Cardinal Sarah: Even Pope Can’t Dispense With Laws re. Communion

Cardinal Sarah: Even Pope Can’t Dispense With Laws re. Communion November 19, 2015

“The entire Church has always firmly held that one may not receive communion with the knowledge of being in a state of mortal sin, a principle recalled as definitive by John Paul II in his 2003 encyclical ‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia.’ Not even a pope can dispense from such a divine law.”

Those are the words of Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Veteran Vaticanista Sandro Magister has been no fan of the current Pope, and has been vocal in his disdain for what he calls the “overrated synod” and its more controversial proposals. This time, Magister, writing in Chiesa, was previewing Cardinal Sarah’s remarks in the November 21 issue of the French Catholic magazine “L’Homme Nouveau.”  (That article is available on-line, but is available in full only to subscribers. Oh–and it’s in French, but your computer, like mine, may translate automatically.)

Magister links the cardinal’s remarks to the recent synod-engendered policy regarding possibly opening Communion to persons who have been divorced and remarried without benefit of annulment.

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I count myself fortunate to have read three works by Cardinal Sarah. I touched on his contributions in the National Catholic Register, and on this blog. In the quote attributed to Cardinal Sarah by Sandro Magister, the cardinal is talking about the impossibility of changing Church law regarding divorced and remarried persons.

So, I wondered, has Cardinal Sarah really spoken this definitively on the subject of communion for the divorced and remarried?

To answer that question, I pulled his recent book God or Nothing off the shelf.

And yes, yes, there it is. Speaking about the Church’s relationship to the divorced persons, Cardinal Sarah refers to Pope John Paul II’s words. His resolve to preserve the constant teaching of the Church is evident:

In Familiaris Consortio John Paul II wrote: “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them, and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope. However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage …. Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage. By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

“The idea of putting magisterial teaching in a beautiful display case while separating it from pastoral practice, which then could evolve along with circumstances, fashions and passions, is a sort of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I therefore solemnly state that the Church in Africa is staunchly opposed to any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and of the magisterium. … The Church of Africa is committed in the name of the Lord Jesus to keeping unchanged the teaching of God and of the Church.”

So Cardinal Kasper thinks the Church should change–but Cardinal Sarah and St. John Paul II say no, that will not happen.

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