Did Pope Francis err gravely on holy Communion?

Pope Francis did not teach heresy. Here is the supposedly erroneous, some are saying “heretical”, teaching:

Pope Francis: “The world still does not know it, but everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word (cf. Ro 10:17).”

1. The universal salvific will of God means that salvation and heaven are offered to all. Not everyone accepts that offer, but the offer itself is universal.

2. One meaning of the “wedding of the Lamb” is salvation in Heaven. The reference to Revelation 19:9 makes this clear.

3. The other meaning is the holy Mass, which Jesus himself celebrated at the Last Supper. Since the Catholic Church and Her Sacraments are the ordinary path of salvation desired by God for all, the universal salvific will of God implies that all are invited to this holy feast as well. But again, not all accept that offer.

4. “To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith….” The Pope did not say that only faith is required, but rather “the wedding garment of faith”, which is the state of grace. Baptism gives us that wedding garment; Confession restores it, if it is lost by actual mortal sin.

The wedding garment of the state of grace is required for salvation. Those who die in the state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven (perhaps after a stay in Purgatory). This wedding garment is also required for reception of holy Communion.

The term wedding garment is often used in theology to refer to the state of grace.

Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1243 The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has “put on Christ,” has risen with Christ. the candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the baptized are “the light of the world.” The newly baptized is now, in the only Son, a child of God entitled to say the prayer of the children of God: “Our Father.”

1244 First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted “to the marriage supper of the Lamb” and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ. the Eastern Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord’s words: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them.” [45] The Latin Church, which reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our Father.”

In Pope Francis’ document, the wedding garment is called “of faith”, but this is not a denial of the other infused theological virtues of love and hope. As we know from Church teaching, actual mortal sin causes at least the lost of love and hope, while faith may remain; but some actual mortal sins, those against faith, cause the loss of faith as well.

Faith is often used to refer to salvation, even though love and hope are also required. A living faith, that is, a salvific faith, is a faith enlivened by love and hope.

{3:16} For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that all who believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.

The above verse is not heresy. Even though it says that all who believe in Christ have eternal life. Instead, what the verse references is a fullness of faith, that is, a faith enlivened by love and hope.

Council of Trent: “If anyone says that grace, having been lost through sin, faith is always at the same time lost also; or that the faith which remains, though it is not alive, is not a true faith; or that he who has faith without charity is not a Christian: let him be anathema.”

Notice that the faith of those in the state of grace, that is, faith with charity (love), is a living faith; it is alive. The wedding garment of faith is that living faith which includes the state of grace; this wedding garment refers to the state of grace and the virtues of love, faith, and hope, and it begins at baptism.

Council of Trent: “For faith, unless hope and charity are added to it, neither unites perfectly with Christ, nor makes [one] a living member of His body. For this reason, it is most truly said: “Faith without works is dead” and idle [James 2:26] and, “in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision prevails over anything, but only faith which works through charity” [Gal 5:6]. Catechumens ask for this faith, from the Church, prior to the Sacrament of Baptism, according to the tradition of the Apostles, when they ask for the faith which bestows eternal life. But without hope and charity, faith is not able to bestow it.”

A living faith includes love and hope. This is why Sacred Scripture can speak of faith as salvific, referencing love and hope implicitly in some places and explicitly in other places.

{3:17} For God did not send his Son into the world, in order to judge the world, but in order that the world may be saved through him.
{3:18} Whoever believes in him is not judged. But whoever does not believe is already judged, because he does not believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

Belief in Christ is salvific, but it must include living like Christ by the virtues of love and hope:
{10:25} And behold, a certain expert in the law rose up, testing him and saying, “Teacher, what must I do to possess eternal life?”
{10:26} But he said to him: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
{10:27} In response, he said: “You shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from all your strength, and from all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
{10:28} And he said to him: “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

Those who have the wedding garment of faith are in the state of grace; they are the baptized, who are not in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin. They have the state of grace and the virtues of love, faith, and hope. But as in the passage from John above, faith is often referenced as a way to refer to the path of salvation and the state of grace, which begins with faith in Christ as a response to “the hearing of his Word (cf. Ro 10:17).”

{10:17} Therefore, faith is from hearing, and hearing is through the Word of Christ.

Similarly, in the passage above on salvation and love, faith is not mentioned, but it is implied. All who have the infused theological virtue of love, also have faith and hope. Though it is possible to have faith without love and hope, a living faith includes all three infused virtues and the state of grace.

Sometimes the part is used to reference the whole. Similarly, we call the Eucharist the body and blood of Christ. But we mean by this the full presence of Christ, his whole human nature and the Divine nature, united in the one Person of Christ. Thus, the wedding garment of faith is the state of grace, including love, faith and hope.

Those who are accusing Pope Francis of heresy omit the next passage in his document:

6. Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us. We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us. For our part, the possible response — which is also the most demanding asceticism — is, as always, that surrender to this love, that letting ourselves be drawn by him. Indeed, every reception of communion of the Body and Blood of Christ was already desired by him in the Last Supper.
7. The content of the bread broken is the cross of Jesus, his sacrifice of obedience out of love for the Father….

Notice that love is not omitted from the Pope’s explanation of the reception of Communion, and the path of salvation that leads to the eternal wedding feast. In n. 17, Francis mentions that faith calls for “opening the door to grace”. In n. 46, Francis references the “sanctifying grace of the sacraments”. The Pope is in no way denying the need for love, grace, and the state of grace. His use of “the wedding garment of faith” is a reference to the state of grace, and implies necessarily all three infused virtues: love, faith, and hope.

