I’ve read some reviews, synopses, and commentaries of Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s recently published booklet, “The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia,” and I gotta tell you, I never knew Episcopalians had cardinals. I knew they had bishops, but not cardinals.
Here’s the pertinent pernicious paragraph:
“The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabiting, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic Doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way. Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and of Communion must be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment… Yes, therefore, to admission to the sacraments for those who, despite living in irregular situations, sincerely ask for admission into the fullness of ecclesial life, it is a gesture of openness and profound mercy on the part of Mother Church, who does not leave behind any of her children, aware that absolute perfection is a precious gift, but one which cannot be reached by everyone.”
In other words, R.I.P. heroic virtue. Take the wide road. Don’t rely on God’s power to sanctify you each day – through prayer, through courageously bearing one’s cross, through sacrifice, through baptismal graces, through reception of the graces one receives worshiping at Mass – because gosh darn it, God doesn’t want you to be unhappy. God doesn’t want you to feel left out because you haz sincere desires. You can even be a cohabiting couple – simply express a sincere desire to approach the sacraments, and the Church won’t look the other way.
Imagine parents treating their children this way, giving them what they wanted because they felt they deserved it, and didn’t want to feel left out.
Oh…wait. Bad example.
That excerpt is more appropriate for inspirational posters one sees hanging in corporate meeting rooms and business corridors. This is Holy Mother Church we’re talking about, though, not Google headquarters.
The Church, though, doesn’t demand absolute perfection. She helps us become perfected and ultimately reach heaven, not hand out the Eucharist like it’s a participation trophy. None of us deserve the Eucharist – it’s an incredible gift from Jesus Christ of himself. All of us must meet requirements to be worthy of reception – one of which is to be in a state of grace. Remember the parable of the marriage feast in Mt 22?
“And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who has no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding a garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
This is serious business. What the cardinal is recommending, is that one can do evil in order to bring about a good. Since when, in all the history of the Catholic Church?
One of my favorite books is “The Sinner’s Guide”, written in the 16th century by Ven. Louis of Granada. It’s a great resource on living a virtuous life. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s inapplicable. Consider this:
“But let us suppose that the path of virtue is sown with difficulties and hardships. Will this prove that you ought not to walk in it? Oh, no! Are you not expected to do something for the salvation of your soul? Will you not do at least as much for this grand purpose, for eternity, as you do for your body and your time, which for you is rapidly passing away and will soon leave you at the tomb? What is a little suffering in this life, if you are spared everlasting torments? Think of the rich glutton, now burning in Hell.”
Clear, concise, truthful. Much more eloquent than Coccopalmerio’s verbal soup. The goal is eternal life, and stomping on virtue won’t help getting there.
Here’s how I see it. A divorced and remarried couple, if an annulment isn’t possible, has two choices: do the deed and don’t receive communion, or don’t do the deed and receive communion. That’s it. If said couple has sex anyway, and say the wife was divorced, then the husband’s having sex with someone else’s wife. That’s adultery, irregular situation or not. In the eyes of God and the Church, she’s still married to her ex-husband. Not only that, said couple isn’t really married, so add fornication to the list.
I understand that it’s a tough and tremendously difficult circumstance. We all have tough, difficult circumstances to one degree or another, though. I have a friend who hasn’t had sex for the past 15 years because his wife can’t get her previous marriage annulled. I have another friend who, because he and his wife disagree on birth control, haven’t had sex in over a year. Is he supposed to just give in, “aware that absolute perfection is a precious gift, but one which cannot be reached by everyone”, and then confess next time he goes to the Sacrament of Penance, til it happens again? Does that sound right?
Two of the Church’s sacred duties are to exhort its members live heroic, holy lives, and to uphold proper sanctity and reverence of the Eucharist. Anything less makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice, along with all the martyrs, who suffered much more than being expected to forgo a little action. Cold showers and rigorous exercise are much better remedies than what Cardinal Coccopalmerio has recommended.