The Polish Bishops’ Conference says “No” to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, despite Pope Francis’ family document “Amoris Laetitia” which purportedly opens the door to discussion on that topic.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, issued a statement following a closed door, “no speeches” meeting of the Polish bishops with Pope Francis, who had just arrived in Krakow for World Youth Day. In the statement, Archbishop Gadecki said that giving communion could not be allowed even after a period of pastoral discernment, as Pope Francis seems to support. He reconfirmed constant Church teaching that if remarried divorcees had entered into a valid first marriage, they cannot receive the Eucharist unless they choose not to express their love for one another in conjugal union. “This [communion for divorced and remarried] cannot be solved in a confessional box in two minutes or even a couple of years.” the archbishop told reporters in a press briefing.
“This,” Archbishop Gadecki said,
“…is a path for the priests and the laity to walk together knowing that if a marriage has been validly concluded there is no ground to administering communion to remarried divorcees.”
The archbishop cited St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, which khas magisterial authority and which states that the divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion since
“…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” (n. 84). And this is by virtue of the very authority of the Lord, Shepherd of Shepherds, who always seeks his sheep. It is also true with regard to Penance whose twofold yet single meaning of conversion and reconciliation is contradicted by the state of life of divorced and remarried couples who remain such.
JPII wrote about it again in his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, published on September 14, 1994.
And apparently hoping to strengthen the Polish bishops’ position, Archbishop Gadecki called to mind Pope Francis’ stated intention to allow freedom of local bishops’ conferences to lead within their own purview.
But Why Does the Church Teach That Divorced/Remarried Persons Should Not Receive the Eucharist?
Well, there are two reasons, it seems to me:
Protection of the Sacrament of Marriage. “What God has joined together,” says Christ, “let no man put asunder.” If it’s easy to say “Whoops! I didn’t mean it!”–if marriages can be dissolved at will–then the indissolubility of which Christ spoke is not true. An annulment is not, as some believe, a “Catholic divorce.” Rather, it is a finding, after extensive research and study and prayer, that the first marriage was never valid because one of the conditions was not met.
Protection of the Eucharist. The Apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 11:27,
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
One must be free of serious sin in order to approach the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ worthily. Oh, not that we aren’t all sinners–but the resolve to continue in a sexual relationship with one person when one is, in the eyes of God, still married to someone else is gravely sinful.
And let me add a third reason:
Protection of the papacy and infallibility doctrine.
Pope John Paul II, writing with magisterial authority, has said so. The Church teaches that while popes may may be wrong when they express private opinions (for example, who’s going to win the soccer championship, or any of a number of off-the-cuff statements by Pope Francis on airplanes). However, in giving the Keys of the Kingdom to the Apostle Peter, Jesus promised that he would send the Spirit, the Paraclete, who would be with his Church until the end of time. There’s that whole thing about “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
So Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church from error. The Catholic Church teaches that when pope speaks with authority, he cannot err. If infallibility doctrine were not true, then the Church which Christ founded and which the Holy Spirit protects could (and probably would) sometimes be wrong, dead wrong.