Every Grave Sexual Sin prohibits reception of Communion

Every Catholic who is guilty of any type of grave sin should not receive holy Communion, until he or she has repented and confessed those sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The believing and practicing Catholic, who receives holy Communion, should avoid all objective mortal sin, and not claim that a past gravely immoral act is perhaps less than an actual mortal sin due to some reduction in culpability. All believing and practicing Catholic should strive to be free from all that is objectively gravely immoral. But if anyone commits a grave sin, he or she should repent, and go to Confession, so as to be forgiven by God. Only then are we fit to receive holy Communion.

There are some exceptions, stated in the teaching of the Council of Trent and in the current code of Canon Law. A priest who sins gravely, and who cannot get to Confession with another priest before he has to say Mass, can make an act of perfect contrition, say Mass, receive Communion, and then go to Confession. The same principle applies to a lay person who is near death or in danger of death, and who has the opportunity to receive Communion, but not Confession.

But grave sexual sins are not only common in the world today, they are approved and accepted as if these wicked deeds were normal, good, moral, or even “holy”. Many Catholics, unduly influenced by sinful secular society, have fallen into grave sexual sins, and are unrepentant. They have believed the false teachings of the culture that such acts are moral. They have accepted the theological rationalizations of false teachers among their fellow Catholics, who promote gravely immoral acts by use of perverse distortions of moral theology. It is one sin to commit an illicit sexual act in your own life. It is a worse sin to tell many persons, publicly, that illicit sexual acts are good, moral, and holy. For then the sin is multiplied many times over.

So it is that many Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics are truly unworthy to receive the holy Eucharist, as they are unrepentant from grave sexual sins. There is no question here of the exception which permits reception of Communion before Confession in some circumstances, because that rule always requires repentance with perfect contrition prior to Communion, whereas these persons are manifestly unrepentant. They do not even admit that these acts are immoral. Some of these Catholics publicly (online, under cover of anonymity) propose that certain grave sexual sins are entirely moral, and they encourage other Catholics to commit these sins, emphatically reassuring them that these wicked deeds are (supposedly) approved by the Church.

Over at a popular Catholic discussion group, a question is frequently raised as to which sexual acts are moral in the marital bedroom. And unfailingly several Catholics will emphatically and even angrily assert that all sexual acts are moral for the spouses, as long as the husband intends to ‘complete the act’ (so to speak) in the natural manner. This “one rule”, as it is sometimes called, has absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of the Church on the basic principles of ethics, nor on sexual sins more specifically. If a sexual act is immoral to do apart from natural marital relations, then it is immoral to do in conjunction with the natural act. In other words, any sexual act that is not inherently unitive and procreative, by the nature of that act, is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The inclusion of unnatural sexual acts within a set of acts that includes natural marital relations open to life does not justify the unnatural acts.

USCCB Catechism: “Each and every sexual act in a marriage needs to be open to the possibility of conceiving a child.” [p. 409].

The claim that all the things the spouses do in the marital bedroom is all “one act” is a ridiculous rationalization. The teaching of the Church would be null and void if that were true. For the Magisterium teaches that each and every sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative.

Neither is my understanding on this topic some unique point of view.

Consider what Roman Catholic theologians and married couple, Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand, have said on the subject of marital sexual ethics. In an article published by Catholic News Agency, Alice writes:

“Dietrich would have vigorously opposed Popcak’s so-called ‘one rule’–that married couples ‘may do whatever they wish,’ as long as they don’t use contraception, ‘both feel loved and respected,’ and the marital act culminates within the woman.”

“It is precisely because the marital bed is sacred that one should approach acts within it with enormous reverence. Degrading and perverse sexual behavior — even it is it done by a married couple, who do not practice contraception — should be condemned, as an assault on human dignity. The ‘pornification’ of marriage should be resisted as vigorously as the pornification of our culture.”

I’ve written several lengthy tracts on this topic, available at www.catechism.cc. But the overall truth of the matter is that this “one rule” has no basis whatsoever in Catholic teaching and is directly contrary to the basic principles of ethics taught by the Church. If an act is intrinsically evil, it is never justified by intention or purpose, nor by the circumstances or context of the act. No one can justify a sexual act that is not inherently ordered, by the very nature of that act, toward the unitive and procreative meanings, on the basis of its use for the purpose of foreplay (or any other purpose or intention). Neither can unnatural sexual acts be justified by being done in the context of natural marital relations, nor in one difficult circumstance or another.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: “It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.” [CCC 1756]

All unnatural sexual acts are intrinsically evil; these acts are always gravely illicit by reason of their object. And so these types of sexual acts are not justified by intention or circumstances or the context of the act.

Catholics who commit unnatural sexual acts within their marriage are unworthy to receive holy Communion, until they repent and confess their sin. And true repentance from grave sin always includes the resolution to avoid that sin in the future. Such persons may not receive Communion until they repent and confess. For they are under the very same moral law as Catholics who commit other grave sexual sins: adultery, masturbation, premarital sex, homosexual acts, and so on. Every grave sin, including every grave sexual sin, prohibits the sinner from reception of Communion, until he or she repents and confesses.

Moreover, anyone who publicly teaches other Catholics that they can morally commit any grave sexual sin, as if that sin were good and moral, is guilty of the grave sin of formal cooperation with the intrinsically evil and gravely immoral sexual sins in question. Those Catholics are unworthy to receive Communion who attempt to convince their fellow Catholics that unnatural sexual acts are moral in marriage. For they are guilty and unrepentant from the grave sins of scandal, of formal cooperation with intrinsically evil sexual sins, and of causing grave harm to souls by false teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage. It is the grave sin of sacrilege to teach married Catholics that they can morally commit unnatural sexual acts within the Sacrament of holy Matrimony.

[Hebrews 13]
{13:4} May marriage be honorable in every way, and may the marriage bed be immaculate. For God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

[James 3]
{3:1} My brothers, not many of you should choose to become teachers, knowing that you shall receive a stricter judgment.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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