It seems to me that if we trust in the Lord we have to have some hope that He will keep the Fathers of the Synod on the right track. It also seems to me that when we talk about those who propose questionable novelties that we must do so in charity. That does not mean I am not disturbed by those who make such proposals, or blind to the fact that a Synod can go very wrong in its outcomes (Synods are not an infallible action of the Church, and even Popes are bound by Tradition). Only those with an unreal, exaggerated opinion of the teaching authority of a pope or Synods could be so stupid as to blindly, unquestioningly follow a Synod or a Pope. We retain the right to question even dubious papal acts, as Paul questioned the prudential judgement of Peter.
While I am not a professional theologian, just a priest with what we might call in parenting terms a “good enough” understanding of The Faith, I do have an ability to think logically. Looking at the accepted doctrine of The Faith, I continue to say that the proposal to “allow civilly remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion after a period of penance” is gravely wrong. A number of bishops have supported this proposal on the grounds that, to paraphrase, “if people are allowed to make spiritual communions we cannot say they are in a state of mortal sin, and if they are not in mortal sin, they can take Sacramental Communion too.”
The first problem with this is that we do not know the state of a person’s soul. We may encourage a person to make a spiritual communion but we cannot know how the Lord responds to the individual soul. He may well in His Soverign Freedom respond simply by giving extra actual graces that prompt within the person a repentance and a return to the living out of His moral teaching, so that the soul may receive His sanctifying grace.
A second problem is that if we follow the proposal we undercut all the Church’s moral teaching on marriage and sexuality per se, since if we can allow Holy Communion in the adulterous situation of divorce with re-marriage, we also have to allow Holy Communion in cohabitation, in sex before marriage, in homosexual activity, in contraception etc. Why? Because sexual experiences with someone who is not one’s spouse is either OK or it is not. And if it is OK, then it matters not a jot with whom we have sexual experiences, and the Church has been wrong to teach that it does.
The canard of ‘just changing the discipline, not the teaching’ simply does not work: discipline flows from belief and expresses it. An engineer does not ignore the laws of physics when constructing a bridge; a physician does not ignore the laws of biology and disease pathology when prescribing a medicine. Practice follows theory in all areas of life, it never contradicts it. Thus, I find it unbelievable that educated men are seeking to have the Church act contrary to her teaching. I have spoken about this before: we simply cannot say it is wrong to do something then allow the wrong to be done on the pretext of mercy.
Deferring to ‘mercy’ is of course right and proper with those who are repentant, but the proposal’s concept of mercy is erroneous; it seeks no amendment of life; no turning away from the irregularity. Yet true mercy operates only when the wrong is given up; it cannot exist in a situation where a wrong-doing is continuing, because that would be to cooperate with the wrong-doing. To accept the proposal would be to endangers the wrong-doers eternal happiness for the sake of temporal happiness; it would be to cooperate with evil, since it is, in fact, a lie told to those to whom it seeks to extend mercy: “you are at rights with God”. The Father of lies is not God but the devil, and we must not cooperate with his work.
Yes, let us demand that those in “irregular situations” be spoken about in non-offensive terms, but without losing any clarity on the wrongfulness and indeed the eternal danger of their situation. Let us also welcome them to Mass; to times of prayer; to Spiritual Direction etc., but not formal roles which would present them as in a situation acceptable to The Truth. We can always extend to them the hand of friendship and we should always insist that their human dignity entitles them to life, housing, education, work, a just wage, career progression, health care etc. But we cannot present them as in line with what the Truth Himself (Christ) has revealed to us, either by placing them in official roles or by admitting them to Holy Communion. It is not that Holy Communion is a reward for goodness (it is medicine for the sick and it cannot be ‘earned’ or deserved), but we don’t want it to be a reward for continually living in a situation contrary to the teaching of the Lord and His Church either.