Amoris Laetitia and the Belittling of Faith
It is Faith that Guides Us
Pastors are placed in impossible situations. For example, on New Year’s Day I unknowingly gave communion to people not in communion with the Catholic Church. That same week, I was questioned whether giving communion to Catholics in irregular marriages was okay – and this is not the first time. You see, people are under the impression that the Church’s teaching has changed. And I’m the bad guy that has to break the news.
Okay, there are reasons why people are confused. Faithful Catholics, having read Amoris Laetitia, are forming opinions about our faith that are not aligned with what is traditionally taught. Some Cardinals recognised the possibility of confusion and sought clarification. However, the call for clarification has caused a storm inside the Church. This has only recently become public i.e., that there is disunity in the Vatican over Amoris Laetitia.
First, let me say that the Church is not doing itself any favours by not talking about the issues openly. Wanting yes men can be deadly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBw0ased8Sw Janis (1982) teaches us that critical reviews avoid mistakes made by institutions seeking an uncritical consensus of opinion (groupthink). More information here: http://www.johnthebaptistmoora.com/346443107/3787812/posting/is-anybody-out-there
Second, this document has created confusion, and doubts about our faith. These doubts can easily flourish in our anything-goes world. So, why can’t people who are not validly married respectfully receive communion? The simple answer is that Jesus himself sets the example by telling the adulterous woman to turn away from sin (and when we are in serious sin we need to be reconciled to God before receiving communion). It is a very pastoral approach, very merciful (he did not condemn her), and a wonderful example for pastors to build upon, and to guide them. The theological answer arises when we consider what the Eucharist is and means.
Briefly, the Eucharist is born of a union of love between Christ and his Church. It signifies and effects that union. The opinion of this blogger is that lifestyles contradicting that union—that sign of God’s covenant love—are not in accord with the Catholic faith. Note: This reasoning is also applied to those of other denominations wanting to receive communion without expressing true faith in the Eucharist. As their lifestyle/life choice contradicts the union signified by the Eucharist, receiving communion would be absurd.
An Old Way of Thinking
The Amoris Laetitia debate reminds me of the Pelagian heresy. Bishop Pelagius thought that we could go it alone without God! The divine help of Christ was not necessary to be able to live a sinless life. Good old Augustine, in opposition to Pelagius, pointed out that (a) we definitely need the help of Christ! (b) it is grace that leads us to interior intimacy with God.
So, how can we have intimacy with God if we are not faithful to Christ? Bottom line, I think that if we belittle our beliefs by thinking that it is no longer necessary for Catholics to worry about the fight against sin and/or not to believe teaching about receiving sacraments, then we have lost our faith.
The Church teaches us clearly (up till Amoris Laetitia) about what we have to do to be faithful to Christ. Watering down our teaching would be tantamount to saying that we think (like Pelagius) we can go it alone without God.
Ultimately, it is our faith that guides us. It is wonderful to want to welcome everyone to the Sacraments without regard for what those sacraments signify. However, that wouldn’t be doing those people any good. I get that growth in faith is gradual, and that the internal forum is paramount. However, faith needs to be something more than what is subjective, i.e., an objective encounter and communion with Christ.
In sum, Christians who do not strive to be faithful to Christ (inclusive of repenting from their sins) cannot have formed an interior relationship of intimacy with God, so it would be absurd for them to pretend to commune with Christ.