishops and pastors, have not had proper balance in teaching on the worthy reception of the Eucharist. We have rightly sought to encourage frequent reception of Holy Communion, but often have not balanced that encouragement with instruction on the need for worthy reception. It is a Church-wide problem that affects far more than just Catholic politicians. Clear but charitable instruction must be more ardently offered in parishes and from the bishops to all the faithful. This post is my own humble attempt to do so.
It should go without saying that Confession must be more readily available, both prior to Masses and at other times, to assist those who can to confess and thus receive Communion frequently.