Accept liberal arguments for the convenience of people like me, and you threaten the foundations of the Church.
[Editor’s Note:This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine (UK), dated 4 October 2014.]
I am a divorced and remarried Catholic. I attend Mass every week. When my children want me to take them up to Holy Communion, I walk along behind them and cross my arms over my breast. My youngest is particularly keen on going up for a blessing, although he wants to know when he can get "the bread." I say, "When you understand why it isn’t ‘the bread’."
It has never occurred to me to present myself for Communion when I have not sought — for various reasons that I won’t discuss here — to have my first marriage annulled. I know I am not a good Catholic, and I am living a life that the Church considers to be adulterous. Yet I am in good spirits, as I hope in God’s mercy. But I do not presume upon it. My Catechism says that is a further mortal sin, as would be the unworthy reception of Holy Communion.
People in my state are explicitly encouraged, in the Catechism, to attend church, and to make a spiritual communion, as I do each week. I have the hope that one day I will be in a state of grace and able to receive Holy Communion again. I hope that, despite my ongoing sin, God nonetheless hides me in the shadow of his wings; that Mary, hope of sinners, has her cloak of mercy cast about me. I am a poor Catholic but I am also a believing Catholic. Yet there is a faction within the Church that evidently considers "believing Catholic" to be a hopelessly old-fashioned clique that they must get shot of, alongside lace mantillas and kneeling at the Communion rail.
Holy Communion, for most of the bishops of England and Wales, appears to have become Protestant by default. Instead of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist — a presence we should tremble to receive at the best of times — Communion is now a sign, a symbol, a mere shared meal, an "expression of community."
Next week an Extraordinary Synod of Catholic bishops, summoned by Pope Francis, will meet to discuss the family. Catholic reformers are full of hope that, under his guidance, the bishops will liberalize the Church’s teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics. The liberal Tablet magazine devoted a cover story to the subject. It filled me with dismay. The article began by quoting Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leading liberal cardinal: "The church’s blanket ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion…."
Where to start? The Church does not ban anybody from receiving Communion other than non-Catholics (and there may be exceptions) and those too young to understand what they are receiving. Rather, nobody may receive God in the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. Even before I remarried, and I use the term in a legal sense, since I cannot sacramentally remarry, I did not always present myself for Communion. Often I would be in a state of serious sin and had not found the time or organized myself enough to go to confession. The fact is that nobody in a state of serious sin — whatever that sin may be, in this case, adultery — is able to receive Christ worthily. To receive him unworthily is to commit a further mortal sin.
The Tablet article was called "The Case for Mercy" and, reading it, I felt like pleading for us suckers who actually believe the basics: sin, confession, absolution, the Real Presence and the like. What Cardinal Kasper appears to want to do is to tempt a generation of people into weekly mortal sin. How is that merciful? How is that helping? Is it impossible for liberal theologians to combine their reforming fervour with actual logic? Allow a divorced and remarried person to receive Holy Communion and you are saying one of two things: either that it is not adulterous to have sex outside the marital bond, or that one may harmlessly receive the Most Holy Eucharist while in an ongoing state of mortal sin — a sin one firmly intends to commit again as soon as convenient.