B-16 Drops the Bomb. . . Again

Pope Benedict has once again reafirmed his position that reception of the Eucharist requires adherence to Church doctrine. There must be “eucharistic consistency,” especially from those who are in the public square.

Yesterday (March 13) Benedict XVI released a 131 page apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Charity”). The document is the fruit of the Holy Father’s reflections on what was suggested by the bishops at the 2005 world Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

But will politicians and other public persons listen to the truth? The Holy Father states that reception of Holy Communion is not merely a private matter. It is a public witness that must be consistent with the profession of the whole truth of Christ:

Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (83).

The Holy Father’s statement is consistent with his memo, promulgated while he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning “worthiness to receive Holy Communion.” Unfortunately, this memo was largely ignored by prelates and politicians during the 2004 election year. We shall see if these standards are upheld in 2008. At least one priest has decided enough is enough.

Author Fr Angelo

I am Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and a priest for more than twenty years. I am now studying in Rome for my licentiate in Theology.

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Ave Maria says:

    There really seems nothing new in this Exhortation. I have the feeling that those who have ignored prior Exhortations and Encyclicals will continue to do so. My own pastor said to me, when asked, that our bishop ‘chooses not to implement Redemptionis Sacramentum’ because ‘Rome does not understand how WE do things here’. I imagine we will continue on as usual, ‘choosing’ not to follow the directives of Rome.

    I do look forward to reading the whole Exhortation and I know that it will edify many but, on the other hand, will it open the hearts already closed?

  • Scott says:

    Ave Maria!

    I think the directive here is more concrete, although I agree that the writing has been on the wall for a long time.
    It may not open more hearts, but let us never stop praying for our priests and religious that they, above all, will speak the word of Christ on Earth, and not the word of ‘whatever seems right to me’.

  • Boethius says:

    It is true that this repeats many things that have already been said. But is it not the role of the Pope and the Magisterium to keep telling us what is the truth, even if the truth is always the same?

  • Evan says:

    This is precisely what Senators Durbin, Leahy, Edwards, Kerry, Speaker Pelosi et al, need to see. Can’t get much clearer for folks like Sean Hannity either. Let’s see where the cultural catholics stand now. I had a debate with my Theology instructor (a priest) regarding the reception of Communion. He focused on 1983 CIC 912 and believed we could not truly know a person’s state of grace, “who’s to say that person didn’t just come from a confessional…?”

  • Father Angelo says:

    Evan,

    When a sin is notorious, that is, fully public, as is, for example, the case when a politician or journalist publishes his or her heretical ideas for all to see, then a confession does not itself remove what would be a legitimate penalty in the public forum.

    In the case of such manifest grave sin, a confessor would be obliged to require the penitent to do what he or she could to remove the scandal, simply as a requirement of true contrition. The confessor must tell the penitent, that if they wish to receive the sacrament of confession validly and then receive communion, they are obliged to remove the scandal. In some cases, the confessor would also be obliged to delay absolution until the scandal was removed. However, the confessor would be acting in this way solely in the private forum. It would not be his role as confessor to impose a sanction in the public forum.

    On the other hand, legitimate penalties imposed in the external forum due to manifest grave sin, whether heresy or something else, are so imposed, because of the public nature of the sin. The penalty is imposed as a matter of canon law, such as an excommunication, or as a sanction necessary for the common good in accordance with canon law, such as withholding communion.

    So reads the following excerpt from Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo linked to above:

    Apart from an individual’s judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).

    Therefore, it should be evident that it is legitimate for a minister of Holy Communion to withhold the Sacrament from one obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin, until he or she publically repudiates the sin. This is especially true when the offender makes a public profession of heresy.