The Best Bearer of Bad News

broken bandsJohn Allen comments on the worry among some cardinals that Catholics are heading for a Humanae Vitae moment with divorced and remarried Catholics. Are hopes rising only to be dashed later? Mr Allen doesn’t think the comparison is a good one. And offers this thought:

The truth of the matter is that Francis is probably in a better position to deliver what some people are likely to perceive as bad news — if in fact, he comes down on the side of limited or no change in the matter of marriage and divorce — than any pope we’ve seen in a long time.

Could be.

What I find interesting is the persistent narrative in some circles that church teaching must change. I don’t agree. I think there must be some way to draw remarried Catholics back into the sacraments. But often enough the past few weeks that has drawn the internet-equivalent of blank stares.

It seems that the notion that sinners might receive Communion is a bigger obstacle to some. Granted, it is rooted in Saint Paul:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:27-29)

Self-examination and discernment are needed for a person to worthily approach the sacraments. Perhaps we have long associated our human ideas of unworthiness with this passage. But Saint Paul is not offering us a proverb. He is authoring a prescription for a specific community, and the long discernment in the Church has been this passage has a broad relevance to all Christendom.

Suppose a Catholic in a second marriage submits to a self-examination and discerns, with a pastor, a spiritual director, with the new spouse, that a period of unworthiness has passed. Would that be sufficient?

On another site, someone objecting to my questions suggested that open Communion for remarried Catholics would necessarily entail an even wider Catholic acceptance of divorce, and that Catholic marriages would begin to break in the same proportions as everybody else.

And to that point, I have another question: Do we have no sense of hope and confidence regarding the explicit sacramental experience of marriages witnessed in the Catholic Church? Or are we dependent on rule of law to keep things holding together?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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