The issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics without an annulment being permitted to receive Holy Communion is in the news again. The following quote further explains why some want to liberalize through pastoral counseling the current Church laws.
Archbishop Fernandez states:
“It is also licit to ask if acts of living together more uxorio [i.e. having sexual relations] should always fall, in its integral meaning, within the negative precept of ‘fornication.’ I say ‘in its integral meaning’ because one cannot maintain those acts in each and every case are gravely dishonest in a subjective sense. In the complexity of particular situations is where, according to St. Thomas [Aquinas], ‘the indetermination increases.’ Indeed, it is not easy to describe as an ‘adulterer’ a woman who has been beaten and treated with contempt by her Catholic husband, and who received shelter, economic and psychological help from another man who helped her raise the children of the previous union, and with whom she has lived and had new children for many years.”
The problem with the heartfelt desire to help people is we may ourselves measure things according to man’s will, and not God’s.
Let me explain why I disagree with Archbishop Fernandez. Sex, as much as it’s a powerful force, is not a necessity, like food or water. Self-mortification in the form of refraining from entering into an irregular second marriage (or a committed sexual relationship) because you’re divorced is truly a path to holiness. For children, it is especially important to teach by example.
Refraining from Communion when in serious sin is holy too. People who do not go to Communion because of serious sin are truly blessed by God with a supernatural grace, and before long will be able to stop sinning. The difference between most other sins and remarriage without an annulment, however, is the latter situation seems permanent. But this doesn’t have to be the case. People do find strength to live according to God’s laws even in the most difficult situations.
I’ll share an important personal story. My aunt developed multiple sclerosis in her forties. The disease progressed, and within a few years she was an invalid in a wheelchair unable to move. My uncle cared for her with much love. The disease lasted until her death in her late sixties. So, basically my married aunt and uncle went through twenty years unable to have a sexual relationship due to illness. Saints are made through how they respond to life’s cruel circumstances. I don’t believe it’s compassion to tell people like my uncle and aunt there is no need to pick up your cross and follow Jesus Christ; instead I think it robs people of becoming the saint God intended them to be.
This issue is not only about receiving Holy Communion after a civil marriage following a divorce without an annulment. The unintended result will be a change in the meaning of receiving Holy Communion without serious sin. The idea of receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace will no longer be followed, and eventually, no longer be taught.
We have a lost generation that doesn’t believe in absolute truth, and divorce and remarriage is becoming more common than the ideal of one marriage for life. There are hard cases, but to accept that sex is too hard to give up for the divorced and irregularly married goes against Christ’s words. Jesus Christ has confidence that His grace is enough for us to stop sinning. Sickness, hardships, errors makes saints out of sinners.
People have always followed their own consciences when deciding to receive Communion. That really isn’t the issue. The issue is a twist of the meaning of pastoral care to accept worldliness rather than to follow Christ and take up our cross. Nobody likes a cross after all. I’m sure my uncle and aunt hated her multiple sclerosis. But, with the cross we find holiness by how we respond. And in holiness is born a new form of love.