The objective objection

My previous Kasper post was devoted to his argument based on spiritual communion.  Because the Church has said that the divorced and remarried can make a spiritual communion at Mass, Kasper said:

For the one who receives spiritual communion is one with Jesus Christ.  How can he or she then be in contradiction to Christ’s commandment?  Why, then, can’t he or she also receive sacramental communion?

Last time I focused on the nature of a “spiritual communion”.  This time I want to look at the second half, where Kasper asks how, if these people are in union with Jesus, can they be in contradiction to Christ’s commandment?  Part of the answer is in my last post, where I pointed out that being allowed to make a spiritual communion does not imply that one is in a state of grace.  For the rest of the answer, let’s take a look at the language the Church has used on this issue.  I’ll put the key phrases in bold print.

In 1981, the bishops of the world had a synod at which they talked about the family and the question was raised:  can the divorced and remarried receive communion?  The bishops said no, they can’t, and John Paul reported on their conclusion in his post-synodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio:

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.

In 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Cardinal Ratzinger, was compelled to answer proposals for allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion.  Just before quoting the Familiaris Consortio passage given above, the CDF’s letter says:  “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”

In 2007, a synod of bishops was held on the Eucharist, and again they discussed whether the divorced and remarried can receive communion, and they again said no.  Pope Benedict XVI reported their conclusion in his post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:

The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist.

There are two things to note about the Church’s choice of words.  First, the exclusion from communion is based on an objective condition, not on a subjective state of sin or grace.  The Church knows well that people who do what are objectively mortal sins are not always subjectively guilty of mortal sin.  People might not understand what they do, or they might act under some kind of partial coercion–lots of factors can affect a subjective state.  So when the Church excludes DivRem’s from communion, she is not making a blanket statement that everyone who has been divorced and remarried is in a subjective state of mortal sin.  The exclusion is based on the easily accessible and objective fact of being divorced and remarried.

Second, we have to notice that this is an objective condition, not a one-time event.  Someone could steal or murder or lie or commit some other objectively very bad deed, and yet they get up the next day and they are not stealing or murdering or lying or whatever.  It was a deed, not a condition.  But if someone went down to the parish and told them to erase his name from the registry because he had rejected the Church, that would be an ongoing condition:  he not only did something one day, but as a result he is now in a condition of exclusion from the Church and from communion.  He may not even be subjectively guilty for his actions–maybe he was badly catechized and badly treated by a priest and so on–but he still cannot receive communion because of his objective, ongoing condition.

To wrap up, we find two major holes in Kasper’s argument.  He says that spiritual communion implies being one with Jesus, which means one cannot be in opposition to his commandment.  But we find that spiritual communion does not imply being one with Jesus, and we find that being spiritually one with Jesus is compatible (in some cases) with being in a condition objectively opposed to his commandment.  Kasper has not actually addressed what the Church has said on this issue.

But he’s not done.  Stay tuned.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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