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August 03, 2010

Catholic Liberals, the Bishops, and the Eucharist

I thank Father Araujo for finding a link to the document I cited. The list of items he refers to is followed by a section on selective adherence to Church authority. There the Bishops say: “To give selective assent to the teachings of the Church not only deprives us of her life- giving message, but also seriously endangers our communion with her.

"If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain. “

 As to the requirement to believe what the Bishops say because they say so, I refer to this statement: “Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.” I would be interested to know whether those Catholics who reject the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and/or birth control should be receiving the Eucharist under this teaching. Are they not involved in selective adherence to Church doctrine?

cross-posted with elaboration at religiousleftlaw.com

Posted by Steve Shiffrin on August 3, 2010 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

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Here in the Diocese of Arlington, I have heard more than one priest preach from the pulpit that those using artificial contraception should not present themselves for Communion. Certainly, those engaged in homosexual activity are engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid sacramental marriage so they, like heterosexuals who have sex outside of marriage, have severely compromised their union with the Church and should not present themselves for Communion. Receiving the Body of Christ is a privilege, not a right. It must not be done casually. There are conditions necessary to worthily receive the Eucharist--including a one hour fast. The bishops have provided broad guidelines, but individuals should address their specific concerns to their confessor or spiritual director. Certainly, Christ dined with sinners, but he called them to repentance and conversion. He did not call them to embrace their sins.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 4, 2010 8:13:45 AM

Keep in mind the distinction between whether someone should present himself for Communion, and whether the minister should withhold Communion from him under Canon 915. Lots more sins can put people (all of us) in the former category than can put them in the latter. Every reception of Communion requires the recipient to engage in an examination of conscience regarding the former.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Aug 4, 2010 9:15:56 AM

Denise, my question is not whether those who engage in birth control or
in same sex relations are in mortal sin; I think the Church is clear on
that -- and wrong. The question is whether those who think the Bishops
are wrong on these issues have separated themselves from the Church as
the Bishops appear to say.
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 10:24:09 AM

And if it does, then the next question is if it justifies this, "Woe is me -- the Church is unwelcoming to poor liberal Catholics like me" attitude that Prof. Shiffrin seems to be advocating.

How doe the Church's acceptance of liberal Catholics compare to, say, the Democratic Party's acceptance of the pro-life perspective? Who would face harsher treatment -- a rank-and-file Democrat trying to stay true to pro-life principles or a Catholic attempting to stay true to his liberal principles.

Given how Bart Stupak's name was dragged through the mud by left-wing commentators during the health care debate (and I acknowledge he was also subject to ugly criticism from the right when he utltimately decided to vote for health care reform), I would say the latter.

Now, maybe that's not fair. The Church should be better than the Democratic Party, since it is supposed to be the Body of Christ, and not a political organization.

Still, the facts seem to be that:

* There is not an instance of dissent on contraception or homosexuality should be a basis for refusing someone from Communion.
* It is ambiguous whether such dissent is sufficient reason why a communicant should not present himself for Communion.

I am sorry if the actions of the bishops and the Church have caused Prof. Shiffrin and other liberal Catholics pain and the feeling they are unwelcome.

Nevertheless, I don't think the attitude that the bishops are out to pick on liberal Catholics is the most apt response to the set of facts we have, and doing so requires one to read more into statements than is there.

Posted by: JohnMcG | Aug 4, 2010 10:45:39 AM

John, I was (and still am) hoping for a canon lawyer to say yes
Shiffrin you are right in your interpretation or no you are wrong with
reasons in support of either conclusion. I do not see how your apparent
expression of hostility toward liberal Catholics, or your suggestion
that the liberal Catholics think that the denial of the Eucharist is
merely an exercise in picking on them or your sarcasm advances the
discussion.
Steve


 

