The Maltese Bishops formalize a common practice in the Church

The Catholic Bishops of Malta have released a document: Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. The document plainly permits the divorced and remarried to receive the Sacraments of Confession and Communion based on their own judgment of conscience.

News and commentary:

* Lifesite News: Malta’s bishops allow civilly remarried divorcees to receive Communion
* Catholic Herald: Malta’s bishops tell the remarried: take Communion if you feel at peace with God
* Dr. Ed Peters: The Maltese Disaster
* Phil Lawler: The Maltese bishops lower the bar

My Assessment

As stated in the title of the post, the only thing new about this decision of the Maltese Bishops is that they have put it in writing. For many years now, the VAST MAJORITY of Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics have been receiving Communion, despite being unrepentant from objective mortal sins. And still, I do not hear any complaints about these other grave sins from the critics of Amoris Laetitia. It is as if the sins of the divorced and remarried were the only grave sins among Catholics. The Ten Commandments have been reduced to one Commandment, thou shalt not take Communion while divorced and remarried.

Notice, for example, what Phil Lawler says in his post cited above. He asks whether persons who have committed other grave sins may receive Communion if they are at peace with God. Good question! But the sins he cites are uncommon (or absent, one would hope) in Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics: Mafia hitmen, IRA terrorists, Wall Street embezzlers, pedophiles. He ignores the common sins of heresy, contraception, and various sexual sins. Eventually, the Amoris Laetitia critics are going to have to deal with the FACT that the vast majority of Mass-going Communion-receiving Catholics (and I suspect the majority of Amoris Laetitia critics) are guilty and unrepentant from objective mortal sins. And yet they consider themselves to be at peace with God, to be in good conscience, and so they receive Communion.

And among those few who go to Confession, many do NOT confess objective mortal sins that they are committing, such as contraception. I recall one sermon at Mass, in a parish I attended many years ago, in which the priest said: “As a priest who hears confessions, I can tell you that few people confess the sin of contraception. But I know that many of you are using contraception.” Then he went on to speak about the Church’s teaching against contraception. So he was essentially saying that some persons go to Confession, and they do not confess objective mortal sins, despite committing these sins on a regular basis.

The sin of having sexual relations in your second non-valid marriage (a type of adultery) is not the only grave sin that Catholics commit. And yet, again and again, I read one article after another, by supposedly-devout Catholics, loudly complaining about that sin alone, in regard to Communion. The truth is that most Catholics in the U.S. and many other nations ALREADY follow that very discipline proposed by the Bishops of Malta. They receive Communion despite being unrepentant from objective mortal sins. They don’t repent and confess before Communion. They don’t go to Confession at all. And those few who go to Confession receive absolution despite NOT confessing objective mortal sins from which they are unrepentant.

It’s like a town where stealing is common practice among the vast majority of residents. Then when the politicians who run the town issue a document approving of this common practice, all the thieves of the town complain. They don’t want their sinful behavior acknowledged in writing. Or else it is like a town where most people steal and rob, but when the politicians pass a law legalizing embezzlement, all the thieves and robbers complain.

Example: It is abject heresy to believe or teach that contraception is only immoral within marriage, or that abortifacient contraception is moral for a medical purpose, or that contraception can be justified (and is not really contraception and no longer intrinsically evil) for a good purpose or in a difficult circumstance. Certain teachers of heresy rail against the Maltese Bishops for permitting Communion to persons unrepentant from objective mortal sin, while they themselves commit worse sins by teaching and promoting heresy on contraception, and by formal cooperation with abortifacient contraception.

The woman caught in adultery sinned gravely. In the modern context, she must not receive Communion until she repents and confesses. But the Pharisees today who complain about her are themselves guilty and unrepentant from various types of grave sins: teaching heresy, encouraging schism, using contraception or telling others they may use contraception (under various excuses), and committing various sexual sins or telling others that these acts are not sins.

When the Pharisees demanded that Jesus answer them with a clarification, whether or not to follow the Mosaic discipline, our Lord ignored them at first. He knew that their question was disingenuous. They were not truly looking to him for teaching or correction. They were filled with pride in their own understanding.

Then Jesus said: “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” But the modern-day Pharisees ignore their favorite sins, which they either commit themselves or teach others to commit, and then they cast stones at her.

In my opinion, the Church should ordinarily forbid all of the following persons from receiving Communion, until they repent and confess:

1. Any Catholic using contraception or abortifacient contraception.
2. Any Catholic who has committed or formally cooperated in abortifacient contraception.
3. Any Catholic who commits any grave sexual sin, including: masturbation, pornography, unnatural sexual acts within marriage, homosexual acts, premarital sex, adultery, and any other grave sexual sin.
4. Any Catholic who adheres to, or teaches, any heresy, including: denial of transubstantiation, denial of Real Presence, believe that same-sex marriage is a true type of marriage, belief that abortion is a right, denial that contraception is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral regardless of marital state and regardless of intention or circumstances, and all other heresies as well.
5. Any Catholic who promotes heresy publicly, in any way, even online under a pseudonym.
6. Any Catholic who slanders, libels, denigrates, ridicules, or expresses contempt or profound disrespect for any Roman Pontiff or any Ecumenical Council.
7. Any Catholic guilty of any objective mortal sin, regardless of whether the person’s conscience considers the act to be either moral or not also an actual mortal sin.

If anyone commits these sins, he or she must repent and (with certain exceptions for a grave reason) confess before Communion. Be forgiven by Jesus, so that He can say to you, “Neither will I condemn you. Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.”

Who Is Left?

