I understand that in the lead up to next month’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, you and a number of your confreres are re-asserting the Church’s longstanding exclusion of divorced and remarried people from Communion.
Your foreword to the soon to be published The Gospel of the Family (Professor Stephan Kampowski and Fr Juan Perez-Soba), appears to leave us with little doubt: outsiders are not welcome.
As you say, "The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated."
Respectfully, I have a number of questions I’d like to thrash out with you, conscious, of course, that neither of us in our grappling can claim to really know the mind of Christ.
What did our Lord have in mind when he instituted the Eucharist with these self-emptying words, “This is my body … this is my blood”? Whose hunger was he responding to? Scripture records the Pharisees complaining that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them”. He said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: ‘Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.” I could go on.
If we believe Jesus – called a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners by his enemies – is real and present in our Breaking of Bread, are we not also compelled to look beyond the in-crowd and welcome outsiders? Are we not compelled to take risks such as being pilloried for sharing our table with those we are not supposed to? I am concerned for those who are hungry for love and long to share even the crumbs from the table.
Cardinal, can any of us look our Lord and Master in the eye and say: “Yes, I am a follower; but you must understand there are rules …”?
If the Eucharist is an encounter with the real presence, rather than an institutional-cum-cultic sacrifice, then surely the Master’s interactions make it clear: hunger, not worthiness underpins Table Fellowship. To allow the law, cultic statutes, and theology to take precedence over mercy and love and encounter is tantamount to perpetuating the hardline rigour of those Pharisees who complained and moralised about so many things. Theirs tended towards a cold, superficial, Temple-based faith.
I do not presume to know the mind of Pope Francis but his musings on spiritual worldliness seem apt:
[There] are those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism… (Evangelii Gaudium, 94)
In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few … The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present … (Evangelii Gaudium, 95)
It prompts the question: has a simple, inclusive and profound “family” meal been overwhelmed by an impersonal and, often times, sterile institutional sacrifice; one that tends towards mass exclusion?
Fr Peter Day, priest of Corpus Christi parish, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia
Pell adds voice to growing opposition to Kasper’s efforts to relax Communion ban for remarried divorcees 17 September 2014
Kasper says Pope Francis would like to see an ‘opening’ on church teaching on divorced and remarried 18 September 2014