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 11:27:45 AM

Steve,
Disagreement, or perhaps lack of agreement, is not necessarily the same thing as dissent. The answer to your question depends on the action taken in response to disagreement. If one finds a particular teaching difficult yet acts in accordance with that teaching because as a Catholic we believe in the teaching authority of the Magisterium, then the lack of agreement does not separate one from the Communion. We would be in the purgative stage of understanding. With prayer, study, and God's grace, we hope to eventually move to an illuminative and then unitive stage. On the other hand, if the lack of agreement prompts one to willfully act in opposition to the teaching of the Church, then one has separated himself from the Church. That separation is not necessarily permanent. The Church offers reconciliation through the Sacrament of Confession. To knowingly reject the authority of the Magisterium, is by definition what it means to be a Protestant. I strongly agree with Rick Garnett that the labels of liberal Catholic and conservative Catholic are unhelpful. Either we are Catholic, striving to the best of our ability to do as St. Ignatius of Loyola exhorted, "Sentire cum ecclesia" (Think with the Church) or we are setting up our own set of doctrines based on our individual preferences and ignoring the Magisterium. In the latter case, we cease to be Catholic, liberal or otherwise.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 4, 2010 11:44:15 AM

Prof. Shiffrin,

If you consider my post, which included a sincere expression of sorrow for the pain that has been caused, included no name-calling, and an acknowledgement that the Church should accept a high standard, to be sarcastic and including hostility, then I think this reveals a hostility meter that is so finely tuned that it would be impossible to avoid setting it off.

If one were to post on a liberal blog about how the pro-life viewpoint than those committed to it are not welcome in all the halls of liberalism, my suspicion is that a post like mine would represent the lower bound of sarcasm and hostility that such a post would be greeted with.

--

You seem to be counseling that liberal Catholics adopt the viewpoint that the bishops and hierarchy are hostile to them. The basis for this seems to be the communion practices. As far as I can tell from this discussion and others, there is not a policy to deny people communion based on their dissenting opinions (or even practice) on birth control and homosexuality, nor is there movement in that direction. The open question seems to be whether having a dissenting opinion on these issues is one of the many reasons one should not present himself from communion.

If there really were "denial of the Eucharist" happening is a systematic way, I think that such and attitude may be justified. But I don't think that the possibility that dissent on these issues is a reason one should not present himself from communion justifies such an attitude, and I think such and attitude is more unhelpful than my apparent sarcasm and hostility.

---

Again, I am truly sorry that the hierarchy's actions in this case have caused you and others pain, and I will pray that we and the hierarchy can find ways to both proclaim what we believe is true while minimizing the pain and feelings of exclusion from those who find it difficult or impossible to accept such teachings.

Posted by: JohnMcG | Aug 4, 2010 12:07:51 PM


Denise, this is a thoughtful response and you may be right. But I do
not see a distinction between belief and action in the section on lack
of adherence to Church teaching. Moreover, the liberal Catholic may
give the doctrine a fair hearing and deference and yet may as a matter
of conscience reject it (though need not have to act on that belief). I
would not think that attitude defines a Protestant.The Bishops,
however, say: If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional
life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of
the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive
teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish
his or her
communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a
situation would not
accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or
she should refrain. It seems to me that rejection or repudiation need
not take the form of engaging in the action. If it did, it would fit in
the prior section that treats mortal sin.
Steve
Giving Public

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 12:22:11 PM

John, I am sorry if I wrongly read sarcasm into your post. Your first
sentence sent me in that direction. I agree there is not a policy to
deny communion regarding the issues I mention. But telling people it
would be wrong to take communion with such beliefs functions as a
denial for those who take expressions of the Bishops seriously.
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 12:37:24 PM

I'm not a canon lawyer, but I think the key term is "obstinately," which, along with knowingly, is a modifier that MUST apply before the person falls under the injunction not to present herself for communion. Someone whose dissent is thoughtful and prayerful might not be obstinate.

That, then, may provide breathing room for Prof. Shiffrin and others.

That said, I think the term "obstinate" does apply to about 90% or more of the self-described dissenters I've met. I find that most people who are self-righteous about their dissent have never even read the relevant encyclicals that they disagree with. That includes lawyers and theologians I've met, who should know better. (Nor does that deliberate ignorance relieve them under the "knowingly" prong, because they know that their position clashes with the Church's, even if they don't know the details.)

I think a true spirit of obedience, and of wrestiling between one's conscience and Church teaching, requires at least reading the basics.

Also, as someone else mentioned above, there is a world of difference between the standards for (1) self-presentation and for (2) the priest or extraordinary minister to reject someone. The latter standard is both higher and lower, in these respects: it's a higher standard in that the minister presumably does not know everything in the would-be communicant's mind and heart, and should be quite wary about keeping someone separate from the Body of Christ.

