I was struck by a story Archbishop Cupich related in his press conference. It reads:
There was a priest who told me some years ago that he was doing a funeral a young man who had committed suicide. He was in his 20s. And the mother came forward for communion. Now she was divorced and remarried and she came forward for a blessing. This woman was very angry with God about her son taking his life, mad at the church, but she still came forward. And the pastor said to her, “No, today you have to receive.” She went back to her pew and wept uncontrollably. She then came back to visit with the priest and began reconciliation. She began the process, she didn’t want to deal with the annulment thing, she didn’t want anything to do with the church, but she began. And her heart was changed. She did have her marriage annulled; her marriage is now in the church. But it was because that priest looked for mercy, grace, to touch her heart. And that’s something we need to keep in mind. I think the Holy Father has talked about that. It’s not a straight line.
Some rigorists may think they have the institutional tradition on their side, perhaps going back to the Lord. But I think they have a mountain to climb to justify a straight line in every instance.
My own line into Catholicism wasn’t a direct one. Unorthodox, one could term it. I wouldn’t mind the label. Looking back, I experienced some profound aspects of the sacraments before I was even truly catechized about them.
I think we can recognize the thread of pelagianism running through modern sacramental practice. From Archbishop Myers’ recent letter, to the insistence on certain “prerequisites” before First Communion, not to mention the sense of marital status being a main contributor to one’s worthiness for a public participation in the life of the Church.
To be sure, it’s not as simple as straight adherence to the law or the blanket coverage of mercy for anyone slightly off kilter.