If the critics of the Maltese Bishops were ever held to a logical consistency in their rules for Communion, the vast majority of Catholics would be prohibited from Communion, including many critics of Amoris Laetitia. As a result, the pews at Mass would be sparsely populated. The donations to each parish at Mass would plummet. A severe financial crisis would ensue. Most parishes would be forced to close, or to operate on a skeleton basis: one or two Masses a week, one time for Confession, no other services or gatherings, and no staff but the priest.

None of the critics of Amoris Laetitia seem to realize that they are, in effect, demanding that most Catholics be prohibited from Communion. As a result, most Catholics will fall away, and the Church will suddenly become much smaller.

But another result of this push for a strict discipline on Communion would certainly be that most critics of Amoris Laetitia themselves would be prohibited from Communion. For they teach heresy on contraception, on certain sexual sins, and on intrinsically evil acts in general. They encourage schism and commit grave scandal by the way they speak against the Roman Pontiff and his teachings. They commit objective mortal sin and do not repent.

The critics of Pope Francis’ discipline on Communion will get their wish. The next conservative Pope will issue a strict discipline on reception of Communion. And then most Catholics will fall away.

When the Church eventually issues the above described discipline on Communion, many will fall away, just as happened when Jesus taught on Communion:

{6:61} Therefore, many of his disciples, upon hearing this, said: “This saying is difficult,” and, “Who is able to listen to it?”
{6:62} But Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples were murmuring about this, said to them: “Does this offend you?
{6:63} Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending to where he was before?
{6:64} It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh does not offer anything of benefit. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
{6:65} But there are some among you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who were unbelieving and which one would betray him.
{6:66} And so he said, “For this reason, I said to you that no one is able to come to me, unless it has been given to him by my Father.”
{6:67} After this, many of his disciples went back, and they no longer walked with him.
{6:68} Therefore, Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
{6:69} Then Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.
{6:70} And we have believed, and we recognize that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Many of the critics of Amoris Laetitia and of Pope Francis are on their way out the door of the Church already. They have put themselves above the Roman Pontiff, to judge and correct him. They have put themselves above the Magisterium. They have already distorted many magisterial teachings, and they adhere to those distortions as if they were dogma. And after they leave the Church, many others will follow them, not only conservatives, but also many liberals.

The great conservative Schism draws near. It is followed by a greater liberal Schism. And then the great apostasy occurs. For those who fall away in schism will quickly fall into many heresies, and next they will lose the faith altogether.

Do not join them. Stay faithful to each Pope, even if you reasonably and faithfully disagree with a discipline here or a non-infallible teaching there. Do not fall into pride, as if your own understanding were greater than that of any Pope. Be willing to learn from each Pope. Be willing to accept correction from each Pope. Do not suppose that, when you and the Pope disagree, he must be wrong and you must be right.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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4 Responses to The Maltese Bishops formalize a common practice in the Church

  1. Mark P. says:

    Many of these website authors, along with the masses who post their comments, will badmouth the Holy Father and all of these divorced and remarried couples, often several times throughout the week. Then they will attend Sunday Mass, and afterwards, many of them will plop in front of a television to watch football and gorge themselves on decadent snacks for the rest of the day. If they were truly concerned about this issue, I would think they would be under a strict regimen of prayer and fasting until their questions about AL are answered.

    But, more seriously, Ron is correct. Many Catholics are probably receiving the Eucharist in some state of mortal sin. In my opinion, just as we had a Jubilee Year of Mercy, we equally need a similar year of repentance. I personally do not feel that the Year of Mercy stressed seeking repentance; maybe it was just my diocese or parish, but I never felt there was a strong message telling us to examine our conscience and seek frequent reconciliation. The Church needs to be more proactive in instructing the flock of its obligation to seek regular confession. I have a feeling that Pope Francis will stress this very message quite strongly this coming Lent.

    Indeed, today’s Gospel reading began, “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
    ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'”

  2. Dan says:

    I am not sure why my previous comment was not posted, but my point was that there are legitament concerns to be had over diverging and contradictory interpretations of Amoris Laetitia regardless of the motivations or moral deficiencies that some of the critics of Amoris Laetitia might have.

  3. Francisco says:

    What Bishop Lopes says regarding the Troth of Matrimony is true – on true marriages. The problem is when secular people don’t have the adequate preparation for the Sacrament and goes to the celebration without true intention or without true knowledge of what they are seriously doing, they may say “yes” to the troth without really meaning it or realizing what they have said influenced by other motives, and therefore, a true marriage may not be valid in the first place; an “unlawful” marriage. Some may be more concerned on the after-party, or what society says about them than their actual union. Some remarried persons may be conscious now of their ignorance or error of their previous marriage and now be wanting to have their present union truthfully, seriously in accordance with God’s law and also conscious of being in a state of grace. Each case is different and has to be evaluated – per AL. There may be cases when a person knows for sure that his or her first marriage was not valid at all, but for unjust determinations or causes they have not received an official annulment, so the sin might not be on his or her part but on the wicked or particular irresponsible judgment process, so they may not be “punished” for the fault or responsibility of another. They may have a child asking these parents for a brother, there are many circumstances. The Church needs to work on better methods regarding the preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage. Now, the Eucharist more than a prize for the just, is a medicine for the weak (this was written in a document, don’t remember which one) so long that they are in a state of grace. Our Lord hidden in the Eucharist has the power to heal the wounds and work on the development of the person so he or she may grow in holiness and get better every day and improve his or her life’s situation. And like said in previous posts, the Pope has the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to loose or bind discipline.

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