But it is "lower" in the sense that it raises the concern of scandal toward third parties, and the priest has duties toward all souls, not just the would-be communicant's. In some cases, such as the "rainbow sash" activists, rejection is proper, in my view, because the sash is a public symbol of obstinacy, and the sash-wearer is openly saying "I dare you!" to the priest.

Finally, we might all be better served if more people did hold back on self-presentation, to buy more space for all of us to do so, whether on occasion or often. It used to be more common for people to quietly stay in pews, whether because they were struggling with birth control, or an affair, or even remembered slipping and eating a muffin on the way to the car before Mass. In most parishes today, staying in the pews might trigger looks and whispers, and many people probably feel pressured to just get in line (for communion, not in line with teaching).

Posted by: obstinate guy? | Aug 4, 2010 12:39:00 PM

Prof. Shiffrin -

I understand your question in the original post about what the bishops are saying here. But I am flummoxed by this comment:

"But telling people it would be wrong to take communion with such beliefs functions as a denial for those who take expressions of the Bishops seriously."

Really? Is there really someone out there who is willing to disagree with the magisterium on the underlying issues, and order her life accordingly -- with contraception, or same-sex relations, etc. -- but will then automatically follow the bishops' advice not to present herself for communion? Really?

I understand why someone is offended by the instruction itself, or by the prospect of facing rejection, but I have a hard time squaring the willingness to disagree on the merits with the disobedience on the auxiliary issue.

I suppose it's most possible for those who disagree with Church teaching on principle but are not acting against those teachings, e.g., those not contracepting but defending others' right to. But if the person's professional life involves advocating the view, then that is "acting" against them in a way that personal opinion is not.

Posted by: obstinate guy? | Aug 4, 2010 1:01:48 PM

I am a canon lawyer. I submit several canons. It would take an essay to fully explain them, but if someone violated the moral law seriously or refuses to accept the teachings of the Church then they should not receive Holy Communion. Obviously many are ignorant of our teachings. Some who do know them choose to receive in an unworthy state, we call that sacrilege. I suggest that if you are Catholic and don't agree with the Church you should carefully study our teachings. If you still cannot then you should carefully and prayerfully consider the state of your soul and not receive Holy Communion.

Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.

Can. 916 Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.

Can. 209 §1 Christ's faithful are bound to preserve their communion with the Church at all times, even in their external actions. §2 They are to carry out with great diligence their responsibilities towards both the universal Church and the particular Church to which by law they belong.

Can. 750 Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

Can. 752 While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.

Posted by: Fr. J | Aug 4, 2010 1:54:45 PM

I agree with Prof. Shiffrin that there doesn't seem to be a strict distinction between external action and internal belief on this issue. One can mortally sin mentally, by intention. What there is, which Denise may be getting at, is a distinction between mere thoughts and someone's will. Mortal sin does require the will. But an act of the will can be internal. Beyond merely considering and asking questions of divinely revealed doctrines, people eventually progress to the point of deciding whether they are going to will disbelief and rejection, or will belief despite their qualms--even prior to manifesting that decision in their external "personal or professional life". So--and I would be interested in Fr. J's input on this--it seems that if someone makes an act of the will, even internally, of obstinate disbelief or doubt of a doctrine such as described in Canons 750-752, then if the other requirements for motal sin are met it seems the Church would consider that willful rejection as being a grave sin requiring refraining from Communion under Canon 916.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Aug 4, 2010 2:55:01 PM

I would say that is correct. If someone wills to disbelieve or act contrary to faith and morals then that is objectively a mortal sin. It being understood that there is sufficient reflection and full consent of the will to be subjectively a mortal sin. They should then refrain from Holy Communion or if necessary can be denied Holy Communion. This is really a protection intended to keep the faithful from sacrilege and even more mortal sins.

Posted by: Fr. J | Aug 4, 2010 5:09:40 PM

Let me ask a very simpleminded question. Suppose a Catholic (let's say a heterosexual woman) after informing herself as best she can of the Church's teachings about homosexuality, simply cannot accept -- no matter how hard she tries -- that a homosexual orientation is "intrinsically disordered." Suppose she reads everything she can get her hands on, discusses the matter with priests, and still finds the Church's teaching unconvincing. She does not "will" anything. She also keeps her opinion to herself and does not give any outward signs of approving of homosexual behavior.

Are people here maintaining she must refrain from receiving communion?

