“Every Catholic Must Sacramentally Confess All Serious Sins”
By Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, The State Journal Register
An Associated Press story that ran in the State Journal-Register July 7 is misleading in saying that Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput in Philadelphia “is closing the door opened by Pope Francis to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion, saying the faithful in his archdiocese can only do so if they abstain from sex and live ‘as brother and sister.’”
As I explained in my statement about the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on April 8, the date it was issued, “There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document.” I addressed this conclusion in greater detail in my column in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Times, on May 1, explaining that in-flight press conferences on an airplane, apostolic exhortations and footnotes “by their very nature are not vehicles for introducing or amending legislative texts or making dogmatic pronouncements.”
The Bible clearly teaches about the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion in the First Letter to the Corinthians, where Saint Paul wrote, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29). This biblical teaching is reflected in canons 915-916 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.
All Serious Sins Must Be Confessed
Thus, the Philadelphia guidelines issued by Archbishop Chaput are certainly correct when they say, “Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. . . . With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist.”
This applies not only in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, as it does elsewhere in the Church.
Our Sex-Saturated Culture
Catholics in these circumstances thus have a free choice: if they persist in sexual activity outside of valid marriage, they must refrain from taking Holy Communion; if they wish to receive Holy Communion, they must refrain from sexual activity outside of valid marriage. The latter may seem impossible to those steeped in our sex-saturated culture, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki leads the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.