The accuses of Pope Francis say that is document omits the need to repent from actual mortal sin before Communion. This is a false accusation.

Pope Francis references sin, forgiveness, confessing sins, being dead through sin or alive through Christ, etc. He does not teach faith without love and hope, nor faith without the state of grace:

n. 11: The salvific power of the sacrifice of Jesus, his every word, his every gesture, glance, and feeling reaches us through the celebration of the sacraments. I am Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man possessed by demons at Capernaum, the paralytic in the house of Peter, the sinful woman pardoned, the woman afflicted by haemorrhages, the daughter of Jairus, the blind man of Jericho, Zacchaeus, Lazarus, the thief and Peter both pardoned. The Lord Jesus who dies no more, who lives forever with the signs of his Passion continues to pardon us, to heal us, to save us with the power of the sacraments.

n. 20: Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice is not our own achievement, as if because of it we could boast before God or before our brothers and sisters. The beginning of every celebration reminds me who I am, asking me to confess my sin and inviting me to implore the Blessed Mary ever virgin, the angels and saints and all my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.

n. 43: We, who were dead through our sins and have been made be alive again with Christ — we are the glory of God. By grace we have been saved (Eph 2:5).

n. 52: In this way, going over again the moments I just mentioned, silence moves to sorrow for sin and the desire for conversion….

n. 60, quoting the priest’s words: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

As for the Council of Trent, the teaching is that those who approach the divine table to receive holy Communion must be: “dressed in the wedding vestment.” The papal accusers use the Council of Trent to accuse Francis, but they seem not to have read or understood the Council’s teaching.

The teaching of Pope Francis is consistent with Sacred Scripture, the words of Christ in the Gospel, the Catechism, and the teaching of Trent.

LifeSiteNews: “Four bishops, several priests, and numerous Catholic scholars have signed a statement rebuking Pope Francis for a recent statement about the reception of Holy Communion….”

There are thousands of Bishops and hundreds of thousands of priests in the world. But when LSN uses the term “Catholic scholars”, they mean anyone who agrees with that publication’s errors, excluding anyone faithful to the Pope, the Councils, and the Magisterium. What kind of Catholic Christian rejects the teaching of the Roman Pontiff because a few Bishops and several priests disagreed? No teaching of any Pope is accepted by every Bishop and every priest. And the use of “Catholic scholars” by the papal accusers has lost all meaning.

Pope Francis did not intend to issue a catechism on the Sacraments, grace, sin, and Canon law. So his document does not contain every teaching explained at length. Nor does any papal document explain every teaching. Even the Catechism does not contain every teaching. However, nothing he wrote was heretical, and the arguments accusing him of heresy show a poor understanding of Catholic teaching.

Ronald L Conte Jr

This entry was posted in commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Did Pope Francis err gravely on holy Communion?

  1. Todd Voss says:

    Well said Ron. So disappointing that 4 Bishops signed this when it was so easy to see how it didn’t contradict Trent . Such an uncharitable reading by the Bishops .

  2. Sumer says:

    A rather lengthy explanation for something that did not have to be explained had he chose different phrasing. He says what he means. I’m sick of everything he says needing to be explained. You shouldn’t have to dissect everything he says or writes to make it fit Catholic teaching. He does this all the time!! It’s ridiculous and to the point where one can only assume it’s done with purpose. He is not stupid or ignorant of the faith. He chooses his words carefully, I presume, as one who is Pope should. He knows that he is doing.

    • Alessandro Arsuffi says:

      Jesus spoke in parables, so does Francis. What Jesus said was sometimes so unclear that even his disciples misunderstood his sayingsand asked for clarification. Only at that point, Jesus felt compelled to explain the true meaning of his cryptic words. Would you dare say that Jesus could speak more clearly? Would you criticize his free choice?

      “10 Jesus’ disciples came and said to him, “Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
      11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. 13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand.” Matthew 13.
      If you can’t understand what the Pope truly said, maybe you haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven… and that is true even for a bishop.

    • Ajai says:

      People this clueless and narcissistic, who imagine that everything the Pope of the worldwide Church says and does is calculated specifically to annoy them about their narrow, US-centric political preoccupations, can’t and don’t want to be reasoned with. They just want to be pissed off all the time, and they don’t care if they have to completely ignore the clear teachings of the Faith to do it.

  3. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron, Thank you for this excellent article. I like your use of the Catechism and how you explain the wedding garment as a reference to the state of grace. You also highlight passages in the Pope’s letter that clearly manifest the recognition of sin and the need for pardon. Your fine article complements some others that have appeared responding to the unfortunate statement of the four bishops et al.



  4. Jordan says:

    Interesting parsing and dissection but you miss a key point. Desuderio Desideravi was released at roughly the same time Pope Francis gave communion to Nancy Pelosi who has been sanctioned by her bishop to not receive communion for her obstinate grave sin and scandal of promoting abortion.

    Do you mean to say the Pope proposes to uphold the teaching and then acts another way? It doesn’t make sense.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “sanctioned by her bishop”? Peter holds the keys. The Bishop of Rome has full authority over every Catholic, including the other Bishops. If the Pope wishes to permit reception of holy Communion under a lenient and broad discipline, that is his right under the authority given to him by Christ the Lord. Apparent public guilt for objective grave sin does not necessarily mean that a person is guilty of actual mortal sin.

  5. oopinante says:

    You as a translator of the Bible must have noticed supposed contradictions in the texts? Do you think of writing a book dealing with these supposed contradictions or could you recommend a Catholic book dealing with these supposed contradictions?

Comments are closed.