Posted by: David Nickol | Aug 4, 2010 7:30:53 PM

Father J. Thank you for your comments. I do not yet see, however, how your conclusions are warranted by the Canons you cite. Specifically, Canon 752 says: The assent of faith is not required, [but] a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christs faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine. You seem to be saying that if the assent of faith is not present, a person should not present herself for communion even if an attitude of submission was employed. Which of the canons states that? I agree that the Bishops statement suggests that one can separate oneself from the Church by not having faith in certain of their teachings (though they conspicuously are not clear on what would counts as significant enough to warrant a judgment of separation - leaving the impression that disagreement about anything amounts to separation - a conclusion seemingly at odds with the spirit of Canon 752).

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 8:42:29 PM

David. It strikes me that it has long been Catholic tradition and
contemporary practice that people who after due deliberation cannot
assent to particular ethical teachings of the Church (e.g., on birth
control) are not on that account to be discouraged from participation
in the Eucharist. But the Bishops statement appears to be contrary.
What do you think of the Bishops statement?
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 4, 2010 8:50:32 PM

An action contrary to the teaching of the Church does not necessarily have to be direct disobedience. It can also be the action of condoning or advocating for such disobedience. For example, the first precept of the Church is that the faithful attend Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. (CCC 2042) If a parent knows that this is a teaching of the Church yet still tells his children that this requirement is too burdensome so they should feel free to skip Mass, his action is contrary to the teaching of the Church even if he himself attends Mass every Sunday. I have no right to make a judgment of who is in a state of mortal sin and who is not, but individuals who advocate action by others that is contrary to the teaching of the Church would benefit from a discussion with their confessor or spiritual director as to their individual culpability.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 5, 2010 8:13:04 AM

Prof. Shiffrin,
Please forgive the double post. I am not sure you are correct in stating that those who after thoughtful deliberation cannot assent to a particular Church teaching are not discouraged from receiving the Eucharist. Such a position places an appeal to conscience as a license to ignore any Church teaching. While individuals are expected to follow their conscience when making moral decisions, an erroneously formed conscience can lead one to errors in judgment. (CCC 1790) An individual may be culpable for these errors and therefore subject to the consequences of such actions. (CCC 1791) Paragraph 1792 of the Catechism lists several sources of error for the conscience including "a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, and a lack of conversion and of charity." Therefore, I believe the bishops' statement is consistent with previous Church teaching and practice.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 5, 2010 8:36:04 AM

This falls into the category of "Who Knew?" The"first precept of the Church" was not codified until 1917. These are quotes from Catholic Customs and Traditions: A Popular Guide, by Greg Dues, Revised Edition (1993), Twenty-Third Publications (found on Google Books):

**********
"At the beginning of the 4th century in Spain, even in the midst of a final persecution of Christians, the Council of Elvira declared that persons were to be excommunicated for a short time if they lived in the area and yet neglected Mass for three Sundays. This tendency to view presence at Sunday Mass a serious matter seems to be connected to an identification of the Christian Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath. This was a popular, though not at first an officially accepted, application of the Third Commandment and therefore divine law to the physical observation of Sunday. By the 13th century it had become a common law of the church that all Catholics, seven years of age and older, must attend Mass on a Sunday unless dispensed or excused for a serious reason. This attendance became a universal obligation only with the 1917 Code of Canon Law."
**********

Easter Duty dates to 1215:

**********
"Reception of the Eucharist on the part of the laity became rare starting early in the Middle Ages. Feelings of personal unworthiness to receive Christ in communion resulted from an exaggerated emphasis on Christ’s divinity in relation to his humanness and sacramental presence. It became more popular to look at and adore the Blessed Sacrament rather than to “take and eat.” Communion eventually became so rare that the church began to mandate that it be received at least once a year on Easter Sunday (Council of the Lateran, 1215). This became known as the 'Easter duty.' . . .
**********

It is unclear to me whether items in the Code of Canon Law count as "teachings of the Church."

