Once More On Communion And Divorced-Remarried

The always-excellent Ross Douthat does me the honor to respond to my post on the issue of communion for the divorced-remarried. (I posted that one Divine Mercy Sunday, which was fitting; today is the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, make of that what thou wilt.)

I can’t really do Ross’s post justice with a blockquote and I really encourage you to read it in full, but Ross’s argument basically boils down to these few points:

  • Ross reiterates that the position of the Church is one that has been constantly held, is based on Scripture, and so on, which means the Church probably doesn’t have the authority to change it, which is always an unescapable point.
  • The Eucharist may be a “medicine for the weak”, but it’s a “two-dose” medicine that needs to be paired with valid confession, and “if you don’t intend to take some [emphasis his] positive step to separate yourself from a gravely sinful situation or arrangement” you can’t make a valid confession and you should pray instead of communing.
  • There should be an on-the-ground “latitudinarianism”, because indeed “perfect contrition” is drawn in shades of gray, but we shouldn’t change the rule as a result. Not because we’re hypocrites (although Ross recognizes that danger), but because indeed the law of the Church can’t recognize every situation fully and there is still room for one’s conscience.

All of this is fair enough. If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, this is an issue on which I am confused and unsure, and I think Ross has convinced me.

To sort-of try to move this in a productive direction, for me this only highlights–and this was one of the central points of my previous post–the need for spiritual direction for all Catholics.

Because if we’re honest here for a second, we will see that for many, if not most, divorced-remarried Catholics who want to partake in communion really want the Church to affirm their second marriages, which is not only impossible but the product of misplaced pride. But we also know that for many divorced-remarried Catholics, their desire to partake comes from a place of true faith. And many divorced-remarried Catholics are in a sort-of legal netherworld (I think of all those jurisdictions, and there are many, where the length of the annulment process sometimes reaches past a decade) or have other circumstances (a priest on Twitter mentioned adult Catholic converts who are in invalid marriages).

And this latitudinarianism, I think, if it is to become neither utter laissez-faire nor hypocrisy, must take place within the context of spiritual direction. The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Catholics aren’t catechized in the Eucharist (indeed, don’t even believe in the Real Presence!). And the simple fact of the matter is that spiritual direction is always great.


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