June 15, 2016

Sacramental sustenance in the ecclesial field hospital

by Tom Gourlay

(from Catholic World Report)

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If the last two years of Synods and the resulting Apostolic Exhortation have taught us anything, it is that the question of allowing civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion is not one which is going to leave us any time soon. It seems that despite the clear teaching of previous papacies, there are many within the Church who feel ill-at-ease with the status quo. Indeed, while Pope Francis’ call for the Church to be a place of mercy is not at all a novelty (which a simple reading of both Popes john Paul II and Benedict XVI will show), his mission to those on the margins and willingness to discuss what many might already consider to be a closed book is a common feature of his hands-on approach.

Framed within the context of mercy, discussions around the nature of the sacrament of Holy Communion and the mode of its reception have become commonplace in Catholic parochial houses, parish halls and online on blogs and in comment boxes. The myriad of commentaries that surrounded the release of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia focussed primarily on a footnote which was either a source of sorrow, fear, or mystification on one hand, or a source of jubilant rejoicing at the notion of ‘change’ or ‘progress’ on the other. These competing responses seem to represent a kind of dualism which has arisen in the Catholic mind between doctrine on the one hand, and mercy on the other.

But does this dualism actually exist? Is it possible to be at once merciful and to adhere to doctrine?

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