Posted by: David Nickol | Aug 5, 2010 9:09:05 AM

The items I cited are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which I believe does count as teachings of the Church.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 5, 2010 9:26:26 AM

Denise, I understand that Catholics can be subject to consequences for
forming their conscience in a way that is not well-formed, but the
Bishops statement does not appear to make any distinction as to how
the conscience was formed in making a judgment as to whether receiving
communion is appropriate. Are there prior statements of the Church
saying that those who disagree with (as opposed to acting upon)
particular moral teachings should not receive the Eucharist? Has it
really been the Churchs position that those who believe that birth
control is not immoral should not receive communion no matter how their
views have been formed? In other words, should more than 80% of
American Catholics not be receiving communion?
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 5, 2010 9:31:41 AM

As several of the other comments indicated, there must be a willful rejection of Church teaching. While you and I may be well aware of Church teaching, the state of catechesis among contemporary Catholics leaves much to be desired. I have found many Catholics who are surprised to learn that the Church does not condone the use of artificial contraception. So yes, those who are aware of Church teaching and willfully reject it should not present themselves for Communion. Whether that is 8% or 80% is irrelevant. Morality is an objective truth.

May I also suggest you consider the passage of the Gospel of John when Jesus proclaims that his followers must eat his body and drink his blood. Many protested and said, "This is too hard" and left Jesus. I do not believe the Apostles understood the words of Christ any better than those who left. What they lacked in understanding they made up for in faith. They sufficiently trusted Christ, even amidst their lack of understanding, to continue to follow him. When we find a teaching of the Church "too hard", the dilemma is whether we sufficiently trust Christ and His Church to stay even amidst our lack of understanding or whether we walk away.

Posted by: Denise | Aug 5, 2010 9:51:53 AM

Steve,

It does seem to me the bishops' statement leaves no room for freedom of conscience or honest and responsible dissent. It also seems that if two bishops disagree, they are both right! For instance, presumably Bishop Olmsted is numbered among "Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff," so presumably in the matter of the Phoenix abortion case, he is included among those who must be "revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth." It seems clear to me that the USCCB Committee on Doctrine statement entitled "The Distinction Between Direct Abortion and Legitimate Medical Procedures" stopped short of declaring Bishop Olmsted correct. Should another bishop disagree with Olmsted on the particulars of the Phoenix decision, as long as the disagreeing bishop adhered to the teaching that direct abortion is impermissible, it seems to me he would be teaching in communion with the pope. And according to the document you site, he would have to be considered right.

It seems to me that a bishop who decided to deny a particular "personally opposed but pro-choice" Catholic politician communion would be right, and another bishop who did not deny the same politician communion would be right, too.

Also missing is any concept of the "hierarchy of truths."

Awhile back, I tried to find instances of the bishops of the USCCB voting on various proposals, and although I didn't find very many, I did notice that there were no unanimous votes. It seems to me that in order for a bishop to teach as authoritatively as is implied in the statement you refer to, that bishop must be teaching in communion with the pope and with ALL other bishops. A bishop can reign supreme in his own diocese when it comes to authority. But when it comes to defining truth that demands assent, he must be in communion with the pope and all other bishops not just in the principles he uses to reach his conclusions , but in the way he applies those principles to a particular case. Otherwise you have different truths in different dioceses. Or so it seems to me.

Posted by: David Nickol | Aug 5, 2010 9:53:09 AM

Prof. Shiffrin, Canon 750 and 752 state different requirements for different kinds of teaching: the assent of faith for teachings that are proposed as divinely revealed, and a religious submission of intellect and will to any doctrine which the authentic magisterium declares upon a matter of faith or morals. Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF explored this distinction here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfadtu.htm

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Aug 5, 2010 11:23:29 AM

David, there are sins against the faith itself. If someone believed that blacks were subhuman, but did not give any outward sign of that belief should they receive Holy Communion? What we believe matters.

Steve, There are various levels of assent required based on the authority of the teaching. But that does not mean that a teaching that must be given the religious submission of intellect and will is not as important as a de fide teaching. You still have to believe it. Sometimes people try to parse "what can I believe minimally and still be Catholic?" That shows an immature faith at best. I am of course aware of the current laxity when it comes to who receives Holy Communion. Most Catholics simply don't understand the faith well enough and simple go up to receive. We went from few people receiving to everyone receiving. Both are not the mind of the Church.

Posted by: Fr. J | Aug 5, 2010 12:16:48 PM

Fr. J,

I thought mortal sin was a complete turning away from God. Why would anyone who had completely turned away from God want to receive communion?

A lot of people have erroneous and malicious beliefs about gay people. Should they refrain from receiving communion?

*****
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus heard this and said to them (that), "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."
*****


Posted by: David Nickol | Aug 5, 2010 2:21:18 PM

Father J. You say that you have to believe a teaching that must be
given the religious submission of intellect and will. How does this
relate to Canon 752 which says that the assent of faith is not
required: While the assent of faith is not required, a religious
submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which
either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their
authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even
though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act.
Christs faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does
not accord with that doctrine.
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 5, 2010 2:37:40 PM

I think it's important to distinguish specifically "Catholic liberal" issues relating to rejection of Church teaching that is inconsistent with their liberalism, and church leadership scandals like the cover up of sexual abuse. Many "conservatives" are equally scandalized by the latter.

Posted by: Matt Bowman | Aug 6, 2010 8:54:15 AM


Matt, I agree. Indeed, although some seek to minimize the extent of the
wrongdoing, I would think a vanishingly small percentage of Catholic
conservatives are not scandalized by the cover up.
Steve

Posted by: Steve Shiffrin | Aug 6, 2010 10:01:44 AM

David, mortal sin is a state, but it is expressed in belief or action. Some however try to argue that a mortal sin isn't a mortal sin. For example an adulterer argues that his wife is cold therefore it is okay for him to commit adultery and that it isn't really a sin. This is wishful thinking. If you harbor hatred for others that can be a mortal sin too. Jesus welcomes sinners, but to receive Holy Communion you must be a repentant sinner. The Pharisees were the ones who sinned, but denied that it was sin.

Steve, religious submission is a different level of faith then the assent of faith. However, that doesn't mean that it is therefore acceptable to deny some article of faith that is not De Fide. Just because something is not taught as definitive or infallible does not leave us the option of rejecting it. In fact there is a penal canon that punishes it, so the Church does not take it lightly.

Can. 1371 The following are to be punished with a just penalty:
1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in Can. 1364 §1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teaching mentioned in Can. 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract.

Posted by: Fr. J | Aug 6, 2010 11:31:17 AM

"As several of the other comments indicated, there must be a willful rejection of Church teaching. While you and I may be well aware of Church teaching, the state of catechesis among contemporary Catholics leaves much to be desired. I have found many Catholics who are surprised to learn that the Church does not condone the use of artificial contraception."

I'll be upfront in saying I accept the church's teaching on contraception.

I confess to not being a canon lawyer, but I do want to address the above quote. My own suspicion is that there even if all Catholics were properly catechized in the teaching on birth control, studied the issue, and gave the church due consideration on this issue, there would be more people who followed it. With that said, I also think there would still be a significant majority who, while they understood the church's reasons better, would come to a different conclusion. I know a few such individuals. Right now, about 95% of Catholics reject church teaching on this issue. Let's pause for a moment and contemplate what a policy of saying such individuals should abstain from communion means.

What do we say to that hypothetical majority: conform or get out (or cease receiving communion permanently)? I do not think rejection of that position means we need to go the other way: whoo-hooo, my conscience tells me birth control is great! Isn't there a middle ground and room for at least a little bit of nuance for an issue such as this, especially when it is not a first tier, divinely revealed dogma. I suspect many despise the pragmatism I show here, but to deny it already exists in the church, even among conservative prelates, is ridiculous.

Let's find a way to preach about the church's teaching on sexuality in a forthright way. Enough of people having this childish relationship with the church--where they disdain things based upon misunderstandings. I've seen this work, even among self styled 20 something liberals--some of whom continue to have issues with the birth control issue but gain a measure of understanding and respect from hearing the church's position and explanation.

Posted by: Don Altobello | Aug 7, 2010 11:59:14 AM

Don, in various times of the past many did not receive Holy Communion frequently. Often just once a year to comply with their "Easter duty." Our problem now is the opposite. Those who dissent, based on mere feelings, march up to receive the sacrament without a second thought. This has now extended to De Fide teachings, like abortion or the divinity of Christ. We are now, I believe, in the midst of a slow consideration of how to fence the table. Eventually there will be further clarity as to who may receive Holy Communion. Personally I think that it will be much fewer then many might like. Events will probably take over for us. Already we see a decline among progressives as the younger ones leave and an increase in discrimination against the most faithful Catholics by secular society. There will be a winnowing that will leave a smaller and more fervent group. Others will hang on, but refrain from receiving the sacrament. I believe it will be a bit like what happened with the Recusants. Nothing like a little persecution to bring things into focus.

Posted by: Fr. J | Aug 7, 2010 3:06:07 PM

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